In the cultural sector we have a tendency to see young people as a group, who sometimes need to be consulted with and to whom projects or opportunities are offered on our terms. This approach often means only those with the most cultural capital find us. It’s important that they do, but we want to attract other young people too. If we start to think about the systems we are creating to engage our young people, and design our programmes according to who we want to engage, then who gets to create and consume culture will start to look very different.
Until recently we at New Writing North had been talking about Human Centred Design without entirely understanding what it meant – something about listening to young people and responding to their needs. Then we started working with a consultant, Adam Cooper, who enabled us to draw on our significant accumulated knowledge–based on 15 years of running creative writing programmes with young people–and identify some design principles based on that knowledge.
We want to create the circumstances in which young people have the opportunity to identify a talent or interest in creative writing, and then pursue their own personal journey as creators or consumers of culture. To do this we need to understand young people’s barriers to engagement and reduce them, but also their needs and drivers: in short, what will help them to engage and flourish?
By identifying and understanding the ‘beneficiary types’ who engage with our work or who we want to engage with our work, we can design programmes with them. With Adam Cooper we have created a set of Design Principles for working with young people. We hope they will help us to ensure young people can flourish no matter what their needs and drivers may be, and that we can support and nurture them as individuals, valuing their uniqueness.