"When stay at home measures were introduced in March, we observed a large amount of activities switch almost immediately to online formats so people could connect with others and be active from inside their home, whilst staying safe. I thought ‘how can we creatively capture how young people are coping on a day to day basis through these uncertain and challenging times, as well as provide something of interest to help their physical and mental wellbeing"
Ronan McMahon - Community Youth Engagement Officer
I approached Preston United Youth Development Programme (PUYDP) with an idea as they adopt a novel approach to community youth engagement using a blend of diversionary activities and mentoring support, working with vulnerable young people from different backgrounds and localities across Preston and Blackburn.
They identified a small cohort of young people who would benefit from some form of alternative, targeted engagement during lockdown due to their vulnerability to criminal exploitation, violent crime, mental health issues or adverse circumstances at home. The majority of young people identified were from low-income households and/or live in areas of deprivation. Access to digital devices and broadband connectivity have been evidenced locally and nationally as a barrier to accessing online content, so mobile phones were decided as the most appropriate and accessible method of communication for this piece of work.
Together with PUYDP we designed a 4week video diary project to create a space for young people to express their feelings and thoughts about life in lockdown whilst giving back a sense of daily purpose to fill the void of school or college. We aligned the project to Active Lancashire’s #ALittlebitmoreathome campaign, using the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ themes to steer discussion and self-discovery by providing participants with a list of questions and challenges at the start of each week. The weekly questions and tasks were designed to support and improve young people’s physical/mental wellbeing and individual development. PUYD selected a cohort of 12 individuals which reflected their work in Preston and Blackburn with young people from White British and British Asian backgrounds.
The main impact on young people was the physical undertaking of the weekly tasks; learning new skills, contemplating the present/future, discovering things which they often overlook, being regularly active, having a platform to express feelings, thoughts, opinions, and taking time to reflect on life. In an ever-changing, fast-paced, pressurised and often for these young people, chaotic, environment, this current period of history has afforded them with more time. This project attempted to focus and divert this time into positive action and discovery, both physically and mentally to help the young people create better solutions for themselves and others around them.
This project has reaffirmed our thinking around the value of using creative engagement approaches to improve knowledge and understanding as the video diaries captured valuable and personal expressions by creating an informal space for conversation and interactions. ‘Lockdown Life’ was originally implemented as a research and insight exercise using video diaries as opposed to traditional research methods. Removing the research and insight agenda and focusing on themes which resonated with the target audience contributed significantly to high volumes of retention across the 4week project (80%). Similarly, the project did not focus primarily on sport and physical activity, however, by incorporating alongside other themes, we witnessed and heard how young people were maintaining an active lifestyle each week.
Another positive outcome to this approach is that young people felt they were being heard and supported, simply by speaking into a phone and sharing the content with others. As ‘C’ pointed out “I could speak to someone when I was worried about Covid”. Video diaries have validity not only as an engagement tool but also as a support mechanism by creating a feeling that someone’s listening, someone cares about what I have to say.
This approach has created a talking point with young people focused groups/partners in Preston and the Vlogging concept is being replicated by Active Lancashire to capture insight from participants engaged in projects funded through Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund.
See the Lockdown Life film below: