Meet the Team- Susan Cowell
My name is Susan Cowell and I am the VRP’s Youth and Community Engagement lead, seconded from Liverpool Safer & Stronger Communities. Working ‘with and for’ communities is central to our public health approach to tackling serious violence. The VRP strives to involve the voices of Merseyside’s communities in the narrative to reduce serious violence in a meaningful way. Working across such a large geographical area poses its own challenges, and the pandemic brought more. However, this is a golden thread running through all of our partnership’s many disciplines.
As Merseyside has lots of formalised youth and community voice groups and forums, we decided it would be more meaningful to establish connections with them rather than reinvent the wheel. As the partnership has developed over the last twelve months, we work more closely together to listen to the young people and residents with whom they engage.
We employ different methods to avoid disrupting the existing service delivery or impeding relationships, and we try hard to suit service users’ needs. The participation principles of transparency and accountability, inclusivity, dignity and ‘in the best interests of all’ underpins our approach.
This year, we commissioned a youth-led research project, which brings together Young Advisors and members of local Youth Voice groups from all five boroughs to design research, and report on what other young people believe works – or needs to happen – to prevent violence from becoming a part of their lives.
Recently, we also invested in an online platform (Delib) to begin a dialogue to unpick key risk factors affecting our communities. Plus, we ask our partners about how they engage their service users in the design, delivery and/or evaluation of their programmes – and they’re held accountable for fulfilling this need. Finally, we openly invite organisations and service users to contact us and let us know how they would like to get involved with the VRP to help us challenge the culture of simply accepting violence.
We are passionate about working with – and for – our residents, and so I will end my introduction with a call to action: get in touch and tell us how you, or your services users, would like to get involved so that we can make lasting change to make Merseyside communities violence-free.