Selecting priority areas in Northern Devon

Published
21.03.2023
Author
Katie Potter

In our last blog we discussed how we conducted our early research phase in Northern Devon to develop 8 key themes to guide our co-design phase.

We needed to narrow down our focus for the next phase of Kailo, so we went through a phase of prioritisation. We hosted a number of events, workshops and conversations to understand which of the themes the community felt should be a priority for us to work on in the next phases of Kailo. It was really important to us that young people, key organisations, and community members in Northern Devon were part of this process. 

Through lots of different exercises, activities and conversations, the opportunity areas that were prioritised were:

  1. How might communities be places where young people feel accepted, supported and that they belong?
  2. How might young people be inspired, supported and connected to a diverse range of opportunities, jobs and careers?
  3. How might we increase mental health awareness, literacy and strategies for young people, families and communities so they can build stronger, more supportive relationships?

How might communities be places where young people feel accepted, supported and that they belong?

Young people told us that a key element of identity and belonging is the communities in which they are growing up in and the level of safety (both physical and emotional) and acceptance they feel in their communities. We heard from young people that ‘being surrounded by positive people’ and having a ‘place to belong and be accepted’ was an important part of the communities they live in. This was also highlighted in many of the conversations we had with adults and professionals working with young people, ho suggested that what mattered most to young people was ‘feeling as though they belong and have a sense of identity’ and they have the space and ‘safety to explore their identities’ and ‘discover who they are’. 

LGBT young person - Alexander Grey

Whilst the presence of the ‘smaller’, rural communities of Northern Devon have been identified as a strength of living in North Devon and Torridge by some young people, this was not a view shared by all. Some young people spoke of the judgement and discrimination they face, and the feeling less safein their communities. This particularly came from young people identifying as LGBTQIA+, ethnic minorities and neurodivergent. However, it was not limited to these groups; some young people felt that because they are young, this had a bearing on how they felt within their community. 

In conversations with professionals, we also heard of young people feeling ‘pressure to fit in’ and ‘not wanting to be judged by parents and others’. This was highlighted across ages of young people, and when talking to schools, this was often starting in year 5. 

In conversations relating to identity and belonging, the importance of having a voice and being listened to was also highlighted. 

How might young people be inspired, supported, and connected to a diverse range of opportunities, jobs and careers?

When young people were asked what matters most to them, a theme emerged around ‘career and future’, ‘opportunities in general- life, job and travel’ and ‘aspirations’. However, when asked what it is like to live in North Devon, many young people mentioned the lack of diverse opportunities or any opportunities at all in the region. Some young people said that there were jobs and opportunities available, but these were often ‘only seasonal jobs’. Some young people mentioned that it was ‘easy to get a job in agriculture and local stores’.

Engagements with local systems leaders and those working with young people also suggested that whilst there may be opportunities for young people to work in certain jobs/industries (e.g. agriculture, tourism and leisure) there is a lack of awareness, exposure, motivation and inspiration to access more diverse pathways in life within North Devon. 

We have heard that some YP may struggle with the lack of diverse opportunities in the area when they leave school, and may be unable to find/access them.

In our conversations, we heard that there could be different levels that this may operate on:

  1. On a community and local economy level, young people may not be exposed to diverse experiences and not have access to these pathways in Northern Devon or opportunities that might take them out of Northern Devon.
  1. Within their families there may be intergenerational mindsets (generational cycles, attitudes, preferences and pressures) limiting/defining the opportunities and aspirations YP might wish to pursue.
  1. On an individual level, young people may also struggle to see themselves as able to access more diverse opportunities because of low self esteem, confidence and self belief.

This could be related to internal and/or external factors.

How might we increase mental health awareness, literacy and strategies for young people, families and communities so they can build stronger, more supportive relationships?

Healthy relationships within families and friends, where one feels accepted and supported, was one of the most common answers given to us by young people about what wellbeing means to them and what is most important for them (‘being surrounded by positive people’, ‘talking to friends and mum helps’). It is reflected across different areas of Northern Devon, different groups of young people, and a spectrum of ages that we have spoken to.

Young people in wheat field -Dim Hou

Young people often spoke about ‘having someone to talk to’ and ‘feeling supported’ and ‘appreciated’ by people around them. We heard that young people felt it was important to be able to connect with their friends and family, both generally and by having the tools and language for more challenging conversations, for example, around mental health and wellbeing. To enable this to happen we need to create the conditions and environment for it to take place and build the skills to enable these conversations. It was also mentioned that it is important to have tools for self-care and suggested that this was foundational for their wellbeing. We heard from young people that what matters to them is ‘knowing/learning how to keep a healthy mind’, ‘having things to do to help me relax’.

From the wider community, particularly those who have relationships with young people  there was a need to develop an awareness, literacy and strategies around mental health and wellbeing. This linked to what we were hearing about the impact that a parent’s mental health and wellbeing can have on young people, and their need to have the tools and strategies to support themselves, as well as the young people in their lives.

Our next steps… 

We have now moved into our Deeper Discovery phase. We are working with young people and community partners to design strategies to improve young people’s mental health based on the opportunity areas prioritised. More information will be available very soon!