on asking questions

Abigail from the Friends of Rowntree Park in York has done another guest blog for us. They’ve been consulting with their local teenage girls to find out what they do and don’t like about the park and how it might work better for them. Here she explains how they went about it.

  1. Online Survey

As a member of a ‘Friends of Park’ group I set up an online survey to get the views of girls aged 10-17.  Using Google forms this is simple and straightforward. This survey was anonymous but emails could be left if they wanted to be involved at a future date.  The survey had to be concise and then the aim is to follow up on more specific areas (such as our skatepark). We used a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches in the questionnaire. If you have the help of a professional researcher with a clear methodological approach, even better. We used Google Forms and mixed checkboxes with scales and also areas to expand on answers. In addition, the survey will be used alongside focus groups and case studies. The research would not be representative of all girls in the UK or even our city, but will give us a good idea on girls in our area who use our park.

How to get the online survey out there

Our Friends group has over 800 households as members so we shared the survey via our monthly newsletter, I also shared via social media. I also contacted local secondary schools and asked them to include in their weekly newsletter to parents – you can find school office emails on the school’s websites easily.  I wrote the paragraph of information and asked them to include, so all they had to do was cut and paste to the newsletter. The easier you make things, the more likely people will share them I have found. An ideal would be actually a local school(s) who want to get on board with the project and actually via their PSCHE lesson, or similar, actually get the girls to do the survey and even better run a session. It really depends if a local school is inspired by the project – great chance for their pupils to make a difference.

I also went on the local radio to talk about this. On this occasion they contacted me after being tagged on social media. Previously I have written press releases to get coverage for other park issues and these are often picked up on. Again, no expert on press releases, but I’ll share one that I’m writing when able. The top take away tip is- make it easy for people. Write things for them and they’ll share!

2. Workshops and Focus Groups

I set up a workshop to encourage older girls to come and share their views on the park. It’s pretty hard to get people involved in this sort of session just by opting in to be fair. I used social media and posters in the park. It was more parents’ interest that was galvanised, and that meant this focus group was mainly aged 10-13.   As the workshop was small and focused around certain ages the next step is working out how to engage others. I’m trying to reach out to local schools and teachers to see if they’d be willing to run brief sessions using the resources I created. Also I’ll be contacting local clubs and groups, all at the same time I’m using social media to try and raise awareness.  It all takes time, and I have to fit this between my full time job and family.

In our skatepark there are some 20-30 year old women who mainly roller skate, many started in lockdown. I know they are role models to some younger girls who feel safer when they are in the skatepark.  Therefore I’ve reached out to them via Instagram to explain more about what I’m trying to do and asking if they have ideas/suggestions and want to get involved – the response has been positive, so fingers crossed!  It may also be that I just set up a stall one afternoon in the park and suggest people pop by and share views! I’m going to keep thinking and welcome suggestions.

3. Where next?

One we have more data then it’s working out what to do with it.  By raising awareness of this cause, I’m hoping girls will get involved in the whole process. That is discussing the summary of feedback and suggesting what changes we could make. From the focus group we’ve already had some suggestions and the survey indicated what features girls want to see in parks.  I’ll aim to compile some of this and see what others think and if they agree. 

Consultation can sound like a complicated process but what Abigail’s work shows is that it’s really about finding the right people and then listening to them. Don’t just talk to the users who are already in the park; go out and speak to as many people as you can, and in particular to groups, like teenage girls, who aren’t using the facilities. They will almost certainly have a lot to say, if you go and ask them.

If you want some more ideas on how to run your own consultation locally, we’ve got draft surveys and ideas for workshops and all sorts of other links on our consultation page.

One Response to “on asking questions

  • Thank you very much to Abigail for writing this and to Make Space for Girls for sharing it! Excellent advice on consulting effectively with young people.

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