The What Does He Need? programme for children and young people is a dynamic creative process which brings together groups to co-create a boy and explore his needs and experiences as he interacts with the world around him.


Led by artist and writer Fiona Whelan and a youth worker connected to the group, each programme sees the group engage in conversation, drawing and writing exercises to name their boy, describe him as a young child and explore his experiences and related needs as he grows up. The programme is explicitly pedagogical, underpinned by strong youth work values, seeking to support young people to understand the complexities of their gender position and its intersection with other forms of inequality.


This programme focuses on how a boy’s world shapes him and how he shapes it. The process typically focuses on a boy’s life up until the age of the group although there is some projection into his adult life, as futures are imagined. Multiple themes emerge in the process. To date this has included: relationships, dominance and violence, gendered identity, the search for dignity and respect, social conditioning, bullying, poverty and survival. As with the immersive workshop for adults, the boy characters are always from the same area as the group of young makers, creating the conditions for their lived knowledge to bear on his life.


This programme is currently situated in Rialto Youth Project. In 2021, the methodology of the programme will be honed, and in time the programme will be of interest to other youth projects, youth clubs, afterschool clubs and schools who want to bring together groups of children or young people to engage in a age appropriate conversation around masculinity.


The programme was developed in 2019 by Fiona Whelan and Rialto Youth Project. It began with one young men’s group who created Stevie, after which a core team of staff from Rialto Youth Project was established, who worked with Fiona to develop a similar process with more groups of boys and young men aged five to 16. The programme development was supported via an invited residency for Fiona Whelan at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and through funding from the National Youth Council of Ireland – Artist in Youth Work Residency and an Arts Council Arts Participation Project Award.

Drawing by Fiona Whelan