Youth, community and belonging: YouCount UK National Workshop

The following article was produced as part of the YouCount Youth Citizen Social Science project and is written by three authors: Maria Turda, Suzanne Wilson and Julie Ridley.

The national workshop as part of the YouCount UK case local dissemination took place on 7 September 2023. It was a gathering involving Young Citizen Scientists (YCS), other young people and researchers from the UK team. It also included local and national stakeholders, local authorities, third sector and community members. Our aim was to share the social inclusion findings of the local Preston case and listen to the experiences of young citizen social scientists (YCS) and other young people who participated in the project. Moreover, we aimed to celebrate the YCS’s accomplishments, and the social innovation achieved.

With the support of Strive to Thrive, a local NGO working with young people and families in Preston, we managed to secure a vibrant site to hold our gathering in the heart of Preston. This was at the intersection of the University campus and the city centre at the Mobile Event Tent (MET). The MET provides a welcoming, informal space for activities aimed at the wider public. The was organised as a hybrid event to widen engagement, especially from national stakeholders who joined us online.

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Professor Julian Manley speaking to an audience
Professor Julian Manley speaking to an audience

Professor Julian Manley, whose expertise informed the development of the Living Labs, stepped in for Professor Julie Ridley (project lead) to introduce the local case and the main findings of the social inclusion research we carried out. Julian emphasised the value of approaching the research from a range of angles: “[We’re] ensuring that different working styles can be accommodated which is really important for diversity and inclusivity. In other words, one approach does not do it. One approach is good for one person; another approach is good for another person. So in order to be authentic, and this project really was about authenticity, to genuinely co-create, we had to find different research methods that would suit different people at different times.”

Suzanne Wilson, a YouCount researcher and Research Fellow from the University’s Westlakes Campus, continued the presentation. Suzanne who evaluated YCSs experience, provided additional insights into the vital role that YCSs played in the YouCount project. Suzanne explained:

"Having been involved with the project since the initial funding bid, it felt like quite a momentous event! Hearing about impact the research has had on issues such as street lighting shows the value of youth citizen social science."

Suzanne Wilson, YouCount researcher and UCLan Research Fellow
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Maria Turda, PhD student and researcher,  speaking to an audience
Maria Turda, PhD student and researcher, speaking to an audience

Maria Turda, a PhD student and researcher on the team, shared her perspective on the project. Maria discussed her experience working with young people from diverse communities, offering insights into the recruitment process and collaborating with these individuals.

“It was an inspiring project, especially seeing how it impacts young people, their confidence and how it creates opportunities for them. It was powerful seeing the young people at the same table with stakeholders and being able to create this platform for sharing and collaboration.”

One of the most exciting parts of the event was having the YCS share their experiences but, most importantly, speaking about what it meant for them, the impact and benefits. Khaleel talked about the project and some of the findings that he found interesting, especially about actions in the community due to the Living Labs, such as adding CCTV and increasing lightning in some areas where young people felt unsafe. He added:

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Khaleel Mamsa, Youth Citizen Scientist,  speaking to an audience
Khaleel Mamsa, Youth Citizen Scientist, speaking to an audience

"This project gave me a good insight into socio-political issues which I had never really looked at and I found myself keen to participate as the weeks went by as it was different to anything else I had done."

Khaleel, Young Citizen Scientist

The event wrapped up with two local stakeholders sharing their experience from the Living Labs. Marc Dunn, a Community Development Officer from Preston City Council, described the tangible ways the Council has responded to the YCS’s research and the importance of ongoing partnerships in supporting the community and young people. Marc added that: “I started with the (YC) project last year in November, and it was my first time in this role engaging with young people, so it was fascinating to find out what was going on.”

Finally, Dave Clayton, representing the third sector and founder of ‘Wot Wod U Do’ organisation, working with youth, mentioned the need to focus on hard-to-reach youth groups. Dave highlighted: “This project is with no doubt a good starting point to build on. We need to continue bringing and mixing people together, and the key is also working on co-production and creating opportunities for young people. When I grew up, the opportunities were not very many so I think we have to create better opportunities and just support young people.”

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Marc Dunn, Community Development Officer at Preston City Council  speaking to an audience
Marc Dunn, Community Development Officer at Preston City Council speaking to an audience

The UK team, especially the young people, attended the final conference in Brussels which took place on December 2023. The conference brought the ten projects from nine countries together to celebrate the achievements of YCSs and provide opportunities to expand their networks across the vibrant European community, visibly becoming young citizens of the world.