Case study: Ideas Test. Make Change – Engaging with young people
An evaluation report by Elizabeth Lynch on Idea Test's Make Change project. This is a story about a pilot project that did not work out as planned, that failed to generate all the hoped and planned for impacts but has made a useful space for reflection and learning for the Ideas Test team, their partners and networks.
This is a story about a pilot project that did not work out as planned, that failed to generate all the hoped and planned for impacts but has made a useful space for reflection and learning for the Ideas Test team, their partners and networks. It will inform and shape future project plans with and by young people. The work reflects the role of Creative People and Places as action learning projects.
Although four young people took part in the workshop programme November-December 2020, after New Year only one decided to continue with 1-1 mentoring sessions and the opportunity to pitch their idea for change in their community to a panel with the power to take it further. It isn't known why the other participants dropped out.
The reasons for ‘failure’ are not a surprise to the partners. They all know from tried and tested approaches and from long experience what it takes to deliver these kinds of projects. Sometimes, as in love, hope triumphs over experience. But 2020-21 has been a year like no other. This project took place during a pandemic.
The flexibility and adaptability of community artists and practitioners have been stretched to their limits. When an offer to engage with your project has been accepted by a small group of young people, it is encouraging. When continuing with the project means another group of young people, who have been trained as facilitators, will be paid if the project goes ahead, it feels important to continue, especially at a time when work for early freelancers has dropped off a cliff.
With funding partners Royal Opera House Bridge, Ideas Test agreed specific objectives for themselves and delivery partners Battersea Arts Centre, whose facilitators and Agency alumni delivered the workshop programme. The Agency seeks to prioritise young people’s voices and ideas, taking them through a process of developing ideas about how they can make the area
that they live in better.
An evaluation plan (shared on a Jamboard) was agreed for how impacts could be evidenced. However, when only one participant continued with the second half of the programme, the whole evaluation plan was no longer deliverable in the way it was designed.
Nevertheless in this report, we are taking each hoped for impact in turn, matching it with any relevant evidence, summarising the learning and what was achieved for the Ideas Test and the Agency teams, and for the sole participant who completed.
Sometimes more is learnt from what has not worked and Ideas Test is committed to use the learning from this project to shape future iterations as youth- led, co-designed initiatives
Summary finding: learning and actions
1. Low recruitment and participation was due to both internal and external factors, i.e. the impact of project manager disruption and the Covid19 lockdowns 2020-21, which made face to face work impossible and affected the planning process. Like many other organisations, IT and BAC took the risk to pivot from face to face to online delivery for Make Change.
2. The BAC Agency model will influence future Ideas Test youth programmes. The revised and shorter online workshop programme was well planned and engaging, with the Agents offering friendly and positive role models to the participants. There are constructive recommendations for the pace, design and delivery of the sessions. Some of the Agency team developed their facilitation and online presentation and communication skills. Although only one participant took up the mentoring opportunity, the success of the process and the final pitch to a local expert panel will inform future thinking.
3. Future working with partners from outside the region should require and allow for research time to ensure that they come with relevant insights on demographics, geography and economy.
4. Engaging young people in project planning and creation will be part of all future Ideas Test youth programmes. The learning from the workshops and the positive experience of the participant who completed the whole programme are evidence for the valuing of youth people’s contribution as citizens to their communities.
5. Ideas Test have identified that mapping the facilities and services offering support and opportunities for young people is needed. This strategic exercise will help to join up offers across Medway and illuminate where the gaps lie.
6. Ideas Test will work with the Youth Service and school networks to explore the resources needed to make services more visible to young people and their families and to advocate for the structural changes needed within organisations that present barriers to the voices of young people being heard.
7. A level of flexibility and responsiveness is now required due to the impact of the pandemic. Future youth programmes will need to include planning for face to face and a back up of online delivery. Ideas Test’s planning will remain thorough but will build in the capacity to change at short notice in response to any national restrictions. Everyone is working in new ways. Time and space is needed to evaluate and reflect on that.
Elizabeth Lynch MBE