1. Setting up youth-led cooking groups
- Define your budget for running the online group – will you be buying ingredients and prizes? What rate and how will you be paying youth colleagues to co-run it?
- Recruit 2-3 youth colleagues to facilitate the group. Agree on their roles and responsibilities and the payment they will receive
- Define how the group will run and plan what your first few sessions will look like, including what supplies you might need, your safeguarding processes and your recruitment process
- Develop a brand for the group and create a logo, a poster with information and clear steps for young people to sign up
2. Invite participants
- Send out emails / invites to participants to the cooking class. Include any links and passwords if needed.
- Make sure workers arrange 1-1 introductory calls with every young person before they join the online group. If the young person is under 18 this should include their parent or carer too. This gives both the young person and workers facilitating the groups a chance to get to know each other, set expectations and feel confident the young person will benefit, before they join the online group.
- Invite participants to join the online group you have set up – Barnado’s use Facebook messenger but it could be Whatsapp, Discord, Slack etc.
3. Establish some ground rules
Set up a group agreement and agree some group rules (which are best co-produced) to ensure everyone knows what to expect and what behaviour is expected
Make sure you let the existing groups know when new people are joining or why people have left – this creates a culture of transparency and trust which care-experienced young people may not have experienced many times before.
4. Run a cooking challenge
Keep the challenges simple and don’t rely on young people needing lots of equipment or ingredients – for example, cook a meal with peppers in it, cook a meal with the colour yellow in it, cook the fastest dinner possible, a drink you’ve made
Set a weekly challenge so everyone can get involved when they feel like it.
Try to get everyone involved, including workers – this creates a more equal power dynamic between everyone.
Try running a weekly video call with activities that encourage conversation such as favourite food bingo or having a cup of tea together.
5. Cakes and kindness challenge
This is to empower care-experienced young people to help others.
Facilitate a conversation with your youth colleagues about what you could do as a group to support people in your local area. For example, a ‘cakes and kindness challenge’ where you deliver a cake to a neighbour or someone you know going through a tough time
Create a digital poster for your challenge – ‘Bake a cake and brighten someone’s day!’
Upload the poster to your digital group and ask young people to post a thumbs up emoji if they want to take part
Once you have your final numbers privately message young people for their addresses
Buy boxes of cake mix and deliver them to local young people. Many care-experienced young people may not have the means to buy their own ingredients. If young people don’t live locally you can explore sending them a digital voucher or making an online order. If young people want to make their own cakes from scratch or want to modify for dietary requirements that’s ok too! The key here is to be flexible and inclusive.
Set a one week deadline to make the cake and deliver it to someone with a note
Ask each young person to post a photo of their cake and to share what the cake recipient said on your cooking challenge group.
Debrief together on your next video call or ask the group in the chat ‘what did you get out of this week’s cake and kindness challenge?’
The Care Journeys Team in Barnardo’s have provided general tips on digital engagement with young people as well as guidance for implementing this recipe well.
Cooking challenges can be expensive. Make sure cooking challenges only require easy to find, inexpensive ingredients or plan to buy ingredients for care-experienced participants.
Meet young people where they are – use platforms they are familiar with or already use to reduce barriers for them to get involved. The team has found that it doesn’t actually matter what platform you use, as long as it does what you need and is safe .
Involve young people in planning and running online groups to make sure the content and platforms you use is engaging and relevant.
Keep groups small – no more than 4-6 people. Once groups get bigger than this (online or offline) they become less intimate and it becomes harder to create strong bonds. So, instead of adding more and more young people to one group, create clusters to maintain intimacy as you scale.
Be playful – play games together, be silly, dance, tell bad (or good!) jokes, this is as important as ‘doing things’ together.
Create regular reflection sessions to learn and adapt to young people’s changing needs and ensure you iterate regularly.
Your role as a worker is to provide structure, energy and facilitate co-production. This includes things like setting up a schedule for the time you work together (based on what works for the group), providing structure for planning sessions, accountability setting, emotionally supporting the group as well as ensuring that they have the resources they need to achieve their goals.
Ensure that you gather consent you need from participants in online groups– if you are using online forms it’s a good idea to talk through the form on the phone with a young person so you know they have read it and understand their rights.
Put simple safeguarding measures in place. Arrange 1-1 calls with every young person (and their parent or guardian if the young person is under 18) before they join the group to get to know a bit about them and their needs. Store your documentation and notes on a safe, easily accessible server or secure cloud platform.
Make sure young people don’t feel pressure to be online all the time: set up group agreements to clarify expectations and ensure young people know who they can reach out to if there is an issue or concern.
Many thanks to Barnardo's for contributing this recipe.
Do you have thoughts on this recipe? We would love to hear from you.