OPEN became an independent Charity in their own right on 1st November 2023 and is no longer affiliated with Voluntary Action Shetland. To contact them please click the below icons or e-mail:

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What does OPEN do?

Peer Education: OPEN recruits and trains young people aged 16-25 to become 'peer educators'. OPEN's main purpose is to embed peer education across Shetland as a methodology of raising awareness and encouraging positive lifestyle choices - especially on issues concerning substance use, relationships, sexual health, and mental health; whilst promoting harm reduction at every opportunity. OPEN deliver peer education workshops to all S1-S4 students in Shetland, and all young people 12-25 in other settings. We run weekly tuesday night meetings from 6pm-8.30pm to look at training the peer educators, designing and developing workshops to deliver to other young people.

Peer Mentoring: OPEN are now also operating a Peer Mentoring Programme; with the aim to recruit and match mentors (16-25) with mentees (14-21), to facilitate peer-to-peer mentoring sessions for young people who are care experienced and/or in the youth justice system as well as any disadvantaged young people at risk of social isolation or exclusion. OPEN aims to recruit 4-6 young people per year to become mentees, as well as recruiting and training 4-6 peer mentors per year, whom the mentees will be carefully matched with. The aim of this programme is to improve outcomes for participants, and to prevent offending behaviour.

Da Cafe: OPEN runs a weekly space for young people (14-25) in the Olive Tree on Mondays and Thursdays 4pm-6pm. Da Cafe is there to give young people in shetland a space to go, where they dont have to spend money to sit in the warmth and access free wifi. We have completed Peer Research looking into youth spaces within shetland, for more info contact Wayne Leask

Organisation Development: OPEN operates as a project of Voluntary Action Shetland (VAS) and reports to the Board of Directors. A review of VAS in 2021 highlighted the opportunity for sustainable projects to become independent organisations. A natural and exciting progression for OPEN is to research and plan how to become an independent genuinely youth-led charity, managed and coordinated by young people, with appropriate support and training in place to achieve this. The culture and ethos of OPEN is to involve young people in the design, delivery and development of the project. Jess is coordinating the participation and empowerment of young people to lead the organisational development of the project.

Time to shine leader - Alex Tresadern - Youth Information Worker:

Alex is OPEN's new Time to Shine (T2S) Leader supported and funded by The Rank Foundation. Alex's job role is Youth Information Worker with the OPEN Project. Additionally Alex will also be taking a lead with OPEN’s Social media. Our vision going forward is to create a network of support for young people so they are aware of the available help they can get. Whether that be help with support in school/college or help getting access to housing, Mental Health support and everything in between. The goal to sign post to all the available organisations and resources that not all young people are aware that they can use.

If you or any young person has questions or would like sign posting information then please get In touch. Via:


OPEN's Social Media

How the project is delivered

OPEN’s Peer Education is delivered mainly through school workshops; by trained volunteers (aged 16-25 years) engaging with groups of young people. OPEN have a rolling ‘Schools Delivery Programme’ in place with all high schools and junior high schools in Shetland, which sees every workshop assigned to a specific year group; matching the issues most relevant the participants’ age.
OPEN workshops include:

  • OPEN Online
  • OPEN about Drugs
  • OPEN about Alcohol
  • OPEN about Sexual Health
  • OPEN about Positive Relationships
  • OPEN about the Sexual Health Clinic
  • Mentally OPEN
  • OPEN about Grooming
  • OPEN about LGBT+
  • Party Safe

The Peer Mentoring project supports and trains young people aged 16-25 to become peer mentors to in turn, provide support and guidance for 14-21 year olds that are care experienced, criminal justice experienced, or those at risk of exclusion. The Mentors and Mentees are matched together based on sharing similar backgrounds, experiences and interests. The young people build a meaningful and trusting relationship to support the mentee to develop a positive pathway.

