In order to ensure young people have the best experience, it is important for them to feel safe and comfortable. This means promoting and upholding an environment that is inviting, non-judgmental and inclusive, where they feel at ease to be themselves, and share their ideas and opinions. Here are a couple ways you can do so:
- Start from a place of respect, be open-minded and friendly
- Housekeeping: show them where the washroom is, water, allow them to take breaks whenever they need them, etc.
Why is creating a safe space important?
- It is important to build a safe space, in order to ensure everyone in the room is familiar with each other, and feels comfortable participating and sharing.
- Establishing a set of group guidelines also helps the facilitator have something to refer back to if someone diverts from the guidelines.
- Group guidelines also allow for all participants to be on the same page about what is/isn’t acceptable.
How to rUN A Workshop to CREATE A SAFE SPACE
1) Check in.
Using a check-in is a great way to get young people to feel comfortable with the people in the room. It provides a platform to express feelings, needs, etc. and ensures that everyone in the room is on the same page. Here are some examples of check-in questions:
- How are you feeling?
- Preferred gender pronouns (for example, they/them, he/him, she/her)
- Accessibility needs
- Something interesting about yourself
- Rose, bud, thorn (highlight, excited about, lowlight)
- What are you hoping to get out of today’s workshop?
An interesting question, examples may be:
- What are you hoping to get out of today’s workshop?
- Favourite food
- Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done
- Favourite summer memory
- (Create own)
2) Group Guidelines.
This is an opportunity for the group to build a set of guidelines for the engagement opportunity. Remember that group guidelines are not an enforced set of rules, but should serve as “community norms” to help safely guide the discussion. There are many ways to build group guidelines, some examples include:
- A facilitator records on a piece of chart paper and asks the group, popcorn style what they would like to have as group guidelines.
- Pass around quote cards and have participants write/draw what they would like to see as group guidelines and build a group guideline wall. The Facilitator would read them out and have the participants do a gallery walk of the guidelines.
3) Ice Breaker
Icebreaker games and energizers are used to ‘break the ice’ at events where people may not know one another well, or where the subject matter may be somewhat uncomfortable. These games are easy to play and help the group to mix in a neutral, non-threatening way. Some of the games are silly, some are slightly embarrassing and some are informative in a lighthearted way.
In choosing the icebreakers and energizers for this workshop, it is a good idea to think about the personality of the group, as well as the activity’s ultimate purpose. Facilitators are encouraged to participate as well as it allows participants to get to know you.
In general, both icebreaker games and energizers are useful for:
- Breaking the rigidity of the workshop
- Stimulating participant interest
- Introducing a topic of discussion
- Creating equal conditions between the facilitator(s) and the participants
- Allowing participants to interact and get to know one another
4) How to be an effective adult ally
It's important to ensure everyone involved in the work understands how to make the most of youth participation in the process. Below are clear, important practices that all participants should review and engage in. During any part of the process, participants should feel comfortable reflecting back on this practices and ensuring they are represented in the work.
- Trust the process: Get ready to give up control, practice patience, and hand over the power. It’s important to avoid taking control because you want things to get done right or quickly. Trust that they will make the right decisions and let them do their thing. Remember that the process is just as important as the product.
- Check your assumptions: Challenge any negative assumptions you and or other adults may have about young people. Leave your biases at the door. Not all youth are the same. See young people as valuable contributors that bring different skills to the table.
- Provide appropriate structure: Running a workshop is not about creating a rigid program or a minute-to-minute agenda. Young people benefit from a variety of experiences, including ones that are organic and self-driven. This means giving them autonomy, options, clear boundaries, and providing support. It is also important to be clear about what they cannot do.
- Turn your statements into questions: When we turn our statements into questions, magic happens. Avoid the assumption that adults have authority and know all the answers. Ask questions so youth can work through problems themselves, instead of providing answers. If something is inaccurate or inappropriate, ask questions to prompt critical thinking.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to be cool: Authenticity and honesty are the qualities youth respect most in adults; not coolness, humour, or popularity. Share appropriately who you are. Don’t try too hard, they see right through that. A successful youth-adult partnership is one that is dynamic, reciprocal, and collaborative.
- Use child and youth-friendly language: Avoid using acronyms, and specific terminology related to the workplace or your position. Do your best to simplify things, and ask whether or not they need clarification or have questions.
- Avoid adultism: "You’re so young you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about." "Oh my god, you’re so adorable." These are some examples of comments that are all too common to the ears of young people. Adultism is behaviours or beliefs related to the assumption that adults have more value and rights than children, rather than recognizing the value and contribution young people bring to the table.
Note Taker: Jot down the responses of the team—reflections are often where some of the best learnings come to light.
Design Lead: Read these questions out loud to the group one at a time, and encourage people to share their answers aloud, one set phrased for adults and a mirror set for young people:
- What was it like being 15 years old?
- Where did you live?
- What made you different?
- What were you thinking about? How did you feel?
- Who were the young people who participated actively?
- What were they like?
- What did they do?
- What kept you from participating more actively?
- What could you have done to participate more actively?
- Who were the adults who worked well with young people?
- What were their qualities or characteristics?
- What could adults have done to help you participate?
- What is it like being 15 years old?
- Where do you live?
- What makes you different?
- What are you thinking about?
- How do you feel?
- Who are the young people who participate actively?
- What are they like?
- What do they do?
- What keeps you from participating more actively?
- What could you do to participate more actively?
- Who are the adults who work well with young people?
- What are their qualities or characteristics?
- What could adults do to help you participate?
Congratulations—you’ve created a safe space!
Up next, you'll build personas and develop needs and insights to better understand what young people face today.