Perspectives Toolkit

About this toolkitIntroductionEncouraging EngagementLearning from othersPerspectives: An evaluationResources and Links

Perspectives: A toolkit for working with hard to reach young people in cultural settings

This toolkit is a resource to:

Explore, question and share good practice in facilitating creative cultural experiences for hard to reach young people through partnership working. Throughout this resource, the term ‘young people’ is referring to hard to reach young people, including those in the youth justice system and in challenging circumstances.

This toolkit is for:

Cultural organisations, local services, and anyone wanting to learn more about effective ways to engage with young people in cultural activities, who are often hard to reach.

Use this toolkit:

As a training resource within your organisation or service to learn more about how to set up projects for young people, and effective ways to develop partnership working with other cultural organisations and local services.

Add to our toolkit

If you have an example of good practice, which involves partnership working with hard to reach young people, or have a relevant resource you would like to share, then add it to our toolkit.

The Perspectives Toolkit was produced by Ruth Currie on behalf of Towner with contributions from Kat Owen, Ben Wyatt, Leon Maxwell and Clare Halstead, with thanks to all the organisations who contributed their experiences and case studies to this Toolkit.


The Perspectives Project came about through the long-standing relationship between East Sussex Youth Offending Team (YOT) and Towner.

With support from Artswork, the project was an opportunity to learn more about the opportunities and perceived barriers that exist for young people’s involvement with cultural organisations, particularly young people in the youth justice system, who are some of the hardest to reach and most challenging to engage with, and to work in partnership to overcome these barriers.

The Perspectives partners were:
  • Young people, recruited through the Youth Offending Team
  • Cultural organisations: Towner and the Redoubt Fortress
  • East Sussex Youth Offending Team

The Perspectives Project looked at the ways different partners were working with each other, making suggestions about what works, what could be further improved, and what could be used as a model of good practice.

In collaboration with their cultural partners, young people explored their local culture and created an introductory film to showcase the opportunities that are available to them. This film can be viewed by clicking the ‘Film’ link at the top of this toolkit.

Even with a good partnership between Towner and the YOT, this project presented challenges that any organisation wanting to work with this demographic of young people would face. Our toolkit aims to tell you about our experience and will hopefully provide you with some good ideas and information about how to work in partnership with cultural organisations, local services and most importantly, young people.

Working in partnership to encourage young people
to engage with cultural activities.

This section of the toolkit explores the process of partnership working with young people, cultural organisations and local services. It aims to explore the priorities of each partner, from the viewpoint of those involved in the Perspectives Project.

This toolkit considers partnership working to be the sharing and developing of ideas between local services, cultural organisations and young people.

Why consider partnership working?
It creates an opportunity to share the workload, resources and good practice
You can learn to look at your work from a different perspective, helping you to prepare projects that have the potential to meet a wider range of needs
You can build on established relationships to develop opportunities for young people
You can find ways to access more specific areas of funding
It enables young people to take a more direct role in developing projects that support their needs
What challenges us in partnership working?


  • Each partner has both differing and overlapping priorities, and it takes time to understand and respond to each other’s perspective

  • Finding ways to initially engage young people in partnership working, and knowing how to make these initial connections


Find out more about the priorities of the Perspectives Project partners by clicking on the drop-down boxes below:

Working in partnership with and for young people

The Cultural Organisations Perspective: The Towner
The Local Service Perspective: East Sussex Youth Offending Team
The Young Persons Perspective: Young People, currently in the Youth Justice System, who worked with the Perspectives Project

“…It’s about adapting and constantly looking at what they need…The young person isn’t like any other young person. They need to have completely targeted support and education.”

– Towner Learning Team

Working successfully with hard to reach young people in the Youth Justice System
  • Take time to get to know your participants; find out about their interests and how you can link them to their involvement in your programme
  • Have a flexible approach, but ensure your participants have a clear understanding of the time frame of your programme, and the expectations within it
  • Look for ways to engage young people in work-based skills; the young people in the Perspectives Project all cited work experience and opportunities to create a path to employment as a key indicator for engagement
  • Design programmes with young people and listen to their input and ideas. Using their experiences and learning to inform your programme’s aims and objectives can help to engage your participants and create autonomy over their cultural experience


Learning from others: Case studies of good practice in partnership working

This section of the toolkit considers the ways in which other cultural organisations and services have created effective partnership programmes, and how can we learn from this to improve our own practice when facilitating cultural experiences for hard to reach young people.

“…Breaking down barriers that might have been created round the arts or creative industries, or any kind of learning.”

– Towner Learning Team

Case 1: The Silent Voices Project
Case 2: Surrey Live!
Case 3: Bridges
Case 4: Shaw Barn Artistic Commission Project
Case 5: Annual Schools Exhibition: Outreach Contributions Project
Checklist of good practice

We can learn a lot from the cultural organisations and services, who have kindly shared their work in this toolkit, and can use this to help us consider our own aims and objectives in our work with young people.

Here the checklist to see some of the key things we think are important to consider when working in partnership with young people, based on the findings from our case study partners!

  • Get to know the other cultural organisations and services in your area, and find out about the types of offers they are producing for young people in your area.
  • Provide opportunities to make links between your organisation or service, and other potential new partners who work with young people.
  • Attend CPD opportunities and sharing days in your area.
  • Create and develop contacts within your local services or potential cultural partners to create established relationships prior to running your programme.
  • Create a safe and reassuring environment for your young people to be creative and explore new things.
  • If you are a cultural organisation, utilise and build on the experiences and established relationships between young people and their support or caseworkers.
  • If you are a local service, listen to young people to discover more about the experiences that they are engaging with at cultural organisations. Is there an outreach worker or tutor who they are particularly connecting with, who could help you to create unique learning opportunities for young people?
  • Involve young people in the planning and development of your programmes.
  • Consider the young persons experiences and environments; are you being responsive and aware of this and the impact it can have on them, their learning and their participation?
  • Provide opportunities to embed accreditation for the work young people achieve. Are you an Arts Award supporter, or know an Arts Award advisor in your area?
  • Think about how your priorities as an organisation or service link to the cultural offer you are providing; is there ways you can help each other to meet your priorities?

An Evaluation of the Perspectives Project: findings and recommendations

This section of the toolkit is an evaluation of the Perspectives Project. It aims to give an honest reflection of the changes, challenges, learning and successes of this project, which has young people and partnership at its core.

What was the initial aim?
Changes to the project
What did the Perspectives Project do?
What did the Perspectives Project find out about working successfully with young people in the Youth Justice System?
What were the biggest challenges?
Conclusions and Recommendations


Links to other publications

5 case studies of using the arts to work with socially excluded young people, produced by The National Youth Agency
Visit website page

En-vision action research programme: embedding a youth friendly culture in galleries
Download PDF

The Big Lottery Fund: Good practice guide for organisations working with young people0
Visit website page

Links to related organisations and services

East Sussex Youth Offending Team
East Sussex Targeted Youth Service
Audio Active, Brighton
Respond Academy, St Leonard’s
Rhythmix, Brighton

Local culture in East Sussex

Eastbourne Museums
Eastbourne Curzon Cinema
Jerwood Gallery
Electric Palace Cinema
White Rock Theatre
Pierless Music
Hastings Pier Charity
De La Warr Pavilion
Access to Music
Brighton Youth Centre
Brighton Dome – Miss Represented

Youth projects and information

Conexions 360: Activities
YMCA Youth Community
Conexions 360
East Sussex County Council
Street Dance UK
Active Cherry
Cherry Dance
Graffiti or Art?
UK Youth

ESCC            Artswork