Case study

CASE STUDY: Run Your Region - Recruitment of the first Young Combined Authority

By Sophia Griffin

How did Young Giant - part of the Beatfreeks Collective - overcome the challenge of regional recruitment for the West Midlands Combined Authority’s first young board?

“It’s quite right that we hear their voices given that 38% of our population are under the age of 25. We need to think really carefully about how we continue to engage young people in a really meaningful way.” Deborah Cadman, CEO of West Midlands Combined Authority talking about Young Combined Authority

The challenge

The West Midlands Combined Authority commissioned Young Giant to recruit, retain and support a diverse Young Combined Authority (YCA). We were tasked with recruiting a board of change-makers to advise and challenge the WMCA on its priorities, policies and decision-making. The YCA is a governance opportunity and development programme for those who want their opinions heard and are passionate about making changes for young people in the West Midlands.

One of the biggest challenges was ensuring that the board was representative of the population of each of the constituent members of the WMCA - Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall. As a Birmingham based youth engagement agency we have a wide network of young people we regularly work with in the city and a lot of experience of successfully recruiting young people in Birmingham but less so in the wider West Midlands region. With specific targets for each area set by the WMCA we had to develop a recruitment strategy tailored to the whole of the West Midlands.

“Other parts of the West Midlands are overshadowed by Birmingham. Companies can naively think that approaches that work in Birmingham can be applied to other cities in the West Midlands, but that is not correct.” Beatfreeks team member
Beatfreeks Young Combined Authority
Beatfreeks Young Combined Authority. Photo by Ahsen Sayeed

The solution

Every member of the Young Giant team is under thirty, but we do not presume to know what young people think and want. It was vital that the Young Combined Authority centred young people’s voices from the very beginning of the process, including recruitment. In order to inform the recruitment process we consulted with young people from the West Midlands, we wanted to know what would attract them to this opportunity and perhaps more importantly why would they not want to be part of the YCA. It soon became clear that the barriers to applying were different across the region, having this insight early on was invaluable and we were able to use this to inform our recruitment process.

Setting the right tone to directly appeal to young people was an important part of overcoming some of the challenges. We knew that we needed a young person to assist us with marketing and ideally someone from outside of Birmingham. We hired Chloe Deakin, who works directly within the communities we were trying to reach and understood the vision of the YCA. Hiring a young person to work on the project from the beginning further cemented that this is a board being built for young people by young people.

In order to reach people in cities we had not previously worked in, a fundamental part of our recruitment strategy was contacting organisations who were working with young people in Wolverhampton, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall. Several organisations shared the opportunity with their networks reaching much further than our community of young people. Despite this, half way through the recruitment we had not received any applications from anyone in Coventry, asking for our new contacts to share the opportunity again produced some applications but not enough. We decided to offer workshops to assist people with their applications. Often governance and board opportunities are intimidating to young people without any prior experience, so we hosted workshops and this proved to be a fundamental part of recruiting. By going directly to young people, in their spaces, we provided an opportunity to talk about their fears and worries in applying, removing those barriers, made them feel confident that this was an opportunity for them and their voice.

Top tips for recruiting young people to cultural boards

  • Connect with local organisations - this is an efficient way for your opportunity to be seen by more people and for your target audience to be contacted by organisations/people they already know and trust

  • Go directly to people who you want to apply for your opportunity - don’t expect them to come to you

  • Consult with your target audience - it is the best way to build an attractive offer and more importantly find out any potential barriers you may face before you start recruitment

The outcome

There have been several benefits to overcoming the challenges in recruitment, both for the YCA and Young Giant. We received 128 applications from all over the West Midlands for the young board; over double our initial target.

Through connecting with over 100 organisations who are working with young people in the West Midlands we received our most diverse set of applications to date. Hosting workshops to support people with their applications definitely enabled people who would not usually apply for an opportunity like the YCA feel empowered to have their voices heard.

Surprisingly, the majority of applicants did not come from people who are part of the Beatfreeks network and therefore we have increased the members in our community. As a collective of companies we are in the position to support young people in a variety of ways and are committed to their personal and professional development.

Whilst we are still Birmingham based, moving forward the team at Young Giant are definitely equipped to continue to work in the wider West Midlands & more nationally and support businesses to recruit young people.

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