Youth Engagement as Designers

The Freechild Institute Youth Involvement Toolkit

Youth participate in creating intentional, strategic plans for an array of activities, including curriculum, building construction, youth and community programs, and more. Engaging youth as designers can lead to more authentic learning, programming, and organizations. Designing programs, organizations, communities, campaigns, art and other activities are all powerful ways youth as designers can change the world.

How Youth Engagement in Design Happens

Youth-Led Programming — A young person who develops programs, whether on computers or in organizations, writes the ways those tools operate. Youth-led programming can foster youth specialists or generalists who are capable of creating, planning, launching, facilitating, and evaluating programs of all sorts.

Youth Architects — Youth who create plans for buildings, landscapes and other physical spaces are called architects.  They research purposes and options, draw plans and sometimes make models model of the building. When the physical space is built, youth architects can supervise construction to make sure their plans are followed well.

Fashion Designers — Expressing youth voice through fashion can empower young people to move appearances beyond expectations and towards their beliefs. Youth fashion designers can change the world in subtle or explicit ways, challenging everyone to see beyond what they anticipate towards the future.

Needs for Youth Engagement in Design

Education — Young people can become specialists before they design the programs, activities, places and other things that affect them most directly. Opportunities to build their perspectives, share their knowledge and launch their action are vital.

Inspiration — Youth voice is often washed away through daily living in our adult-driven world. Inspiring young people to become designers can be a challenging activity, but necessary and essential for youth engagement.

Empowerment — Positioning young people to be tokenistic designers whose opinions, beliefs and ideas are always subject to adult approval can simply be a way of extending youth oppression. By following steps towards youth empowerment, youth designers can affect themselves, their peers, their schools and communities, and other spaces they live, work and play everyday.

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how Freechild Institute can support youth + social change in design in your community or organization, contact us.

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