Youth e-consultations at NIYF

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Exploring Capacity for E- Enabled Youth Participation in Public Consultation

Throughout the course of the ECRG Project, sponsorship has been provided for a student; Michele Smyth to undertake research contributing to the degree award of PhD in the field of e-consultation. The chosen topic for this research is Exploring capacity for youth participation in online public consultation.

The Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) is a key agency in current youth participation activity. For over 25 years the forum has been a central force in developing mechanisms for enabling youth participation across Northern Ireland. Working with the 14 – 25 age group, they currently deliver a number of programmes that characteristically incorporate innovative techniques and a high level of interactivity among the young people involved. These programmes are delivered in various ‘real world’ settings such as youth clubs.

Through discussions with NIYF, a shared research interest in e-enabled approaches to consultation and their potential capacity to enrich current youth consultation activities has been established and access has been negotiated to conduct a programme of research. The research proposed aims to explore the capacity for E-enabling appropriate aspects of youth participation in public consultation within existing structures in Northern Ireland. Various stakeholder perspectives will be interpreted with a view to developing an online resource that has the potential to offer experiential learning opportunities of citizenship and its related themes within the classroom setting.

Adopting an action research approach, this work has involved the shadowing of a youth worker directly involved in engaging young people in public consultation processes. In keeping with the action research approach, cycles of research activity have been undertaken that observe practice, then identify and implement appropriate interventions in the form of e-enabled mechanisms The impact of the intervention and emerging issues are observed and these observations subsequently inform the next cycle.

The purpose of the cyclical enquiry is to iteratively inform the design of appropriate online mechanisms that may be used by NIYF to compliment their existing consultation work. During the consultation processes, where appropriate, an intervention in the form of an e-enabled component has been introduced. To date, a website using wiki technology has been set up to act as a platform for the complimentary e-consultation activity The youth e-consultation website

Over the last 12 months a number of online technology interventions have been introduced to compliment NIYFs consultation activities. These interventions utilise discussion forum software and online survey software in a number of forms.