The youngsters you will recruit for the program will have a decisive impact in the successes of the prHow you recruit the right young experience experts will largely depend on the context you are working in. Some implementers work with their youth very closely, where others are working at more distance and therefore depend more on the cooperation and insight of third parties and on selection interviews.
They really listen to me, I could really see that they listen to me.Jason – Experience expert – Youthlab trainer, Netherlands
Youth that benefit from exchanging with justice professionals often share similar qualities and features:
- Keen on telling their story: Youngsters who participate in the YouthLab are intrinsically motivated to join. They want to share their stories and communicate what they have been through in life. They feel the urge to get it off their chest, to step up and share their story in a constructive way. It’s their hope that others will learn from it.
- Keen on taking the stage: A suitable young candidate is typically recognized by showing a certain ease taking a stand and sharing their opinion in a group. Potential participants most often stand out for their presence, for taking initiative and sometimes aiming to be the leader of the group. He or she is not scared to speak up, even if no-one in the room shares their thoughts.
- Is mostly from a long term stay group (in youth detention): Over 70 percent of our members have spent several years in youth detention, mostly between one and four years. Their main motivation to join is that they are done with their (previous) criminal life, going in and out of prison. They want to make a change both for themselves and for others by sharing their story. So that they can be an example for r young people and help them make different life-choices and make a switch to a life without criminality.
- Is someone who engaged with many guardians, social workers and therapists: The youngsters might have been in the judicial or childcare-services for many years of their young life. They might have had contact with social workers and therapists and received treatments while serving their time inside. These experiences – some good, others really bad – are all part of the motivation and eagerness for the youngsters to participate in the programme. They are motivated to make a change to the system, not thinking “screw it”, but i stead aiming for their voices and experiences to be heard.
- Is someone with a critical view on the judicial and childcare-services: Having been in “the system” for a long time, experiencing both positive and negative events, typical participants have a critical view on how things are run. However, rather than opposing themselves to the system, they aim to make a change by sharing their critical view. Participants are trained to bring across their messages in a constructive way. Also, they do take the system and its rules seriously, and do not necessarily deny the challenges professionals deal with in working with youngsters. But with their experiences they want to shed a different light, sharing their point of view – which may be an eye opener and a valuable insight for professionals.
- Is curious: Young participants that benefited from the programme are more often than not curious and eager to learn about how the judicial system came to be as it is now. They are open to have a look at it from a different point of view. Hence, they want to hear from justice professionals what it is like to do their jobs and how their decision-making works in difficult cases.
- Is between 18 and 25 year old: Most participants are between 18 and 25 years old. Most youngsters at this age have developed a certain distance to their story, becoming adults and leaving detention. They look at their younger selves with a helicopter view, which helps them to tell their story in a constructive and reflective way.