In 2016, the Neuroscience, Ethics and Society Group started a Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG) in Oxford. You can read about why and how we did this here. After a year of meetings we’ve reflected on the good (and bad!), and have created a list of FIVE things to consider when developing an Advisory Group.
But before we begin, you might be asking yourself: “What is the Oxford YPAG?”
YPAGs are groups of young people who work with as co-actors in the research process. This can include research on a range of different themes, including medicine and mental health. The Oxford YPAG is a group of 46 young people (14-18 years old) who come from a wide range of backgrounds and schools, but all share a special interest in ethics and mental health. The group was developed to ensure that young people’s voices are heard and incorporated throughout the research process. It was started in early 2017, and we have progressed a LOT in the past year, winning two awards for public engagement already! See our latest here: OxTalent award for Public Engagement.
So, what have we learned?
Here is our list of FIVE things to consider when developing an Advisory Group.
- Know Your Audience. Who are you trying to reach? Young people? People with experience in the NHS? Is there an advisory group (or something similar) already in your area? Is there a need/desire from the community for a new advisory group? Make sure you’re not just re-inventing the wheel! Also, be sure to focus on the community’s interests and what they want to talk about.
- Establish Ground Rules. The YPAG meets on a monthly basis, and our first session focused solely on developing ground rules and strong working relationships. This process came from the young people themselves. Creating ground rules helped the young people have agency – they got to decide what they wanted to work on and who they wanted to be as a group. This session also helped us create trust and community before engaging in our research work.
- Reflect, Reflect, Reflect. It is so important to evaluate your work and adjust accordingly. One method we used to do this is surveys. At varying points in the year we asked YPAG members to fill out anonymous online surveys, rating their interests and asking if they’d like to see anything changed. This allows us to be flexible and adjust the programme to meet the interests and desires of the YPAG members themselves.
- Provide opportunities for personal growth and development. We provided all members with research skills training, and have created a day-long workshop where we teach young people about ethics and research methods and promote statistical literacy. For those who wish to expand their skills, we regularly offer work experience placements, both in our department, as well as advertising work experience in other Oxford Departments. This was an important way to give back to the community.
- Include public members in all stages of research. From developing research questions to dissemination, it is vital for members to be included at all stages. Even if the YPAG is giving feedback on a specific issue, make sure to go back to them when the research is complete to share how their feedback was incorporated. Make sure not to only include young people after the research is completed!
Do you have anything to add? Let us know your top tips for developing a sustainable YPAG in the comments below!
About the Author
Jessica Lorimer is research assistant in the NEUROSEC team.