Institutionalizing Youth Voice

The Freechild Institute Youth Voice Toolkit

Becoming part of a system, integrating throughout a culture and tying together broad resources can ensure that Youth Voice is sustainable. That process is called institutionalization, and it represents the process of making a concept, social role, values, norms or behaviors part of an organization, social system or society. We need nothing less than to see that effort as essential to Youth Voice.

Youth Voice Systems

The Three-Legged Stool of Youth Voice
The Three-Legged Stool of Youth Voice by Adam F.C. Fletcher for Freechild Institute

Fostering systems for youth voice requires deliberation, intention and strategy. There are three elements to the “three-legged stool” that support Youth Voice. They are:

  • Organizational Structure: These are the formal, observable parts of an organization, including the polices, programs, personnel, procedures and processes, and so much more.
  • Group Culture: The shared beliefs of a group, program, organization, community, school or otherwise make up the group culture.
  • Personal Attitudes: Mindsets, opinions, and beliefs make up personal attitudes that inform the actions and outcomes of everyone, including children, youth and adults.

Steps to Institutionalizing Youth Voice

The following are steps that groups, organizations, and communities can use as a guide to institutionalize Youth Voice.

  • There are ways to carry out the policies that support the objectives of goals of Youth Voice

  • Policies supporting Youth Voice activities have been published in a document available to youth, adult allies, youth workers, government officials, politicians and families.

  • Data related to Youth Voice as it affects the young people involved, their peers, adult allies, and the larger community is regularly collected.

  • Budgets include line items that support the implementation of Youth Voice activities.

  • Regular training orients new youth participants and adults and strengthens existing youth and adult allies’ skills, knowledge and commitment to Youth Voice.

  • The Youth Voice coordinator reports to a high-level administrator and the position is incorporated into the organizational chart.

  • The Youth Voice program has survived a significant change of leadership among youth, adult allies and within the group, organization and/or community.

  • Other groups, organizations and/or communities are assisted in designing, implementing, sustaining and/or evaluating their Youth Voice activities through conferences, workshops and/or local outreach.

These are initial steps that ongoing research has shown are the most effective ways to institutionalize Youth Voice.



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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