Hackney Council in east London is leaving behind its former image as the pariah of local government with an award-winning consultation with young people.
The council has won the Institute of Public Relations Excellence in Communication award for Best Consultation for its campaign “Hackney – a good place to grow up.”
As part of the campaign, Hackney commissioned children’s news agency Children’s Express to send out its young reporters to interview children in the borough.
Children’s Express was commissioned to produce a special edition presenting the views of children on subjects ranging from keeping safe and eating healthily to going to school.
They also ran a competition for ideas to improve life in Hackney. The winner was eight-year old Rana Rashid, for her idea to send trained experts into schools to advise about the dangers of knives and guns.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people were also consulted and given the opportunity to design and print their own posters.
The council also drew on the views children from the borough’s large Orthodox Jewish community at consultations held in venues known to the community which were advertised through the local Jewish press.
Children from Muslim, West Indian, Pakistani, Scottish, Kurdish and Bengali communities were among the other ethnic groups consulted in Hackney, which is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country.
Caroline Williams, Hackney cabinet member for children and young people, says the responses were of a “very high standard”.
She attributes the success of the consultation to approaching young people on their level. “We moulded our approach to them, rather than getting them to mould their approach to us,” she says.
Williams hopes the results will have a long-term impact. The consultation has informed the development of Hackney Youth Offer’, which outlines the entitlement to services for young people, and influenced priorities for 2005-6.
The council has also set up a participation sub group to ensure momentum is not lost, and says it is committed to increase funding for positive activities for young people.
“The consultation has shown that councils need to hear the voice of young people, listening actively, not passively,” Williams says.
“We need to be patient and build young people’s confidence. The whole process of engagement has lifelong ramifications. It has been extremely empowering for young people in Hackney.”