NIYF: Exploring Capacity for E-Enabled Youth Participation in Public Consultation

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Doctoral Research Project

Throughout the course of the ECRG Project, sponsorship has been provided for Michele Smyth to undertake research, at PhD degree level. Smyth has focused her studies in the e-consultation field. The topic for this research is "Exploring capacity for youth participation in online public consultation".

About Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF)

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, NIYF currently delivers a number of programmes that characteristically incorporate innovative techniques and a high level of interactivity. These programmes are delivered in various ‘real world’ settings such as youth clubs.

Initiating the Research Project - Aim and Purpose

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. Access has been negotiated to conduct a research programme.

Smyth's research explores 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 on citizenship and its related themes within classroom settings.

Project Methodology

Research data was collected by shadowing a youth worker, directly involved in engaging young people in public consultation processes. In academia, this method is called "action research".

In keeping with the action research approach, research activity:

  • observes practice,
  • then, identifies and implement appropriate e-enabled interventions
  • interventions and emerging issues are observed
  • findings then inform the next cycle in an iterative process

This process is called cyclical enquiry.

Project Value

The purpose of the cyclical enquiry is to iteratively inform the design of appropriate online mechanisms that may be used by NIYF to complement 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 complementary e-consultation

The youth e-consultation website

Over the last 12 months a number of online technology interventions have been introduced: discussion forum software and online survey software.

The table below serves as a guide for consulting bodies approaching NIYF to undertake a consultation on their behalf, illustrating the opportunities and constraints of the methods listed.

NIYF tech table.JPG

This table illustrates e-consultation methods NIYF currently offers. Note, however, that we are continually developing methods and trying out different technologies. Any of these methods can be tailored and combined to fit specific consultation requirements.

Other Considerations

  • Promotion: Whatever the method - it is essential that it be appropriately promoted.
  • Timeframes: As a general rule of thumb, an ‘activity’ period of 6-8 weeks should be accommodated within the planned timeframe. Please note this does not include recruitment, setting up & reporting after the event.
  • Incentives: You may wish to provide incentives for participating, depending on budgetary constraints, as these can encourage participation