In their first year Amplify went from strength to strength. We started out by getting the youth group to design what Amplify looked like, how it ran, and where and how they wanted it to feed into Girlguiding. There were lots of questions in the first year about Amplify from staff and volunteers and most of the time our response would be “we can’t tell you, that’s for Amplify to decide”. I feel this has been a great strength of the project, we didn’t make key decisions about Amplify without Amplify.
We quickly (and sooner than we thought) were being asked to work on key strategic projects. Our equity, diversity and inclusion team were one of the first to take the leap of faith and work with Amplify. And we can see where Amplify’s well thought out considerations and ideas have been interwoven in the future of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Girlguiding UK. We’ve continued to work with many teams at Girlguiding headquarters but have also had some other amazing opportunities. Including helping recruit our new chief guide Tracy Foster and deputy chief guide Sally Kettle (and even our new adventure project coordinator Alice Chalk).
We constantly reassess with Amplify how everything is working and shake things up based on their feedback. At the start we tried to do too much in our monthly meetings and now we’ve streamlined them. And recently they’ve told us they want a social side to Amplify as well. We’re working on how we can make this happen in a safe and inclusive way. Our members are spread across the UK so in-person meetings can be tricky.
Building a fantastic model that includes girl’s voices within your Member Organisation is like building a house. You need your architect to provide you with your vision (a solid youth participation strategy), materials to build with (resources and budget), your construction team (dedicated staff members), and finally and maybe most important, your building consultants (young people).
Start by laying a strong foundation for your house. This is your ways of working (how do young people interact with your organisation), practical training for staff and volunteers (to build everyone’s confidence and knowledge), a youth friendly organisation (how easy is it for young people to access everything you do), accountability to your young members (how are you going to make sure you do what you said you were going to do), methods for all young people to get involved (every young member has the right to be heard), a way to thank and celebrate those young members (and although badges are like currency, think beyond this) and finally how do you work in partnership with your wider organisation.
Once you have this solid foundation, it’s time to start building the walls of your house. I can’t tell you right now what these walls are made from, that’s something we’re currently figuring out together at Girlguiding UK. That’s the joy of youth participation, there is no blueprint! And by working in partnership with young people you create something truly unique and special.