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How can we help young people through the Covid crisis? by Nastajsia

23 July 2021

How can we help young people through the Covid crisis? What would motivate them to keep following the constantly changing health measures? What are the right messages and channels for speaking to young people today? These were just some of the questions we asked a panel of youngsters during our VO LAB sessions, run in collaboration with VO Citizen, during the second quarter of 2021. 

The pandemic has upended our habits, brought us face to face with unprecedented challenges – particularly in terms of public participation and awareness – and driven us to constantly rethink how we can create and apply ever more inclusive, balanced and effective awareness-raising actions.


In this context, two VO LAB sessions were run on behalf of VO Citizen to bring together two panels of young people (aged 18 to 25 and 15 to 17) to discuss their situations, expectations and perceptions on how to stick to social distancing and other hygiene measures.


In this article, we chat to a broad range of people who were behind, who designed, or who took part in these two intensive VO LAB sessions.


The Covid situation forced the LAB to quickly adapt by redesigning its collective intelligence sessions, taking advantage of the interactive possibilities offered by digital tools, and reorganising the way its sessions are set up, with shorter, dynamic formats ensuring full participation by all.


For Philippe de Wulf (Head of VO Citizen), who regularly calls on the LAB’s services, “these sessions are part of a process of continuous reflection by the VO LAB team in particular, with the aim of making our communications truly diverse. In this case, we wanted to channel our action-based research through the prism of young people.”


“When it comes to communication, our resilience lies in our ability to listen, analyse, respond and better understand our targets. We use this to inform our recommendations and hone our methodologies and action plans within the framework of our communication strategies.”   


“This ability to adapt, particularly when faced with the ever-changing situation during the pandemic, is absolutely fundamental if we are to stand out from the crowd through the efficiency, traceability and quality of our actions.”


For Alexia Subert (VO LAB Facilitator)“this online formula has enabled us to pull together a panel of youngsters from all over Belgium in record time”.


“Because of the way each session was designed and run, we were able to dive right in, discussing and developing through speech bubbles, discussions and active listening. I was really surprised to find that simply having their everyday struggles recognised and shared proved to be so important for our young people.”


“Within the team, we were really impressed by their openness, their spontaneity and their confidence, but what struck us the most was their positive, constructive feedback about the importance of listening and understanding their respective situations.”


For Magali (participant in the 18 to 25 group), the experience allowed her to share her point of view in an open, welcoming climate.


“I really enjoyed taking part in this discussion because of being exposed to opinions that were different to what I’d normally come across since, often, my family’s and friends’ opinions are the same as mine and the debate just goes round and round in circles.” (Magali, 23, ULB) 


For Miguel Van Keirsbilck (Project Developer, VO Citizen), the real added value comes when the strategic thinking that precedes and guides each campaign is based on an in-depth understanding of the target group.


According to Miguel, “the best way – the way that gives us the best quality – is to listen to and understand the people we’ll be speaking to and to bring them together as part of a VO LAB session. In this particular case, this double session with two groups of young people gave us an invaluable insight into their experience of this long-running health and social crisis, their solidarity, and the need to rebuild bonds with their peers.”  


“There’s absolutely no doubt in our minds that, without the authentic alchemy of the VO LAB, we would never have so clearly understood this heartfelt desire of a generation scarred by the restrictions of pandemic life.”  


For Gilles Parmentier (VO LAB Manager), each LAB session is a fascinating exercise.


“It’s part of our mission to be inquisitive and generate original content and creative ideas through collective intelligence. These ideas can then be exploited by the VO teams within their day-to-day work.”


“It’s a demanding, continuous process that has proven absolutely fascinating. Currently, our team is working on a major research and development project in partnership with UCLouvain and Sirris, with the support of Innoviris since 2020. Thanks to all of these things, and our commitment to agility and collective intelligence, we are able to support the group’s agencies and their clients in developing remarkable communications that really make sense.”