The City of Logan has underlined a vital role for the community’s children and youth with the Listen2Connect initiative. This landmark child and youth engagement framework sets out pathways to bring young perspectives to the conversation to inform policy and planning. Developed in collaboration with the community, Logan Together and The Salvation Army Communities for Children Facilitating Partner, Listen2Connect points Logan’s decision-makers to the why and how of youth and child engagement.
Why engage with children and youth?
‘To incorporate their views in any process is to value children’, says Erin Searle, Logan City Council’s Senior Community and Stakeholder Engagement Advisor. Children, youth, and young adults form a substantial part of Logan’s growing community. They are vital stakeholders in the decisions that shape the future of the City. By making a place for child and youth perspectives in Logan’s story, the City affirms a commitment to ensuring that decisions speak to their needs. In addition, children and youth bring unique perspectives to issues. ‘You forget how differently you see the world as a child’, says Searle.
How does Listen2Connect guide engagement in Logan City?
Listen2Connect reflects key considerations for child and youth engagement produced by conversations with internal and external stakeholders. The collaborative process which created the framework sought to create value internally for the City and externally for community partners, thereby working with rather than for the community. The resource expands on existing knowledge in the partnering organisations to create an evolving resource to support practitioners and planners.
Its considerations range across who is to be engaged and when, what engagement could look like, how a project may capture insights to best deliver value, and how these inputs may shape outcomes. The development of the document explored various potential barriers to engaging meaningfully with youth. The framework groups the child and youth population into ages of birth to 5, 6 to 12, 13 to 17, and 18 to 25.
Nurturing champions, network, and knowledge for a culture of engagement
Creating the Listen2Connect framework meant embarking on a journey into a learning space where internal and external stakeholders could bring their knowledge, experiences, and priorities together to shape an evolving resource. Expanding the existing knowledge and practices around engagement across stakeholders, the City of Logan tapped into champions for community engagement across departments, partnering organisations and community. These champions play a crucial role in taking the issues out to their departments, organisations or community, sharing their knowledge and driving change, thereby leveraging their networks and passion.
This collaborative approach to community engagement breaks down existing silos of knowledge to reveal insights on what has been done before, what resources may be available, and who may bring further value to projects. This sharing of knowledge and championing through networks contributes to growing a culture of community engagement both internally and externally. The momentum and motivation supported by internal and external champions provides sustenance for the City of Logan’s culture of engagement. When other community members and stakeholders hear of the work the City is doing around engagement and projects from people they know and trust, there are opportunities for further connections, greater trust, understanding and value.
What does it mean to create meaningful conversations with children and youth?
Searle reveals that a major takeaway from Logan City Council’s child and youth engagement learning is the importance of staying curious. The willingness and openness to talking to and learning from children and youth is crucial to locating the gaps in the knowledge held by decision-makers. In addition, closing the loop on engagement is crucial so that children and youth can know that their perspectives are being heard and valued. In doing so, keeping the information flowing is key to building trust and keeping the conversation going.
When the City of Logan looked at building a new playground, children and youth were brought in early point to help imagine their space. Engagement activities brought children into the proposed play space, provided materials and accessories, observed how children chose to play, and facilitated conversations where children could provide input. With early engagement and a collaborative approach to creating this infrastructure, the City of Logan enabled children to co-design their playground rather than presuming to frame the space in a certain way. This route layered the project with additional creativity and unpacked children’s potential use of the space as well as their needs to decision-makers.
Sparking excitement around engagement with COLBIE
COLBIE the robot (City of Logan Bot for Innovative Engagement) is bringing an element of fun, interactivity, and curiosity to the City of Logan’s engagement with children. Complementing face-to-face engagement, COLBIE is rolled out at events to spark excitement and break the ice. At a recent Global Goals event organized by a local school, COLBIE helped raise the profile of engagement and helped connect engagement planners to understand how children were experiencing the topics under discussion.
Learn more about how the City of Logan talks and listens to its youngest community members.