ACCESS Youth Council Summit

Aug 13-14, 2015 | Montreal

Attending Youth Council members: Justin, Alyssa, Cliff, Peiyin, Alicia, Kayley Regrets: Jimmy, Loic, Niamh

Central Office members: Ashok, Vidya, Chantelle, Jess, Michal

mindyourmind facilitators: Christine and Eugenia

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All Aboard!

A safe communication space is one that reflects both the listening and speaking. Verbal and non-verbal cues are important. Brave space invites people to say what is on their mind, to not hold back out of fear (of judgement). This space is a space of respect. We show respect and expect respect from everyone. In this way, we can disagree. We can inform others when we feel they are lacking respect. Everyone in the room brings a different kind of expertise to the conversation. We recognize that we are coming from great diversity of experience, power and culture. Everyone is an expert of their own experience. Self-care is also important through the journey.

We envisioned ourselves on a voyage together. Above, you can see where people drew a symbol of themselves and placed it in the boat. What symbol are you and where are you in the boat? Some folks were at the front of the boat, some in the middle and some weren't sure and placed themselves outside of the boat. It's a helpful exercise, to highlight where ACCESS fits in with the many other commitments and activities in your life.

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Boosting the Sails | ACCESS Values

The members of the youth council and the central office created a list of what they value in the project. What excites you about this work? What values do you bring?
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How do you know if you're going in the right direction? | Goals

We asked:

Envision the goals of this project for yourself.

Why are you doing this work in the first place?

What are the issues being addressed?

How do we ensure the WHY of this project is front and centre?

What does engagement really mean to you/to this project?

What does it mean to be in a partnership?

Now ask yourself these questions.

Some of the responses from the Summit participants are below.

Our compass steers us in the right direction. Often there are many people who hold the compass in an organization. They keep us on track.

Q & A with Jess, Vidya and Ashok

What are the expectations central office has for the youth council and for the site youth?

  • Central office isn't all of ACCESS and don't want to be seen as the top of a hierarchy

  • Get into concrete things, what can the youth council do in practice that can advance the project such as participating in working groups

  • What level of involvement do the youth have so that we know when to engage you and ask for your input

  • We need youth relationships and partnerships with the site

  • We will look to the youth council to promote and facilitate the relationship with the site youth

  • Set up a strategy to help the sites to help engage their youth – youth council can help create these relationships

  • Create youth engagement guidelines

What is good youth engagement?

  • A good service understands that time is needed to engage youth meaningfully
  • We need to do everything we can to engage youth
  • Create a real culture of change – mental health services are designed for the people who work in it not the people it serves
  • Everyone needs to be on board
  • Compensation is a huge issue – ACCESS cannot compensate everyone due to budget constraints
  • Youth need to be supported in a way that benefits them and allows them to continue to participate.

How can we evaluate how things are going?

  • There are no measures so we need to come up with them
  • There are various levels of youth engagement

How do we make sure youth feel safe and included? (re: site youth coming into the project)

  • We don't have an answer to that. Young people need to give us insight into that

  • Preparation needs to come from peers

  • Slow introductions can help eliminate intimidation

  • Create broad strategies and guidelines

  • Part of the change will be slow and a process

  • Mini shifts in culture and sharing youth engagement

  • Need to be patient and value the process

  • Most of what we want to do in ACCESS is beyond the guidelines but it is about the cultural shift

Oars | Energy and Stability

Going forward we developed these 3 working groups:

1. Youth Council Terms of Reference (Alicia and Alyssa)

  • Purpose
  • Membership
  • Meetings
  • Minutes
  • Reporting/Relationships

2. Youth Engagement and communication charter/agreement (Justin, Cliff)

3. Branding/website/logo (Kayley)

Which groups do you want to join?

Pulling Up the Anchor

A group compass will help to assure us of the right direction as we move forward. Based on the values and conversation shared through this Summit, we can count on four basic questions to help guide decision-making in future. These are:

1. Are we aiming for culture change? This question reminds us that this project has a large goal that affects the culture of youth mental health in Canada. Our work has to focus on making large, long-lasting change as a legacy for all youth in the country.

2. Are we thinking in terms of WE, or are we thinking "us" versus "them"? This question helps us remember that ACCESS teams (from Central Office to the youth council to the professionals in all the ACCESS sites) are all in this together. Everyone is working towards the same goal.

3. Are we feeling discontent with the current mental health system? Being irritated by the way things are in the mental health system at large is a good thing --- and it's a shared motivator across all change-makers in the network. Wanting change is part of the value system in this project. Let's use that discontent to work better together.

4. Are we remaining open to the context-specific needs of youth? It's challenging, yet vital, to remain aware of the diverse contexts in this project. Keeping our eyes set on the large vision, while recognizing diverse needs, is a key contribution that youth can bring to this project.

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