No5 shares how they worked with young people at their service to create a social action campaign on voting in local elections.
We knew the local elections were coming up and that young people under the age of 25 are the least likely age group to be registered to vote. This was also the first election since the new voter ID requirements had been introduced which could potentially be an additional obstacle to voting for many young people who may not have valid IDs.
As a young person’s mental health service, we also know that social action and creating spaces for young people’s voices to be heard can improve mental health and wellbeing and social and personal development. So we thought this was a great opportunity to organise a social action project on voting in elections.
We contacted the Election Team at Reading Borough Council to ask if they were doing any programs around voter registration and ID. We used this opportunity to pitch to them about funding a one-day social action project at No5 ahead of the local elections.
We sought funding for costs to cover staff time to prepare and deliver a one-day workshop and lunch and travel costs for young people involved. We received £1688 from the Local Authority which covered all our costs for the day.
Once we had received the funding, we were able to mobilise within two weeks. We contacted young people aged 18-25 on our waiting lists and working with partner organisations and had six young people involved in the day.
We started the day exploring feelings about voting, the new requirement to have voter ID, and questions about democracy, whether voting is important and the point in local elections. We had an honest conversation on these questions with a local councillor which shaped and informed our direction for the campaign.
We wanted to spread the message that by voting as a young person you are part of a collective power, and that “Together we can say it loud”. We created resources to help other young people know what they need in order to vote in local elections, and why they matter, which included:
A series of posters with relevant information, dates and QR codes on how to register to vote, a reminder of photo ID requirements and on the date of the local elections.
Social media campaign packs with videos, banners, graphics and animations on the importance of voting, which were sent alongside a social media plan to organisations to help share the message.
Design of banners to promote our campaign message on public advertising spaces, which included the side of our local Reading Buses and on a large screen outside of Reading train station.
At the core of voting is choice, so it was vital to model choice and agency in the plans for the day. Whilst there were some set outcomes and outputs, and clear boundaries to ensure a feeling of safety, there was also grey and undecided space within this to ensure the group had autonomy in deciding the direction of the work.
The project was also about wellbeing, connection and creative opportunities. We dedicated time to doing fun icebreakers and getting to know each other. There were also immediate 'quick wins’ for young people, with all participants being awarded an AQA certificate for Social Action and being able to see their banner designs being displayed on the side of Reading Buses and on an advertising board outside Reading Station for three weeks!
Pull on the networks you have and think outside of the box! We initially explored a partnership with a local creative arts organisation – unfortunately, the timelines didn’t work but we are looking at working with them in the future.
When seeking funding for your work, even if only a short-term project, be realistic about how much it will cost – including the costs of staff time. Professional staff skill is required for these sessions especially to ensure safeguarding processes are in place.
Find out more about the amazing work happening at No5: