One year on: has the good sex project had any impact?


wigan prof training 4

This time last year we were finishing off the ‘good sex’ project, tying up loose ends and doing the final edits on our last set of films.  Nine months later we were asked to write a report for the project funders – the Economic and Social Research council – explaining what impact the project had for young people, for practitioners, for Brook as an organisation and for wider society.

In this post we hear from the participants and stakeholders involved in the project and summarise the impact the ‘good sex’ project has had for different individuals, stakeholders and communities. For more information, you can read the full narrative impact report here.

How do we know? 

In June this year we contacted project participants and stakeholders and asked them to reflect on the impact of the ‘good sex’ project. We asked all the young people involved in the project to complete a questionnaire in which they could reflect on the project and consider the impact it has had on them personally and professionally. We asked all the professionals we attended the training to complete a questionnaire that asked them to consider the impact the training may have had on their professional practice and to find out whether or not the learning had been disseminated within practice communities. Further we contacted key staff members at Brook and asked them to consider  the impact the project has had on Brook as an organisation. We also looked at the analytics from our digital platforms to think about our impact online and asked all those that we contacted to consider wider social impacts of the project.


Impact for Brook

Jules Hillier with young volunteers (s)

Outgoing CoE at Brook, Simon Blake, summarises the impact of the project for Brook as providing 1) an internal mandate to deliver work around pleasure, 2) a body of external evidence and a narrative to explain this work to others and 3) a set of practical and easy to use resources.

‘The project has given Brook and others both an evidence base and youth led resources which are not challenging to use, but do challenge the status quo in work with young people.

The resources and blog have facilitated high level policy and practice conversations both within Brook and outside of Brook about the importance of ensuring we focus on the positive aspects as sex. This has been particularly important in a policy environment that focuses solely on negative aspects such as Child Sexual Exploitation, which whilst awful is not the experience of the majority of young people. This work has helped Brook to advocate and provide services and education that are relevant to a wider audience.

Some of the narrative was agenda setting at our 50th birthday celebrations and one of our donors gave a major gift for our based on the positive stories the young people presented, some of which was influenced by the work of the good sex project.’

Simon Blake, Former CEO, Brook

Further Brook’s National Lead on Participation and Volunteering noted that the project can be seen as an example of participation best practice – an exemplar that can be used internally in negotiations with stakeholders and potential funders.

‘[The ‘good sex’ project]  changed our approach to involving young people in research and showcased best practice participation in action. It was genuinely young people led in approach, enabling young people to take full ownership of the project, whilst giving them a great opportunity to gain skills in film making and other creative media. It also enhanced their knowledge of sexual health, and deepened their understanding of consent and pleasure. I know, from having spoken to many of the young people about their experience, that it was one of the projects that they enjoyed the most because it was fun, engaging, youth led, but also gave them a fascinating insight into the original research.

I have used the Good sex project as an example of best practice frequently when explaining participation to external stakeholders, directing professionals and young people to the relevant section of the website.

Naomi Sheppard, Head of Participation and Volunteering, Brook.

Impact for young people

Day 1 GS Lucy Em and group

‘[I] gained confidence in challenging misconceptions about young people and sex’.

‘[I learnt] to be wise about your perception of people and the advice you give others – which should be honest.’

Survey responses from young people involved in the project suggest that their involvement helped to increase their self-confidence, awareness and understanding of sexuality and sexual experience. Further it increased their capacity to think critically about sex, pleasure and consent in ways they had not done previously. This was supported by comments from senior leaders at Brook who suggest that the project had a significant impact on the confidence, understanding and engagement of the young people involved.

‘From working with some of the young people before and after the project, I have been able to see that their confidence improved during the life of the project. I think this was probably because they were provided with a genuine opportunity to take ownership of the project, built team work skills and engaged in creative activities.’

Naomi Sheppard, Head of Participation and Volunteering, Brook.

There was a positive impact on the individuals involved in the reanimating particularly one young woman who has experienced very high levels of disadvantage. She has reported increases in confidence and better understanding of the fact that there are multiple experiences of early sexual experience and that you have to take active control of the decisions you make.’

Simon Blake, Former CEO, Brook


Impact for practitioners

Anatomy Inspire

‘Although I already had knowledge around sex education, I feel [the training] shaped the way I deliver my group sessions and helped me discuss more about the different ways people can experience pleasure (not just through penetration-”normal” sex) and to feel more confident in my 1:1s with young people to ask the question ”are you enjoying it?” which can sometimes lead to disclosures around abuse/ unhealthy relationships. It has definitely had a major impact on my work.’

Training participant

Responses to the staff impact evaluation  suggest that the training had an impact on professional practice through (1) raising awareness of the importance of talking about pleasure and (2) providing the motivation and resources to enable practitioners talk to young people about pleasure.

[The training] has made me think about and incorporate learning around pleasure a lot more during my practice, both clinical and education. A lot of the work we do can feel preventative and it is important to keep in mind that young people should be preventing themselves from harm but not letting this stop them from enjoying their sexual activity.

Training participant

91% of training participants who took part in the follow up evaluation said that they had disseminated the training materials and insights gained to their colleagues and 82% reported that have used the learning and materials from the programme in their work with young people. 55% of trainees stated that the training has led to new projects or initiatives and 90% said that they planned to develop work around pleasure in the future. Unlike other reports from practitioners engaged in this area of work, none of the trainees reported experiencing any barriers to carrying out work relating to pleasure  and many reported that the project gave this work a sense of legitimacy.


Wider social impact

In order to make social and political change, I believe you have to listen and learn from people’s experiences. By creating these videos of real young people’s experiences it can powerfully challenge damaging misunderstandings about sex. It can also be used to open up discussions around consent and sexuality, which are often ignored. (Young volunteer)

The wider social impact of the good sex project is difficult to assess. Looking at our digital analytics we know that there have been over 4,000 views of the project films on You Tube and over 5,000 views of the project blog by nearly 3,000 visitors. On Brook’s website the project page received 2235 unique views from Feb 2014 – May 2015 (Due to an error in reporting data is unavailable pre Feb 14). How these materials have been received and understood is unknown – there are very few comments on the site and it is only through occasional emails from interested students and practitioners that we come to understand the value of the project blog and its materials for those working and studying this field.

Media plays a very big part in influencing people and getting even the most taboo subjects debated.(Young volunteer)

When we asked the young project volunteers what they thought the potential impact of the films could be several commented on the value the films could have in challenging social taboos and providing young people with access to stories that they don’t get to hear elsewhere.

As schools lack in sex ed, hearing peoples experiences true to life would be helpful to those who have little knowledge about what to expect. (Young volunteer)

Carlos filming megan



Summary of project outputs

1.      A series of 13 short films that reanimate interview data from the original research about young people’s experiences of first sex. Available on Brook’s website and on You Tube 

2.      Two short films that reanimate survey data from the original research on good / bad sex. Available on the Brook website and on You Tube 

3.      Training materials for a one-day training course on sexual pleasure and linked education resources available to download from the project website.

4.      A series of short films based on interviews with practitioners and researchers about why it is important to talk about sexual pleasure and how it might be possible to do this in practice.

5.      A project blog that documents the methods of knowledge exchange and data reanimation that have been developed over the course of the project. The blog continues to be developed by the researchers and has had to date 5,223 views.

6.      Project findings have been presented at the BSA annual conference at the University of Leeds in April 2014 and the Researching sex and intimacy in contemporary life symposium at the University of Sussex in July 2014. The BERA Youth work, informal learning and the arts: exploring the research and practice agenda seminar at the University of Nottingham in April 2015. A recording of an earlier presentation on the project at the University of Sussex is available online.



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