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Authoring Our Own Stories

Authoring Our Own Stories has been funded for 5 years by the National Lottery Community Fund. The programme is being led by Partnership for Young London in partnership with Youth Focus North West, Youth Focus South West and Yorkshire and Humber Regional Youth Work Unit.


Please download the full briefing here for more information.

Setting the Context – Our Pilot Project on Regional Identities

Authoring Our Own Stories builds on a pilot delivered in 2019 – 2020 where over 400 young people and 60 youth workers took part in research about how young people’s identities impacts on both access to services and service design and delivery. This project worked alongside of Dr Tom Loughran from the University of Huddersfield to explore how young people from different social groups and different regions of the UK defined their identities and how we collectively as services reflect and adapt to meet their needs. Young people conducted research in each region and, using multi-media approaches, explored the ways in which they expressed who they are and how they want to be represented. More information about the work that was completed can be viewed here.

Programme of Work


The Project

Authoring Our Own Stories is a youth recovery project examining how young people’s identities impact on their access to services. Over the course of 5 years we will deliver arts-based workshops with young people and youth work professionals to explore how we reshape services locally, regionally, and nationally to improve the offer in place to young people and break the cycle of inequality.


There will be 4 components, which will take place over the duration of the programme:

  • Young Leaders -100 young people trained in co-production, leadership, facilitation, and research skills

  • Youth Outreach - Delivery of 20 youth voice and youth-led research projects with over 500 young people

  • Workforce Development - Training and peer support for 600 youth workers

  • Regional Partnerships - The establishment of 4 cross-sector regional partnerships aiming to drive up outcomes for young people by influencing policy and practice. This builds on the two existing partnerships from the pilot (London and the North West) and extends the programme to Yorkshire and Humber and South West 


Each year we will train 20 paid, part-time, young leaders to co-produce a national, multi-media project in each region over 10 weeks that provides a platform for participants to author their own stories. Participants will explore how they want their identities to be understood by professionals and their peers and capture their findings through a range of media formats including videography, creative writing, graphic art and photography.


The outcomes of their work will provide a rich body of material based on their lived experiences around identity. This will be used to develop resources, training programmes and youth led events, delivered to the youth sector, to upskill the workforce. This initiative will be developed on a rolling programme, over a 5 period, where new regional partnerships are formed each year.


Authoring Our Own Stories will enable young people to take increased roles in defining future provision. Services will develop more effective partnerships to the changing needs of young people, in line with the impact of COVID19. Additionally, the youth sector will have the skills to be able to respond more effectively to the developing needs of young people. This will help mitigate against future systemic inequalities, highlighted through the lived experiences of respondents in our pilot project, and ‘build back better’ as part of the recovery mission, out of the pandemic. 




  • Create a Platform for Youth Voice and Youth-Led Research - We will utilise the skills and resources of young people, cross-regionally to build a cohesive picture of how to articulate the civic identities of young people on a national level and how this data should inform the youth sector’s recovery mission.

  • Develop Services Post COVID-19 - Authoring Our Own Stories is being developed in response to assertions from young people, gathered through our pilot, to work with them as co-producers and provide safe spaces for them to express their multiple identities. This is so that their experiences are more accurately understood by service providers.

  • Develop Cross Regional Collaboration - We will create greater equity across regions in terms of the distributions of resources and the sharing of knowledge about how young people create openings to thrive.

  • Re-Frame the Future - This initiative will seize the current ‘unprecedented moment’ to recalibrate the culture of the youth sector by becoming more progressive and ‘fit for purpose’. Fundamental to this progress is challenging the constraining methods used to categorise young people and position them within a system that limits their life chances by not fully meeting their needs.

  • We aim to co-produce this work with young people so that they engage in a democratic process where they share knowledge around the core issues that affect their lives.

Programme Update

In 2023 we recruited six art students from Harris Academy Girls East Dulwich (HAGED), to become peer researchers. We did self-portraits in our first session and shared questions we wanted to explore together about civic identity.  The group was keen to learn more about how we were going to use art practices to build our research projects. We wanted to highlight the skills and experience each group member already had and could contribute to Authoring Our Own Stories.




















We did our peer training in the art studio at HAGED with the support of the Head of Art, Clare Stanhope. Group Photo l to R Yezi, Ling, Camron, Natasha, Sandra, Moshood and Zi

We have drawn a lot of knowledge from the group’s lived experience throughout the development of this work. For example, in the early stages of the peer training, the Young Leaders researched the spaces and places in their local area where they felt safe and welcomed and others where they were left feeling very conscious of their age, ethnicity and gender.






The outline for a Heat Map of how the Young Leaders experience their Civic identity in spaces and places in Southwark. ‘Tops and Pants’ is one of the evaluation tools we used to help the peer researchers self-assess their development







As our time has progressed together, we have experimented with different materials such as collaging, clay and building bricks and different crafts such as origami, to present research questions.

In July, the Young Leaders were tasked with putting together their own research project using the skills and tools they had developed through their training. We met at Guildhall to pull our ideas together and form a workshop plan for the focus groups we would be visiting in August.  Below are images of the group working through the questions that they wanted to ask in the focus groups and then developing activities to present them.













Young Leaders suggested using The Fox to express questions to decision makers that young people may not feel confident asking directly

We used the symbol of the boat to represent identity, as historically London has been a city made up of diverse communities who have travelled to settle there…

Delivering Our Research Projects in the Summer of 2023


The Young Leaders visited seven youth projects over the summer to deliver their research projects. Feedback from the participants included sharing that using practical activities to ask the research questions maintained their engagement. The young men at Woodpecker Youth Club told us that they really enjoyed using building bricks, in particular to explore the research questions.




















We are grateful to Yuk-Lin Tan, who welcomed us to Camden Chinese Community Centre Over Half-Term














Young Leaders will be invited  to use an art-form of personal interest to create a visual analysis of the focus groups. They will be guided to develop their ideas with artist, Drew Sinclair. Storyboard template by Drew Sinclair ©.





















Over the Autumn the Young Leaders will be sharing their initial observations from the focus groups through creating individual storyboards. We will then do a Thematic Analysis of the work, coding the data and looking for emerging themes. Once this process is complete the group will decide what creative medium, they want to use to interpret the data they have generated and what key issues they want to share from their work with decision-makers.

We did our peer training in the art studio at HAGED with the support of the Head of Art, Clare Stanhope. Group Photo l to R Yezi, Ling, Camron, Natasha, Sandra, Moshood and Zi
Woodpecker services.jpg
Woodpecker Boats.jpg



More Information


For more information about the programme please contact your regional leads or the project lead:

Partnership for Young London

National Lead for Authoring Our Own Stories: A Youth Recovery Initiative Exploring Young People’s Regional Identities – Sandra Vacciana


Youth Focus North West.

Sarah Lanchin


Youth Focus South West.

Juliette Morgan


Yorkshire and Humber Regional Youth Work Unit.

Charlee Bewsher

Contact Us


Sandra Vacciana


National Lead for Authoring Our Own Stories: A Youth Recovery Initiative Exploring Young People’s Regional Identities

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