by Author Jana Jammal

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Online Network: What Next?

Over the last few weeks, Youth Music has held a series of online networks addressing various challenges faced by organisations in the wake of Covid 19, the most recent of which centred on reaching young people who do not have access to digital means. This blog summarises the discussion about what happens after lock-down restrictions are eased, and considerations for re-engaging young people and supporting their wellbeing needs.

Remaining visible  

Sharing positive messaging and content on social media immediately came up as a way for an organisation to remain visible. We recognised that some young people may not be able to access these messages right now but also thought that when they are able to engage again it would be reassuring for them to see that the organisation is still there for them. This is also a way of telling young people that the organisation looks forward to engaging with them once lock-down is eased. We acknowledged that this would be most helpful for those who have some digital means. For those who do not have access to social media at all, a flyer through the door or a letter could be equally effective.

Consulting with young people

This should always be at the heart of all youth activities and will be even more important when lock down eases. In our conversation we discussed how vital it is to consult with cohorts to understand how their needs have changed and how they might feel safe to resume activities. It is vital to enable continued ownership of activities on the part of young people.

Planning for the new normal

The group discussed how young people who engaged in activities before lock-down might return with new and more complex challenges. We discussed the importance of thinking about the fresh difficulties young people are facing now, what we can do to reach them and how we tailor activities that address both their existing and new needs. Making sure the wellbeing of young people is prioritised is an essential part of planning ahead.

Not only will young people be different when the lock down is eased, the way we work with them might need to be radically rethought for a very long time. Measures might need to be put in place to gently re-integrate those who were completely cut off. Anyone isolating will undoubtedly struggle to return to normal so there needs to be a focus on safety and wellbeing. For example, smaller group sessions and one-on-one engagement could be more appropriate as we resume contact.

The group also discussed the need to balance the imperative to return to normal with applying the appropriate processes. This includes taking the time for risk and safeguarding planning with a view to reintegrating groups.

Looking back

There is also an opportunity now to reflect on what was learned during lockdown and explore how that can be applied moving forward.  

What was clear is that there is no right or wrong approach to tackling the barriers put up by COVID-19. Take time to plan, be prepared to pilot new ideas, and allow yourself a moment to reflect. Don’t forget to continue consulting with your young people, and don’t underestimate the impact of your support.

We’d like to express our thanks to everyone who has attended and contributed to our online networks so far. Follow the links for information about other conversations including: working with disabled young people online, safeguarding young people online and singing for health.  We've also collated key resources from across the Youth Music Network to help support your work during COVID-19. You can find them in our Coronavirus Resource Hub. Music Mark has put together guidance for music providers and schools as the lock down eases. Although the documents are schools based we hope some ideas can translate into your youth music setting. 

UPDATE 26/06/2020: The National Youth Agency has published a guide on managing youth sector activities and spaces during Covid 19 which we think could be useful to some. We will keep updating this page as new guidelines are published.