Da Café is a weekly drop-in youth space at the Olive Tree, which aims to attract Shetland’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach young people. The OPEN Up nights that taken place across 2019/20 have proven that having a consistent, safe, and welcoming place to meet up during the week has been very successful in attracting and engaging young people who are care-experienced, involved with Criminal Justice, and/or excluded from school, youth clubs, community centres, and venues/facilities such as Mareel and Clickimin.

Peer Research Projects

The Ideas Fund administer this innovative funding for the British Science Association, provided by the Wellcome Trust

Professional researchers:

Jennifer Russell, Anderson Solutions, Lead Researcher has 21 years’ experience in consultancy, working for the public and third sectors doing research, evaluation and strategy.

Dr Amy Calder is a qualitative researcher and holds a PhD in Criminology. Amy has worked for YouthLink Scotland for 7 years and leads on using participatory research methods to demonstrate the impact of youth work and support both the sector and young people to develop research skills

Drugs and Alcohol research project

OPEN Peer Researchers, Akira Foster and Shannon Boston are currently working on the Drugs and Alcohol research project. We are gathering data surrounding drugs and alcohol culture with Shetland, to look at why young people may use substances, patterns of use and help for problem use or to avoid problem use. With the aim to gain a deeper understanding what young people feel about these issues and to get a more accurate picture of what the alcohol and drugs culture looks like to young people in Sheltand.

Contact details:

If you would like to find out more or get involved then please contact Una Murray

OPEN peer researchers can be contacted Via Email @ Akira Foster / Shannon Boston

Or message OPEN Project FB page

Alcohol and other drugs (pt3)

So its July 2023, the summer holidays are well and truly here with its muggy days.

At the end of my last blog I told you about our updated workshop that we planned to put into action after the Easter break. We came back after the Easter break put the workshop into action and ran it with some young people. The updated workshop method we used like menti meter and the survey with the dixit cards gave every participant a chance to feedback, we are aware not everyone wants to speak up in group settings so we also ensured that the quieter voices in the room had a voice by using the updated workshop plan.

We also had a meeting with Wendy McConnachie a member of our research team who is the Alcohol and Drug development officer with NHS Shetland, the meeting was super productive we discussed how the project was progressing and explained how we were really struggling to up our numbers for our survey. She left the meeting with the promise that she would get the survey shared on ShetNews, which really helped our survey numbers once the article was published. We also had some help from the Robin Calder who got PSE teachers to circulate the survey in class rooms during PSE lessons, this was perfect as it meant every age group we had hoped to capture we have now managed to succeed in hearing from thanks to the help of our local community.

Our research team members who were working on their Participative Democracy Certificate (PDC) have been doing extremely well, one member of the team has conducted a survey amongst their peers after choosing a research question and also creating an online survey. Another made up a question box and took it to a couple venues to ask their peers to give their feedback. Together we analysed their findings and the feedback they received was rich and the findings will be used in our final report.

We also had a research team meeting at the start of June, we discussed the volunteers PDC progress then did some analysis and coding as a group with all the information we had gathered so far, we weren’t able to get every bit of data analysed as a group but we did however get great input for what the research team had time to cover and they really got to grips with what the project is teaching us, learning together is so valuable and challenges us professionally to make sure that we are led by the research team but also passing on the skills that we are learning whilst on the ground conducting the research.

By early June the time for focus groups, workshops and interviews had come to an end. I could begin going back over some of the coding and analysis that we had done along the way either ourselves or with the research team. I coded in the paper method that I have mentioned in previous blogs and upon completion I proceeded to input the information onto an excel sheet, by the end of it we had 399 separate codes however many of these are under similar themes such as education or support services if I hadn’t kept specifics within the codes so that we could refer back to peoples interviews or focus groups/workshops for reference at any given time that it is requested.

Our survey still needs to be coded, I have been having a play around with Chat GPT as a potential tool for finding the themes within the survey and then coding the data with those codes to see if it makes my work more efficient. It would be really interesting to know if this is a tool that can be successfully used within research, especially if it means we can do more work for our communities. Jennifer one of the professional researchers is popping along at the end of July to help me with coding the survey findings also.

