The art of coproduction: How young people’s voices shape the Respect Young People’s Service

Today marks the launch of a new resource from the Respect Young People’s Service, which focuses on young people’s experiences of working with professionals, both positive and negative. The resource was created by a young people’s co-production group run by the Respect Young People’s Service and TLC: Talk Listen Change, with the aim of understanding the group’s thoughts and feelings about current service provision for children, young people and families affected by Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA).  

We caught up with Amanda Flanagan, Young People's Service Development Manager, on the importance of taking a collaborative approach when developing services for young people.

Amanda, can you tell us a bit about coproduction and why it’s so important for our work with young people?

Coproduction is a simple concept: that a service will be more effective if it’s shaped and informed by the people who use it. In the Respect Young People’s Service, consulting young people tells us so much more than academic research alone: what works and what doesn’t, what young people like about our programmes and campaigns and what they don’t. It helps us better understand their needs, ensuring our sessions feel safe, relevant, and engaging. It also helps us address the power imbalance between professionals and young people, so we can build more trusting and respectful relationships with the young people we support. We start from the position that no group or person is more important than another and we can learn so much more from listening: everyone we consult has something to bring to the ongoing development of our programmes, campaigns and resources.

At Respect, equality, diversity and inclusion sit at the core of our coproduction work. We know that many of the young people we work with face systemic disadvantage. They come from a whole range of backgrounds, and hold a range of identities. We want our programmes to be flexible and responsive to the needs of every young person who needs support, so we are working closely with our partners and by-and-for organisations to adapt and develop our programmes. We can’t get this right on our own. We listen, we make adjustments and then ask, is this right? Is this what you were thinking? How can we make this better and or meaningful to you?

Aside from its direct impact on our service development, this coproduction work also helps us elevate young people’s voices at a national level – we want resources like this art project to influence the national conversation about responses to CAPVA, and access to services.

What does coproduction look like in practice?

Coproduction is more than the facilitation of a focus group or running a consultation . When done well, it is true partnership working, ensuring young people are involved from the start and at every step of a project. It is about ensuring accessibility for everyone who wants to take part and ensuring no-one is excluded. This may include providing additional support where needed to facilitate inclusion, and ensuring resources are factored in to support this.

Flexibility is absolutely key too. We can’t be too prescriptive about how young people are involved: they need to communicate and contribute in whatever way works for them. This could be through cofacilitation of project working groups, being involved in the design and planning of a project or service, allocating roles and resources, or the evaluation and reporting process.

It’s also important to recognise that taking part in coproduction work can involve a significant investment of time and effort from young people. We ensure that those who take part in coproduction projects for Respect receive recognition for their work.

What coproduction work has already taken place in the Respect Young People’s Service?

So far, we’ve worked with our partners and the young people they support to create resources for use in our programmes (including leaflets and PSHE resources), to critique our programme development plans, and to support research and national dialogue by sharing their stories.

Creating this art piece has been part of a wider project, supported by the Noel Buxton Trust, which focuses on improving practice and raising awareness of CAPVA on the national stage. We explored key themes with young people in a series of workshops, including:

  • Reflections on the RYPP programme
  • What makes a good/bad practitioner?
  • Exploring how adults and education professionals perceive young people and CAPVA – specifically looking at them as ‘trouble children’
  • Exploring a young person’s journey in relation to CAPVA and the programme, including moments of growth and challenge

How are you aiming to involve the voices of young people in the future?

We aim to include our coproduction groups at every stage of resource and service development. As we develop the service we need a critical eye that we can only get “honestly” by involving young people.

Access the Resource

Learn more about our work to end child/adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA) here.