Basma on the value of youth co-design

A photo of young Londoners at the Department for Education, as they present HAF plans to staff at the department.
25th May 2023

By Basma, Mayor’s Fund for London Youth Board member


On Wednesday 29th March, the Mayor’s Fund for London attended the Department for Education’s Policy Roundtable meeting at the Department for Education. Attending, were organisation representatives including Feeding Britain, National Citizen Service, Street Games, Gateshead Council, and Northumbria University. This meeting was crucial to helping share current issues and solutions that could be put forward, following up from the National Sprint that had taken place prior. Having the youth at the centre of this meeting was a great opportunity for us to share our solutions and what other young people would like to see in their communities too.

Prior to this meeting, young people were invited to the National Sprint that took place in different parts of the country. They were able to design characters that related to their communities, and youth clubs that would look appealing to them and this included activities they may want to participate in, the food they’d like to see at the youth clubs and the way in which these buildings would be designed and created. Young kids could create TikTok videos to promote their camp, allowing them to develop their communication, teamwork skills and confidence. In an interview with one of the students that attended the National Sprint in London, he emphasised the joy and fun he had creating and brainstorming ideas for the programme, whilst also developing new skills for the future:

“The social skills and leadership skills we developed over there were very important for me.”

“And my favourite part of designing the holiday programme was the fact that we were given the leadership and we got to control everything about it, specifically, designing the camp weeks that we would be attending.”

As a youth board member, I could attend this meeting alongside a student, Krish from Crest Academy, who had participated in the National Sprint and Jade Harris, the Head of Food and Wellbeing at the Mayor’s Fund for London. We heard from other youth board members as well as students that attended the National Sprint, about their ideas and plans for youth clubs in their communities and areas, for example, Gateshead, Northumberland, and London. We also discussed and presented our own overview of the key programme areas, including, locations for youth clubs, activities, timings, food, and trips as well as learning and career opportunities that can be made available to the youth in the future.

Discussions surrounding issues such as travel, the cost-of-living crisis and food and wellbeing were brought up repeatedly, given the economy’s current circumstances. Food and wellbeing have been huge topics of the year thus far, especially for young Londoners. Due to the cost-of-living crisis, young people are struggling with the affordability of transport for school, work or university, food for everyday meals as well as activities and hobbies they may want to take up.

The young people outlined how designing their youth clubs, incorporating the Take & Make boxes created and implemented by Kitchen Social, employability talks and workshops by Access Aspiration and its sponsors as well as fun activities and sessions that provided them with life skills (cooking, gym, CPR, finances etc) would be appealing to teenagers, these would allow young Londoners to build on their social skills, networks and begin to thrive.

Talking to one of the young students that participated in both the National Sprint and DfE Policy meeting in London, he expressed the significance of youth engagement and communication.

“We are the young people, and we know what other people our age want to do. If you are not listening to the youth voice, and you are making a programme as an adult, you’re making a camp based on your ideas and interests instead of the youth’s.”

Having the youth centred at each meeting and each decision being made about the youth and their future, is essential. The future generation is our current youth and making decisions for them and not with them, will only keep our young people uninterested.

The work that Mayor’s Fund for London aims to do for young Londoners is admirable and centres the youth in every decision. Having the opportunity to attend this DfE meeting as a Youth Board member, was an amazing experience to be able to share ideas and concerns that young Londoners have. I look forward to seeing all the great decisions to be made and new projects to be launched in light of these findings!

Youth voice leading the way is the future!

To learn more about the research Basma supported alongside the Mayor’s Fund for London, read the article in our ‘What’s the latest?’ area.