It was with trepidation and excitement that we began recruitment for our inaugural Youth Insights Panels this time last year. We know from our work with young people on our Big Ideas Programme that young people had the energy, imagination, and talent to have an impact on the world around them, but could they help to steer strategies and provide actionable solutions within a business at both a senior and operational level? And would young people even want to participate in influencing business decisions?
The answers came in the form of a slew of applications from 14-19 years olds to join a Youth Insights panel from across rural and urban centres, via schools, universities, and charities. The enthusiasm of the young people was unparalleled. Eager to have an impact they came armed with bright ideas and eager to learn.
We knew that we wanted to ensure that the panels created were collaborative not consultative and that they must be mutually beneficial to the young people and the businesses so a cocreation model was developed. The young people’s panels must be seen as a strategic asset not merely a tick box exercise. Thus, training was offered to any staff who would be working with the young people whether they were senior or operational and the results were amazing!
The very fact that the young people were unaware of business structures meant they could develop actionable, innovative solutions to the questions posed to them. Giving the young people the information about a subject they were considering ensured that they learned about the business whilst at the same time had the knowledge to give impactful suggestions. The businesses began to realise that young people are one of the countries greatest untapped resources giving a dynamic perspective on both old and new issues. By investing in young people, a better planned future is emerging.
Northern Gas Networks Chief Executive Officer, Mark Horsley said “Young people are the employees, customers and business entrepreneurs of tomorrow, and it’s crucial that we give them a voice as we move towards a zero carbon economy and build back better after the pandemic. It’s equally crucial that we listen to these voices, and our panel of 14 to 19-year-olds will be able to influence our senior leaders as we make the big decisions that will affect future generations.”
One of Northern Gas Networks’ Young Innovators Councillors said: “I loved learning about the company and what it is doing to be more environmentally friendly and this is something of massive importance to me. I also loved taking part in group activities with the other members and hearing their points of view on each topic we looked at, I think we had some great discussions.”
They continued “I enjoyed learning about exactly what the company was doing to implement changes and then discussing it in our groups, I also loved how at the beginning of each session you would tell us what you did with our feedback.”
From developing HR strategies to rewriting policies and questioning strategies the young people have gone above and beyond. They have researched, created, and collaborated. Young people from rural and urban areas and with incredible diversity have gained an insight into how major businesses operate and had their voices listened to. The hope and belief that young people could have a voice in the board room is now a reality and going from strength to strength.
To find out more check out S4TP Youth Insights or email our Youth Insights Manager firstname.lastname@example.org for an informal chat about how we could support your business to engage with young stakeholders.
Youth Insights Manager
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd