Young Researchers’ Advisory Panel: Introducing our new ‘Participation as Protection’ model!

The value of children and young people’s participation in decision-making is widely recognised in principle. What is less understood is how participation can be protective – especially in the field of child sexual exploitation.

Recently, members of the Young Researchers’ Advisory Panel developed a model to show this – and, with the help of a specialised artist, we have now turned our model into an accessible, visual resource.

As part of the Safer Young Lives Research Centre, the YRAP (Young Researchers’ Advisory Panel) exists to ensure that research on child sexual abuse and related forms of harm is informed by and undertaken with young people, including those with lived experience of these issues. We promote children and young people’s rights to participate in issues that affect us – in both practice and policy. We believe that participation is vital to protecting children and young people.

In 2019, some of us co-wrote and published a peer-reviewed journal article, ‘From the Ground Up’, exploring why participation is important and how it can be protective.

Over the past year, we have built on this work to develop a model showing the protective mechanisms of participation – from the perspective of young people.

We then worked with artist Zuhura Plummer to create a ‘rich picture’, representing these processes visually to make the model accessible to a wide range of people.

This flexible visual format – which can be presented as a whole model, as themes or as individual images – means the resource can be shared in different ways with young people, practitioners, policy makers and funders.

We have begun sharing the infographic within the UK – including with specialist charities and a Safeguarding Children Partnership – and internationally, at an online symposium on group work organised by the IASWG (see our slides here) – and through the Our Voices University Network.

Over the coming weeks, as part of this blogpost series, we will discuss the different ways participation can be protective across the three main themes we have identified: first, when young people are involved in decisions about their own support and care; second, when young people work with peers to influence change; and third, when young people work collaboratively to influence research, policy and practice.

Please do share our model with your colleagues and wider networks. We would love to hear your thoughts on it, as well as how it is useful to your work and how it could be further disseminated. We would be happy to present our model to your team or at a workshop or conference.

For more information about our work and for contact details, please see our webpages.

By Keeley Howard and Rachel Benchekroun