Ways to make your project successful
It is essential to note that no two youth music projects are the same, so you must be flexible and creative. Ensuring that the project is fluid will help young people, who are at different levels, adapt and work together harmoniously. Too much restriction will make it harder to engage everyone in the group. Changing to suit a young person’s needs can be hugely beneficial in energizing the group dynamic.
Make sure you always remember to utilize the core values of youth work when running a project; listening, valuing, trusting and guiding will prevail over telling and dictating.
Four non-linear stages
As you can see, some of the stages may overlap and bleed into each other. Embrace the organic nature of what you are working on – the organic elements of these projects normally turn out to be the most effective.
For example, just because a new concept is talked about as you are moving into the delivery stage, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included. Naturally, any constructive feedback that comes out of the reflecting and evaluating stage should feed directly into future prep & planning.
Below are some guidelines about what should be featured in each stage:
Your journey from beginning to completion might look a bit like the shape of a treble clef. You will have a pre-determined start point and end point, but the in between bits may overlap, go back on themselves, and turn sharp corners. This is okay – remember to keep your objectives in mind and that it is okay to go off script for the benefit of the young people involved and the benefit of the project.
- It is critical at this point to establish positive and meaningful group dynamics - this will depend a lot of whether you are working with a new or existing group. Use your youth work skills to establish a positive, supportive group dynamic.
- Identify what resources are available and what resources are required for the project.
- Set realistic goals so that you can measure how successful the project/event had been; Identify skills in the group and how you can use these to contribute to the project; Identify and undertake relevant training.
- Remember to always be solution-focused, rather than seeing barriers.
- This is where you and the young people will do practical planning for the project/event; Identify what tasks need to be completed for the initiative to be a success.
- Place people into relevant roles depending on their strengths, experience and enthusiasm for the role - each young person’s role should be challenging for them but one which they can realistically fulfill. Each person should know exactly what is expected of them.
- If you are running an event or having a showcase as part of your project, it’s important to begin recruiting an audience at this stage. This will take a lot of your time and energy.
- This is where you will deliver your event or project.
- Make sure everyone is aware and happy with what is expected of them and that people’s job roles are keeping up with any organic changes that are occurring as the project naturally grows and develops.
- Always have your plan to hand but don’t be afraid to add or change things as you go along, if it is to the benefit of the project and the young people involved - critically, make sure any additions or changes are communicated to the whole team.
- Make sure young people are at the forefront of delivery - support them in their roles, but trust them to fulfill them.
- It is important here to evaluate individual aspects of your project, but remember to constantly be taking feedback through the whole process.
- It is a good idea to purposefully reflect after each planning/delivery session with young people - what went well, what can be done better, what did young people say?
- Take feedback from audience members, or people who took part in the project - what did they most enjoy? What would they have liked to see?
- Vitally, make sure you use your reflections and any feedback to shape future events and projects. Tokenistic feedback that is just filed in a drawer is a waste of everybody’s time and energy.
The importance of the youth worker and their approach cannot be under-valued. It can be likened to that of the conductor of an orchestra. You are there to guide, to nourish and to mentor. But when it comes time for the performance, you cannot play all the instruments, and neither should you want to. It is about finding a healthy balance between trusting young people and supporting them. Young people should be trusted to carry out their own tasks and fulfil their own roles, but offered enough support so that they don’t feel like they are lost or out of their depth. Keep reminding the young people that you believe in them, and more importantly, put this into practice - you should believe in them.
Here are some tips for maximizing the impact of your youth work approach:
- Support young people to set goals that are both realistic and challenging. Giving somebody a role that is too easy will leave them feeling unchallenged, but giving them a role that is too difficult will leave them feeling like they have underachieved. Remember that a role or a set of tasks that is easy for one young person could be extremely challenging for another. Always know and work from where each young person is at.
- Involve young people at every stage of your project - from coming up with idea, to carrying them out and feeding back ideas and suggestions. Let the young people own the project, and put their own stamp on it - this will mean they are far more motivated to work as hard as they can to make the project a success.
- Have an open mind and really listen to and consider ideas that young people put forward. Even if they suggest something that you aren’t familiar with, consider it and trust them. Young people may be more up to date on current trends in music and show business, so use this knowledge and enthusiasm to benefit the project.
- Make sure young people are at the front of the project and that they are very visible. Trust them to perform, host, or facilitate well - the benefits that they will get from an experience like this are immeasurable. This will also help us to fulfill our responsibility to championing young people’s achievements and highlighting their positive contributions to communities and society.
- It is important to strike a healthy balance between trusting and supporting young people. We should encourage them to take responsibility of a project and trust that they will put on a successful event. By giving them more ownership they will feel valued and inspired to achieve their potential. However, they still need support and reassurance along the way. Understanding each participant should make it clear when to intervene or to take a step back. Doing this instinctively takes practice but it can certainly enable the young people to flourish on their own accord.
- Use peer education as a tool for maximizing the impact of the project by supporting young people to share the knowledge, skills and values they have learned throughout the process with their peers. Remember that a young person teaching another young person will help solidify and expand the learning for them both.
- Use feedback that you receive from audience members or participants to positively affirm the achievements of the young people and help to develop areas that need improving. Recognizing and celebrating success whilst providing constructive criticism will make them feel proud and boost their resilience, a very powerful tool in terms of personal growth
- Remember that an event or showcase can be a very important output of your project, but the key outcome is young people engaging in music in whatever way is meaningful for them. Celebrate achievements, big or small, but always focus on the learning process.