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ReWired Summit: scoping a national youth voice in music

On Tuesday 16 June 2015, Sound Connections gathered young people and music organisations from across the country to talk about youth voice within music. Since launching our ReWired project in January, we have been researching and scoping young music leadership activity across the country. This summit was a culmination of our work so far and invited attendees to Camden’s Roundhouse to take the first step in discussing youth voice in music education; what works, why it works and what more needs to be done.

We kick-started the day with talks from hosts Adem Holness (Wired4Music member & musician) and Siân Dicker-Thorne (Wired4Music member, Sound Connections Staff and Young Researcher for ReWired), who introduced the project, highlighted key themes for the day and ensured that both young people and staff started the day feeling that they were on an equal playing field and able to voice their opinions freely. Representatives from twenty organisations in attendance were invited to give short presentations on their work with young people and how they’re currently embedding youth voice into their practice. It was great to hear that such a broad and diverse range of projects are taking place across the country, and also that many organisations who are just starting new projects were attending to get advice from others who are already delivering successful youth voice activity.

Sound Connections’ Programme Manager, Jennifer Raven, introduced delegates to Roger Hart’s ‘Ladder of Participation’. Hart’s ladder (Roger Hart, Children’s Participation: from Tokenism to Citizenship, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 1992) is a tool for measuring the level of young people’s participation in projects, with rungs 1-3 alluding to non-participation (e.g. using children/young people for show through manipulation and tokenism) and then progressing through stages of participation from rung 4 (young people are assigned and informed) through to rung 8 (the highest level of participation; child-initiated, shared decisions with adults).

Once introduced to the ladder, Sound Connections’ Wired4Music Coordinator Jess Loveless led an activity which allowed representatives of organisations to pitch their youth participation projects to young people. The young participants then decided where they would place these youth voice activities on Hart’s ladder, and gave the organisations feedback. In a second afternoon activity, organisations and young people worked together to visit questions placed at various stations and brainstorm ideas. Although this was a team activity, it soon turned into a very youth led discussion between groups with young people taking the lead on answering the following questions:

  • GAPS: What’s missing from the current musical offer for young people in the UK?
  • ACTIONS: What changes do we want to see?
  • AIMS: What would we hope to achieve through a national youth voice council?
  • PRACTICALITIES: Who/when/how/where could a national youth voice council work?
  • BLUE SKIES: In a perfect world, what would a national youth voice council do?

Out of these questions came a strong desire for youth voice become a standardised part of any organisation’s work. Young people spoke about the changes they want to see; more communication between young people and organisations, and the opportunity for young people to have their say in the music education system as well as the chance to create a national youth voice music manifesto.

We finished the day by making pledges to the future of youth voice in music and looking towards the possibility of a national youth voice music council. Organisations made promises to increase youth participation and embed youth voice into the ethos of their work and young people pledged to be more open with their ideas and opinions when working with organisations. They also made personal pledges to their own futures and musical journeys.

Huge thanks go to all who joined us for such an important day. These conversations couldn’t and wouldn’t have happened without the presence of so many inspiring young people and music organisations in the room to spark ideas and share experiences. We will be continuing our research with the development of the ReWired micro-site, as well as documentation of three case-studies and the sharing of a youth participation tool-kit, all the while looking ahead to the exciting potential for a national youth voice council. Here’s to the next summit and the ever-growing network of youth voice advocates!

Click here to read a Storify summary of the day, made up of Tweets and photos >

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