Published on March 23rd, 2017 | from CAMH

Youth engagement at a CAMH conference

By Samantha Docherty & Renira Narrandes

In part two of our five-part series, we look at youth engagement at the November 2016 #CundillatCAMH conference.

The inaugural Cundill Centre conference, Transforming Practice and Policy Through Science: A Joint Conference on Child, Youth and Emerging Adult Mental Health, was held at CAMH on November 17, 2016. Although youth were not the target audience, they were invited to attend and, additionally, to participate in a youth-led debrief session after the conference.

Youth debrief

The debrief session, which was led by one of the McCain Centre’s Youth Engagement Facilitators, allowed youth to share their opinions about the conference and how future conferences might be planned to incorporate youth perspectives. The session was attended by two adult allies and four youth conference attendees.

Discussion questions:

  • Evaluation
    • What did you find interesting about the conference?
    • What did you hear that was the most meaningful to you?
  • Future planning
    • What would you have suggested be done differently?
    • How could the conference have been more accommodating for young people or people without a research background?

Overall, we wanted to know if youth found value in the time spent at the conference and how that value could be enhanced in the future. What we heard really came back to the principles of youth engagement, as illustrated in these comments (which have been summarized):

  • Create a safe space where youth feel comfortable sharing their questions and opinions.
  • Have presenters interact with the youth.
  • Include the voices of youth at the conference, especially for the projects in which youth are directly involved. This would be meaningful both to the youth presenting and those in attendance.

The main question that the youth were left with following the debrief was “what next?” They felt that they heard all of this great research, but were left wanting an action item to take away. Youth suggested that future conferences have breakout sessions, where youth could interact with presenters and other attendees to allow for more in-depth, concrete discussion about the practical implications of the research. This would allow youth to have meaningful discussions about their opinions on the research and might also allow conference attendees to collectively develop “next steps” that could be applied in each attendee’s personal or professional life.

Next steps

Information from the debrief will be used to inform the planning of future conferences organized by the Cundill and McCain Centres. We also hope that sharing this information will be helpful to others who may be planning youth-related conferences—or others who are interested in applying youth engagement principles to other aspects of their practice.

Samantha is the Coordinator for the Youth Engagement Initiative at the McCain Centre for Child, Youth and Emerging Adult Mental Health. She works with a team of Youth Engagement Facilitators to ensure the youth voice is incorporated into projects and proposals that aim to influence the lives of youth and their peers.

Renira is the Community Health & Education Specialist with the Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression, with a focus on knowledge translation. She takes evidence generated by the centre and translates it for a wide range of audiences.

Read the entire series:

Part 1: Youth Engagement at CAMH

Part 2: Youth Engagement at a CAMH Conference

Part 3: Youth Engagement in Research

Part 4: Knowledge Translation:  A cornerstone of youth engagement work


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