When we’re planning for youth engagement, it’s important to have a vision, dream big and hope for the absolute best. It’s vital to hold out for the most positive, powerful outcomes no matter what the odds, and to stick our necks out. However, to do that best we should put youth engagement plans on paper or type them up and share them with the people involved.
The locations for youth engagement vary according to the community or organization doing the mapping. They can include formal and informal spaces; adult-approved and youth-driven places; and other sorts of possibilities for people to gather, belong, dream and take action. In the research and practice of the Freechild Institute since 2001, we’ve found there are many variables in mapping youth engagement.
Factors for Mapping Youth Engagement
Youth engagement mapping can include the following places.
- Youth in city hall
- Youth on school boards
- Youth engagement at home
- Youth owned businesses
- Youth engagement in the outdoors
- Youth led nonprofits
- Youth infused community planning
- Youth centric public transportation
- Schools focused on engagement instead of achievement
- Obvious youth made art, writing, theater, music and other creations
- Training and educational opportunities for everyone focused on youth engagement knowledge, skills, ideas and actions
- Community-wide investment in youth engagement
- Youth action research
- Youth led training and technical assistance on youth engagement
- Youth led spaces, activities, programs and organizations
- New technology supporting youth engagement
- Places where youth and adults interact as equals
- Training for adults on all aspects of youth engagement
- Educational opportunities to learn how to change the world
- Safe places for youth to be, do, create, dream
- Clear rules, laws, policies and procedures to build youth engagement
- Sustained funding to build, support and grow youth engagement
- “Edge spaces” for youth engagement that make some adults uncomfortable
- Transitional activities to support young adults becoming independent
- Specific activities to engage young people together for racial, cultural, social, educational, economic and other kinds of harmony and peace
- Places to engage LGBTTQQ youth
- Places to engage youth in racial, cultural and ethnic identities
- People who think beyond youth engagement and towards solidarity
- Opportunities to engage kids before they become youth
- Youth voting rights
Supports for Youth Engagement
There are dozens of supports for youth engagement. They can include:
- A single, unified, wholistic strategy for the entire city
- Personnel dedicated to youth engagement
- Practices building youth engagement
- Policies supporting youth engagement
- Procedures that sustain youth engagement
Youth Engagement Mapping Process
Our youth engagement mapping process can help communities and organizations expand their activities with intention and purpose while deepening the impact they have on young people and their communities.
Here’s a process Freechild uses with youth and adults to map youth engagement.
- Define a goal. Name what exactly you’d like to do; don’t just say, “Engage youth.” Instead, name who, what, when, where, why and how you’re going to engage youth.
- Identify allies. Find younger and older people who will support you while you’re engaging youth.
- Identify likely challenges. There are a lot of forces working against youth engagement; name them.
- Uncover layers of power. Power affects youth engagement a lot. Name the ways, show their faces and write them down.
- Develop a strategy. There’s no magic wand and it doesn’t often just happen. How exactly are you going to engage youth?
- Create a message. Young people are saturated by media of all kinds. Appealing to them requires a real message that’s authentically delivered to them. What’s your message?
- Get out there. How are you taking action for youth engagement? What are the places, people, preparations and outcomes you’re looking for? Get to work!
- Create a calendar. Show people how, where and when youth engagement is going to happen by creating a visual calendar and sharing it.
- Estimate needed resources. Youth engagement takes resources – what are yours?
- Monitor and evaluate. Keep your eyes open, your heart beating, your feet on the ground and your hands in the mud through monitoring and evaluation.
Once you’ve started a youth engagement map, consider what’s missing, find other people to contribute, and keep building!