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What is participation? 

Although there is no universally accepted definition of participation, it is broadly understood as an ongoing process, which involves dialogue between children and adults, based on mutual respect, and through which children can shape the outcome of a process. 

The benefits

“My confidence has been the biggest factor I have learned…I am able to speak confidently to more people and not to doubt myself.”

Participation provides people with a chance to have a say in decisions that affect their lives. To be worthwhile it is crucial the process leads to real change. If participation is ‘done right’ it can provide many opportunities and benefits to young people. These include:

  • Improved relationships and a sense of belonging. 
  • Autonomy, empowerment and independence. 
  • Improved confidence and self-esteem.
  • An awareness of their rights and an ability to enact them. 
  • Improved communication, collaboration and leadership skills. 
  • A better understanding of the mechanisms of change and a sense of social responsibility. 

Involving young people with lived experience 

Some of the young people who take an active part in a Whole School Approach (WSA) will have experienced harassment, violence and abuse in their own lives. They might also have experienced any combination of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and/or ableism. Youth participation should be made as accessible and inclusive as possible, reducing the barriers to their involvement. 

Good practice 

Effective youth participation should provide opportunities for growth and learning. It should also:

  • Respect and value young people’s views.
  • Be properly resourced. 
  • Provide a safe and supportive environment. 
  • Fit around young people’s lives. 
  • Keep young people informed about actions taken and not taken. 


AVA has developed its own toolkit on youth participation, incorporating learning from a 3-year research project. The full toolkit, ‘Safe and Equal: A Guide on Young People and Meaningful Participation for the Violence Against Women and Girls Sector’ can be found here