What happens when teenagers get to make the decisions?

Friday 26th of October 2018

We asked members, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group to tell us about their participatory budging approach to engaging young people. 

Here, Sarah Klueter, Assistant Director of Community Investment and Regeneration tells us all about their success when you put money directly in the hands of young people. 

I joined more than 100 young people crowding into our local community centre last night.  There were shouts and whoops.  Some of the teenagers had been involved with this event before, for others it was their first time.

Don’t know about you, but I often have my best ideas cycling to work (or in the shower… but that’s maybe for another blog…) 

Three years ago, I had the idea of asking our Tenant Grant Panel to give up some of their budget.  With the support of our Resident Involvement Manager, Dean Slavin, the panel agreed to hand over £5k to young people to make the decisions about which youth projects got grants.


Fast forward three years and ‘Wythy Youth Bank’ is booming.  It’s a participatory budgeting event, organised by a group of nine young volunteers and supported by our quite-frankly-fab-u-lous youth workers.  This year the Tenant Grant Panel decided to double their contribution to £10k.

You may have come across participatory budgeting before.  It’s a process of democratic decision-making.  Put simply, the people who are intended to benefit from the money help decide how to spend it.

Last night, Callum - a young leader who only a few years ago was struggling with his behaviour and confidence - took to the stage.  “It’s a friendly crowd,” he reassured those about to pitch.  Even with years of experience of presenting, I get butterflies when heading up to the stage, so seeing Callum presenting, I felt really proud!

Ten projects got up and pitched for funding. 

There was a boxing club who needed money to get a toilet so that the girls at the club felt more welcome. 

A young man with a disability, Aidan was the star of the Everyone Can pitch, explaining what a difference the assistive technology makes to his time at the youth club.   

Wythenshawe’s first scout club – set up just a year ago - asked for money to help with camping equipment and uniform.  I was struck by the care with which an older boy helped a five-year-old with the microphone and the applause they received.

Everyone voted.  The young leaders verified the votes and allocated funding accordingly, announcing their decisions to rapturous applause from the audience. 

So how does it work? 

Credit goes to the young volunteers and the youth workers who helped them develop their organisation, planning and presentation skills in the months before the event.  They follow up too, each year’s experience informing the next.

More broadly, it’s the leaders who empower us to attract external funding and employ youth workers.  “We take our responsibility as a ‘placeshaper’ seriously,” says Nigel Wilson, Group Chief Executive, “The success of our organisation is dependant on the success of the community.”

It gets me thinking… what else can we do to open up our decision-making?  How can people who are affected by decisions be part of making them?  Are you already doing it?  

Tweet me @SKlueter

Interested in finding innovative new ways of reaching young people? Take a look at our Community Development services.