From Engage to Exchange
When the Berry Street Childhood Institute was established back in 2012 we knew we wanted to work with young people in ways we hadn’t been able to previously. We drew up a set of aspirational commitment statements to guide our intentions (see below).
Six years down the track and we are still constantly building on and developing our approach, but now it is firmly based in principles of knowledge exchange. Our commitment statements have become the foundation for working alongside young people as colleagues, experts, stakeholders and consultants.
Commitment to Youth Engagement
We have made a commitment to engage young people in the work of the Institute because we respect them as the experts of their own experience. It is their fundamental right to be heard and we have a lot to learn from young people about the experience of contemporary childhood. We are challenging ourselves to find the best ways to enable young people to share their knowledge. For young people in services such as out of home care and others who experience disadvantage, genuine opportunities for participation are very limited; we are keen to redress this balance.
Our work alongside young people is based on the following principles:
1. Equality of expertise
We believe expertise that comes from experience is valuable in the same way as expertise that comes from formal learning. Young people are experts in the experience of being young in the world today, which is why we value their participation in the same way as that of researchers, professionals and other stakeholders.
2. Young people are not just the subjects of our work, they are our partners in it.
We aim to work alongside young people, not just tap into them as a resource as and when it suits us.
3. Being challenged is how we grow
We expect young people to challenge us. We hope we challenge them too.
4. One Young Person ≠ All Young People
We recognise that everyone brings different perspectives to an issue. We won’t ask one young person to speak for all young people
We want all young people to be able to talk to us about the issues that affect them, so we’ll do what we can to make that possible.
6. The person fits the project
We don’t engage young people just because they’re young. We try to engage all our partners, young and old, in projects that align with their interests and skills.
We won’t ask anyone working with the Berry Street Childhood Institute to place themselves in a situation or space that makes them feel unsafe emotionally, physically, culturally or spiritually
8. No False Expectations
We do what we say we will do, we’re clear on our limitations, and we like to get all perspectives before we act on an idea or an issue. Young people are one of a diverse range of stakeholders with an interest in issues affecting childhood and youth.
9. Setting up for success
We equip young people with the information, skills and support to make sure their experience of working with us is meaningful and contributes to strength, growth and positive change – theirs and ours. Learning from mistakes is a success in our eyes too; failure isn’t negative if you learn from it!
To understand what led Berry Street to this point read Elevating Youth Engagement by Lauren Oliver.
To understand the role of Y-Change in progressing our practice, read the Y-Change Pilot Evaluation.
To understand the thinking behind the current approach, read Lauren Oliver’s Churchill Report.