Taking an authentic youth participation approach to the co-design and co-delivery of #GPS2016 was a priority that Le Va ensured from the outset. Our approach over nine months culminated into the two days of #GPS2016, role modelling good practice on how to work authentically with Pasifika young people.
It helped that one of our board members, Josiah Tuamali’i is a well-known national youth leader who champions and supports best practice for working with Pasifika young people. Along the way, we had a lot of interest in our process from policy makers, researchers, service providers, the community workforce, funders and young people. So we decided to document our lessons learned and guidance to share with others should they wish to engage with our young people the way we did.
Youth participation is actively involving young people in all areas of our society – the family, school, workplace, place of worship, social group and wider community supportively. UNICEF defines youth participation as “Adolescent partaking in and influencing process, decisions and activities”, and the Canadian Mental health Association states that “meaningful youth participation involves recognising and nurturing the strengths, interests and abilities of young people through the provision of real opportunities for youth to become involved in decisions that affect them at individual and systemic levels”.
Le Va was committed to creating and supporting a youth-based conference committee (Youth Action Komiti - YAK) consisting of Pasifika youth leaders from across the country with diverse experiences and ethnicities (Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Maori, Niuean, Maori and European). The 15 members of the YAK were actively involved in the co-design, co-development and co-delivery of #GPS2016. For me personally, our young people showed inspirational leadership and respectful guidance for the way Le Va as an organisation and also as individuals ‘walk the talk’.
For Le Va staff, authentic youth participation in practice ranged from ensuring rides home, phone credit and food, to clinical support and pastoral care, to mentoring academic study pathways, to de-prioritising other Le Va projects in order to accommodate. It was a privilege to watch our cultural values being executed so naturally – not just talking about values like alofa and tautua, but living and breathing them with our young people.
It also involved engaging with the Northern region DHBs Matua Council early on to ensure cultural support and spiritual guidance from our elders for GPS. Ensuring Matua support and blessing was a priority for Le Va – not only for the success of the conference but to protect our young people so that they are supported to freely voice their opinions. This was reflected in the opening ceremony with the Matua Council welcoming and blessing the YAK showing a symbolic sharing of leadership.
Over the nine months of co-design we came up with nine guidelines to support other organisations effectively engage with an authentic youth participation approach.
We based the guides on the three themes of the conference:
radical acceptance + absolute inclusion leads to full participation.