The Youcount UK team The Youcount UK team

The experience of the UK Team at the YouCount Final Conference 2023

Written by: Andrew Dirzu, Arishel Jubb, Evie Ball, Khaleel Mamsa, Maria Turda, Suzanne Wilson, Julie Ridley

An international audience gathered at the heart of European democracy in Brussels for the final YouCount Conference, including four young citizen scientists (YCSs), four academics and a local government stakeholder from the UK.

The conference aimed to share and discuss experiences across the consortium, research findings, and recommendations for policy-makers and practitioner of ways to increase youth social inclusion.  

 Day 1 Workshop

"YouCount has been a unique opportunity for young people in Preston to be involved in a European project as researchers and to tell us what it means to belong in Preston from their perspectives. The Preston Living Lab has been an amazingly powerful way to bring young people together with multiple stakeholders, I didn't imagine that it would work so well!"

Professor Julie Ridley, UCLan

A pre-conference Workshop brought together academics, young people and other stakeholders in a 'Europe Café' that celebrated the cultural diversity across the project.Each of the nine countries involved shared the findings from their local research and gave a flavour of their country's culture. The UK Team co-designed their stand through brainstorming, selecting pictures together and sharing responsibilities over the stand. Arishel and Maria imaginatively and colourfully set up our UK stand and were on hand to answer any questions.British food shared by the UK team included mince pies, fudge and shortbread.

"The pre-conference workshop was a great opportunity to celebrate and present the key highlights of the Preston case over tea and fudge, and to learn in a nonformal way about the other cases. One of the highlights of the conference for me."


"In terms of the pre-conference workshop, one aspect i enjoyed was how fun and engaging the activities were, this enabled us to learn more about each other, about different findings and in the end provided us with more talking points to take home with us, which is always a plus."

Andrew, Young Citizen Scientist

The workshop included brief presentations of key learning points, including Maria Turda from the UK team, who reflected on engaging and involving young people in citizen social science. Some key takeaways across all cases were: 'Importance of building relationships with young people and stakeholders to foster engagement'. A 'Oops' moment of learning was that 'we cannot assume all young people will be equally motivated to be YCSs', and an 'Aha' moment was about 'being flexible with what we ask from young people' acknowledging there are other things in their lives besides the research project!

"YouCount was an exciting new unique project which enabled young members of society to collaborate with qualified researchers and public figures on prevalent issues faced in communities. The dialogue highlighted different perspectives and was eye opening, and led to the creation of solutions by highlighting problems from a macro and micro level and forming new ideas which considered people from all walks of life. "

Khaleel, Young Citizen Scientist

The afternoon closed with a premier screening of a short sci-fi film created by a Hungarian team. Young people had the opportunity to socialise as part of the international team, with some enjoying the Brussels Christmas Market.

"I really enjoyed being able to meet young people from all the different countries and hear more about the fantastic projects they have been involved with and what it has meant to them to take part."

Evie, Young Citizen Scientist

 The main event

The morning of the conference included a series of short presentations including a history of citizen social science by Professor Alan Irwin, Copenhagen Business School , an overview of the Spotteron interactive App developed for the project and reflections on how to make sure citizen social science is fully inclusive.

"Involvement in YouCount was quite straightforward and enjoyable. You had the ability to participate and play a role with many people at a level you don't get with many other projects. The ability to meet other young citizen scientists and researchers was a great experience as you spoke to a diversity of people and got to experience everyone's story."

Andrew, Young Citizen Scientist

UCLan's Professor of Applied Social Policy, Jule Ridley, summarised how hands-on CSS had developed in practice across the 10 cases concluding:

  1. YouCount was very ambitious and complex to implement.
  2. There were pros and cons of exploring social inclusion in such diverse and dynamic contexts in 10 sites.
  3. Some countries had existing teams and research projects while for others setting up Y-CSS projects from scratch the learning curve was steep!
  4. That monetary incentives/rewards could not be used to support co-production was a preoccupying issue for most cases.
  5. Our ambition to achieve co-creative Y-CSS turned out even more complex than we had anticipated!
  6. Knowledge of the best ways of implementing Y-CSS must continue to be nurtured and grow.

Another UCLan team member, Suzanne Wilson, Research Follow in Social Inclusion and Community Engagement, presented six critical issues for social inclusion that had been identified by YCSs across Europe:

  1. Place-based bonding ties are critically important for social inclusion.
  2. Ensuring young people feel safe where they live was a wide-ranging issue central to social inclusion.
  3. Experiences of racial discrimination and prejudice robbed some young people of their citizenship.
  4. Negative stereotyping of young people by those who were older was a common issue.
  5. Young people's financial and economic circumstances significantly impact opportunities for participation and sense of belonging.
  6. Opportunities for young people to be engaged in democratic processes locally were sorely lacking in many countries.

 It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that pushed me outside my comfort zone and help me develop new skills. It was an amazing experience, and I am very glad I got to meet new people and learn about their cultures and the culture of Belgium."

Arishel, Young Citizen Scientist

In the afternoon, YCSs from Preston and Spain participated in a panel discussion reflecting on what interested them most about the project, and what they would like to see happen to foster social inclusion for young people. Dominant themes concerned inclusive and continual participation, falling under three areas:

  1. Increase collaboration between young people and other stakeholders.
  2. The need for more and better youth-friendly opportunities created where they can feel accepted, including meaningful employment.
  3. Support and encouragement for young people's participation in local democratic processes, ensuring that under-represented voices are heard.

"I really appreciated being given the opportunity to present at the conference during the panel discussion. This enabled me to have a voice to represent young disabled people and communicate the importance of access and accessibility, which is critical in ensuring we feel a valued part of society." 

Evie, Young Citizen Scientist

Each country aims to find ways to support young people to meaningfully participate in ongoing discussions about things that matter to them. In the UK/UCLan case, we will continue to ensure young people's voices are heard in Preston through:

  • YCS participating on the youth advisory board for Preston's forthcoming Youth Zone
  • Participation with Preston City Council's multi-agency Youth Strategy, which has considered the implications from the findings from the UCLan research including development of youth-led work experience and employment opportunities in the city.
  • YCS and UCLan supporting Preston City Council's youth consultation to ensure it reaches as many young people in Preston as possible.

"It was a wonderful experience to be there and to hear the outputs, conclusions and learnings from the study that hopefully can now be taken back to each country to support future policy making, improving the lives and opportunities of young people across Europe."

Evie, Young Citizen Scientist

 Next steps

YouCount's impact will continue through the Handbook and toolkit produced by the consortium to guide others who wish to use this innovative and participatory approach to social science, as well as a policy brief that brings together key messages about youth social inclusion.

A true sense of celebration, collaboration and strong relationships underscored the Conference. The process of working with an international community during this 3-year project has developed a thriving community of practice.This has brought young people, institutions and academics together to listen and learn from each other, foster new connections and think creatively about how we can drive social innovation for youth social inclusion forward. 

"Being able to converse with people my age and influential figures from different countries was a valuable experience with many skills that could be taken away, such as public speaking. Having the access to host dialogue with people you generally wouldn't normally be able to talk to was refreshing and allowed me feel like I was being taken more seriously. The conversations had sitting across the table with CEOs and members of the EU and NATO felt surprisingly natural, productive and forward thinking."

Khaleel, Young Citizen Scientist
YouCount Retrospective: A Journey from Hungary to ...


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Thursday, 18 July 2024

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