The Early Action Systems Change project is built around young people, working for and with them. Over the course of the project young people have shared their experiences and views with us in surveys, workshops, events and dedicated co-design processes.


From our Phase 1 workshops, which included insights from 500 young people and families, to dedicated support of eight local youth groups to undertake a process of co-design that was meaningful to them, we have sought to centre young people’s voices to create impactful change. 

 Early Action Systems Change Renfrewshire is about coming together as a whole system. Each youth group in the partnership brought deep and varied experiences and longstanding trusting relationships that enabled collaboration, with young people and with one another. These connections supported a new form of co-design to emerge, one that didn’t have professional designers in the lead. Instead, this process was truly led by both young people and by youth work practices.

“It’s about uncovering the young people’s views. It takes time, which is tough when things need to move quickly. Taking that time, you have to give and meet the challenges. You have to adapt, move with it, change about... the output on what they share and how they feel is more valuable than meeting a time scale or checking a box.” — Youth Worker

Co-design is based on the simple idea that the people who access services and supports are the best people to create and improve them. It involves a truly participatory approach to design where community members (in our case, young people) are treated as having a special form of expertise and are given the power to make decisions. This participatory process also values the knowledge of practitioners and positive supporting relationships that can make change a reality. Co-design is about creating as equals.

Our ‘Co-design in Motion’ resource provides further details of how each youth group worked and what support was needed to make the design process effective. What has stood out to us is that the act of collective making is powerful. Young people were energized and heartened by the opportunity to use their knowledge to help others and challenge the assumption that adults always know best. Practitioners learnt a lot about trusting in creative processes and in their own abilities to make the space for these. The interweaving of design and youth work methods has been inspiring, showing how fun, safety, and group conversations can support the intentional development of new ideas and resources. 

We hope that this learning will contribute to Early Action System’s Change’s ongoing mission to ‘Change Things Up’ for young people in Scotland and beyond. How will you be a part of this change?


Gifts of advice from the co-design commission to you!

Power sharing is not always comfortable – but it’s so worth it when you do!

Meaningful work is motivating! Creating a space for young people to lead encouraged engagement and resulted in stronger, more creative, ideas.

It’s important to have your strategy set out from the beginning although this will be developed as you go. 

Prepare to go with the flow even if it wasn’t the plan you had in your head initially.

Having patience, being open and listening thoroughly to others is what good teamwork looks like.

Psychological safety is everything! Consider it in every action and every aspect of planning.

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate – even if your co-design partners do very different work from you - we all have the same goal...

Produced in partnership with Engage Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire Council, Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership. Funded by National Lottery Community Fund.

2021 Dartington Service Design Lab.

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