Consulting with young people: A new approach in Norfolk

Norfolk Libraries have been part of a journey with the Carnegie UK Trust through 2018 as part of their #notwithoutme accelerator programme. There have been inspiring activities and speakers, and the chance to try out something new.

It’s resulted in a new approach to the way we have engaged and consulted with young people throughout the project. We’ve always said 'talk to young people', 'ask their opinions' about what we do but found it hard to do this practically. Getting and engaging an audience, and getting honest thoughts and feedback from them, has been tricky. So often, we have felt that young people are saying what we want to hear.

So as part of listening to them for this project, we changed our approach by shifting the focus of the group. Rather than centring the group around the conversation, we engaged a fantastic local artist Caitlin Howells to work with two groups of young people in different areas of the county.

The young people, supported by Norfolk’s Community Librarians and the artist were encouraged to create Indian Warli style paintings on ceramics to tell a story. In this case we were asking them to talk to us about their life online and how they interact and engage with social media.

By talking about the story they were making, as opposed to a direct question, we found that young people shared a lot more about their experiences and thoughts. The young people left the session with something creative to take away, and a feeling of being listened to. As one of the young people said: 

In the art session I found it a good way to talk about the internet while doing an activity because as I added more sketches on to the clay plate I made of my uses of social media it provided topics of conversation to discuss. I found that as I was discussing my view and it was easier to truly open up, rather than at school, as it was people I didn’t know so I found that I didn’t feel I was being judged.

The outcomes of this consultation allowed us to focus the project on what young people were talking and asking for, and has helped us develop process for the future, with plans to consult in this way with other groups in the county.

For more information on this consultation process contact: