Toolkit hub

Each session page and downloadable plan gives you all the detail required to run a great session. Equally, they can be used by experienced engagement consultants as a source of new ideas. Some of the information can be read out directly, but you can also adapt these to suit your own delivery style. Shape each session to the needs and interests of the young adults you are working with.

We want to know what you think of the toolkit.

Tell us here!

Session 1 500x500

Session 1

Your lived experience

Session 2 500x500

Session 2

Show us your neighbourhood

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Session 3

Tell us what you want

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Session 4

Tell us how we're doing

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Session 5

You said, we did

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Who do you need?

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Young people

The first step is to contact local youth groups to find young people who can ake part. You can find details of nearby youth clubs online or through the local council’s website. Organisations like UK Youth and London Youth will also be helpful in connecting you with the right people. Working with more than one group or club is best and can build a better local connection, more opportunity for involvement and a good mix of young people. Secondary schools are unlikely to have the time, but after-school clubs may well do.

The ideal group size is 12 - 18. Much less than 12 will make it difficult for the group to relax and not feel put on the spot. More than 18 is difficult to manage or to foster good group conversations.

The sessions work equally well with 11-14 or 15-18-year olds. Experienced youth workers are used to making these judgements and combining different age groups appropriately with the right staffing ratio.

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Youth Workers

Youth workers will be able to recruit the young people they think will be most interested and willing to participate. They will help support the young people during the sessions and ensure they are comfortable working in a group.

Arrange to meet with the youth workers together in advance to introduce yourselves and discuss the sessions. Explain clearly what you expect to happen at the sessions and take on board their comments.

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A facilitator

The support of a facilitator who specialises in community engagement, potentially with experience of working with young people, will help you and the youth worker deliver the sessions. They could help shape the programme around the design development process to ensure it is fully embedded and the outcomes achieved. Organisations that specialise in community engagement include 2-3 degrees in London or Beatfreeks, based in Birmingham

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The project team

The design team and developer will need to be active participants in this process. Producing a report at the end of the programme is far less important than having the project team in the room, hearing first-hand what young people have to say. They often enjoy the process and continue to use the learning from this experience in their day to day role on this and other sites.

How to ensure safeguarding

It is important to receive written consent when working with young people to ensure that they (and their parents/carers) understand the process and the outcomes. Click here to view a sample permissions form which can be amended by the youth worker you are working with.

With any direct involvement with young people - especially when they are being actively encouraged to share their thoughts, views and experiences - there is a genuine chance that you may hear about issues that concern them and require a response. Safeguarding procedures must be closely adhered to and you should talk to the youth workers about their rules and expectations. It is essential for facilitators to have a DBS certificate and advisable for other adults involved to have one also.

How much will things cost

You might choose to pay the young adults for their time, just like people are paid for focus groups or citizens assemblies. It demonstrates clearly that their input is valued and allows you to set clear expectations around behaviour and attendance because this is now ‘work’. If you do this, you should recognise minimum wage thresholds and cover travel costs regardless.

You may also want to agree a payment to the youth group, covering the youth workers’ time and a sum appropriate for their organisation’s involvement.

Additional costs for engagement specialist and the design team should be included in their scope of work for the whole project.

Providing food is essential. If the session is in the evening or during the day, think about providing some pizza, for example. After one of the walking tours you might want to take the group to their favourite local restaurant.

There may also be additional costs for location hire and materials to bear in mind.

Click here for more information on indicative costs.

Where and when to run the sessions?

Choose somewhere close to or within the area in question and use a space that young people are familiar with, such as a youth club or community hall. Make sure it is accessible for everyone and think about any cultural or religious issues. There must be Wi-Fi available so that the young people don’t need to rely on their own data, and at times you may want to use a project or screen.

It is important to keep each presentation or task short and to allow for active involvement. Each of the five sessions is scheduled to last two hours. That works best after school (5-7pm, for example), on a weekend or in school holidays.

The sessions will be much more productive with breaks and food. Mix up different styles of engagement and think about how different age groups and young people with different physical abilities communicate or socialise.

How to prepare effectively

Listen and learn

Both young people and professionals will need to listen to each other. For the young people, it is a chance to learn new skills about briefing, design and development. For the professional team, it is an opportunity to understand the lives of young people and think how this should influence the brief. As the principles develop, it is important to involve all the young people in the session and we suggest using consensus techniques to reach agreement. Prompt everyone to contribute and make sure the more confident members don’t dominate.

Lived experience

We use an approach based on ‘lived experience’. This means drawing on the expertise of young people, what they know about the local area, and what it’s like to live there. Lived experience is authentic and true. There will be good aspects and bad aspects - and not everyone will agree.

It is the facilitators role to draw out the richness of their stories and begin to understand the spatial and physical aspects of the place that act as the backdrop to their lives. The ‘openness’ that makes them feel safe and free, for instance, the support of trusted adults, and how spaces transform after dark: these are all are vital pieces of knowledge that will help make sense of the local area through the eyes of young people and then design and deliver better placemaking.

Meaningful input

You are asking young people to act like critical clients and take on a strategic role. They need to represent other young people their own age and develop a set of principles together that the new design proposals can be tested against. This is not just about asking ‘what do you want?’. It is about up-skilling young people to brief the team and interrogate the proposals on their own terms, with clear parameters set and understood about the real scope for influence.


We are asking young people to act as representatives for other young people in their area. Our technique is to develop a manifesto with them that they will present to the development team who can use it to inform the brief and design. The manifesto needs to be deliverable and specific, relevant to young people’s lives. They will eventually use it to ‘test’ the proposals and make sure their ideas have been taken on board.

Meanwhile project

Development projects, particularly large-scale regeneration ones, can bring about difficult physical changes which can last a long time before the intended benefits are finally felt. This toolkit includes a ‘meanwhile’ project that is intended to bring about a short-term physical improvement, hugely important to give young people a sense that they have had a real impact.

Focus on the public realm

Very often, conversations will focus on the public realm: the space between buildings, not the buildings themselves. Green space, open space, streets and pavements that have a significant impact on young peoples’ lives. These are perhaps the critical elements from a young adult’s perspective.

Young peoples’ needs are rarely met when it comes to designing the public realm. Mistakes are made that cause problems for years. Young people want to feel part of the community, to feel safe and welcome and to be active outside in their local area.

If this kind of information is fed into the brief at an early stage it can have a major impact on the masterplan, producing clear sight lines and connections, the right kind of benches in the right places, safe loops for walking and cycling, and a variety of spaces to play and hang out for young people of different ages.

Other aspects of a new development which are more closely linked to cost and viability, such as the type of housing and provision of services, are sometimes more difficult for young people to engage with and influence. In our experience, focusing primarily on the public realm allows young people to have a strategic and then a detailed impact on the development and directly supports their needs as active citizens and equal members of the community.

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