Assumptions Behind Youth Voice

The Freechild Institute Youth Voice Toolkit

Youth Voice is a notion that is inherently informed by a set of assumptions. These often go unstated, leaving program participants in the dark about the intentions that directly affect their lives. Following are the assumptions behind The Freechild Project’s work around Youth Voice.

Assumptions behind Youth Voice

  1. Society’s conceptions of young people must evolve.  We have created a condition where young people don’t know when childhood ends and youth begins, when youth ends and adulthood begins. We have created generations of young people who are disengaged from their personal, civic, and global responsibilities. This must change from the very beginnings of life, through radical shifts in the ways we conceive of childhood. We believe young people must be treated as equal partners throughout society.
  2. We do not have “youth problems” – we have community problems.  Our communities have community problems that have to be addressed that way. There is a popular trend in our society to blame young people for their own problems, when in reality we share those challenges with them. We must act together in community to create positive, powerful, and sustainable change. We believe it takes a child to raise a village – not vice versa.
  3. All youth are not the same. The word youth is used to capture the experiences of young people anywhere between the ages of five to twenty-five. This must stop. The experience of an African American 11-year-old woman in the suburbs is not going to be the same as the Latino teen in the rural Midwest. Many adults seek to treat all youth as if they are the same, needing the same supports, structures, and experiences to inform their common understanding of their lives. THEY DON’T. Society has different demands on different youth, and depending on what we honestly expect of youth, we should support their individual needs. We believe that diversity is a value, and that we must encourage and support all young people as individual members of their larger communities.
  4. Young people should be connected to something larger than themselves. Where young people are fighting for rights, many have fought before. When young people are taking more responsibility, they are taking it from someone else. Youth must learn to advocate for people and places other than themselves. This way our communities can educate against ignorance, learn from elders, and form global movements for unity. We believe that unity is at the heart of community, and that youth are an integral part of a larger whole.
  5. Working with young people should not be “feel good” work. Don’t work with young people because it “feels good” to you. Do it because it is urgent. Segregation is splitting our communities apart, democracy is losing its vitality, the planet we live on is dieing. Adults must realize that our work must be more than a band-aid – we can be heal. Without your work, words, beliefs, and ideals our world is going to come undone. We believe that by denying the power of young people, our society is going to bring about its own demise.
  6. We must look at our work in a critical light and encourage others too, also. All people must critically reflect on their experience as youth, as adults, as teachers, as students, in all of their capacities, in order to have cause socially just, vital worldwide transformation. Anyone aspiring to educate, serve, train, coordinate or activate young people must be able to critically reflect and grow from their past experiences. We must grow from our personal and organizational limitations in order to truly transform our world, and this is how. We believe that we make the road by walking, and that it is each person’s responsibility to continue the job of road-building.

These are some of the assumptions behind Youth Voice. What are some of your assumptions? Share them in the comments below!


Violence, competition, and alienation continually takes power away from of young people, as well as adults.  The news tells us everything is getting worse, and that its”their” fault and “their” problem.  That’s not true.  Its our problem.  And we can change the situation.  Our actions, ideas, involvement and perspective can make a huge, powerful, and beautiful difference.  So this website is dedicated to the near future, and a world of peace, justice, and hope.



Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help support youth voice in your community or organization, contact us.

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