Once the summer break is over and we are all back in the office together Amy and Jennifer our professional researchers have a planned visit to help us write up our final report for the Alcohol and other Drugs project for presenting back our findings. We have already been asked by the Shetlands
Children’s Partnership to share our findings which is really encouraging to see the community taking such a keen interest in young people’s views. Currently we haven’t got any other presentations lined up but we will have until the end of October to share our findings so I am hopeful we will reach a wide range or groups and also be able to give young people plenty of chances to hear the findings. I am so thankful for the support we have and so proud of our amazing volunteers for all the amazing work and effort that they have put into the project. Also the young people and adults within our community that have contributed or helped arrange time with young people has been truly wonderful, it feels as though we really are building great relationships within all aspects of the community the more chances that we get to conduct peer research projects which we couldn’t be more grateful for.

Training OPEN can provide:

Please be aware that all the training provided is done in line with harm reduction methods and are all focused on raising awareness;

  • Drugs Awareness
  • Alcohol Awareness
  • Sexual Health Awareness
  • Positive Relationships Awareness
  • Mental Health Awareness
  • Emergency First Aid
  • Child Exploitation Online Protection (CEOP)
  • Personal Development
  • Leadership

The OPEN team

Una Murray

Project Coordinator

Saul Day

Project Coordinator

Wayne Leask

Mentoring Coordinator / Development Worker

Jess Carlyle

Organisation Development Lead

Shannon Boston

Peer Researcher - Alcohol and Drugs

Johan Tait

Youth Worker

Mariel Leask

Relief Youth Worker

Alex Tresadern (Time 2 Shine Leader)

Youth Information Worker

OPEN in Numbers:

April 2021 – March 2022

  • Number of young people volunteering with OPEN: 20
  • OPEN Volunteers have contributed 825 hours to the OPEN project this year!
  • Based on the living wage all our volunteers have contributed £8500 in kind, through their volunteering.
  • 1191 young people have participated in 65 workshops over the year. Of these workshops the young participants recorded that their awarness of the issues raised increase by an average of 73%.
  • Since 2014 OPEN have delivered 518 workshops to 7566 young people! This is an incredible achievement contributing to young people

How You Can Get Involved

Peer Education

OPEN are looking for young people aged 16-25 to become Peer Educators delivering issues based workshops in all high schools across Shetland! Peer Educators will receive induction training and training for each issue/ workshop they are interested in delivering (Online safety, Alcohol, Drugs, Sexual Health, Positive Relationships, Mental Health)

Tuesday Night meetings

OPEN hold weekly volunteer meetings to provide training, create and develop workshops, discuss issues important to young people and engage with strategic partners to ensure that young people’s voices are being listened to.

These meetings happen every Tuesday night from 6pm-8.30pm (term time).

Peer Mentoring

OPEN are looking for young people aged 16-25 that are interested in helping other young people to become Peer Mentors. Our Peer Mentors will meet with young people regularly to listen and encourage them to identify and work towards some personal goals. Peer Mentors would first volunteer within Da Café to engage with young people to build up relationships with other young people.

Da Café Youth Committee

OPEN are looking for young people with a passion for creating and running a space for young people in Lerwick. The youth committee are currently leading on a Peer Research looking into young people’s needs for spaces in Shetland. With this information, OPEN will look to create a space in Lerwick for young people aged 14-25.

OPEN Steering Group

OPEN have set up a steering group looking into turning OPEN into a fully Independent and Youth-led charity. The steering group will be looking at forming a board of young people that will have the authority to make decisions on how OPEN operates and the vision and direction for the project.

Peer Research

If you are interested in having your opinion listened to on various topics, get in touch with us and engage with our Peer Researchers. We will be using all the information gathered to make positive changes for young people in Shetland.

For example, OPEN will use the information gathered on what spaces young people need in Lerwick to work with young people to create a permanent space to meet that need. We are also speaking with the SIC to create more spaces that meet other needs where possible.

Phone: 01595 745074.


Contact us on any of our Socials by following this link: OPEN Project

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