Freechild Institute Youth Engagement Toolkit
Transforming a city—one that is likely complex and has been in place for centuries—into a place that engages all youth everywhere all the time can be difficult.
Questions commonly raised by youth and adults looking to foster citywide youth engagement strategies include:
- Who should be engaged?
- What should our youth engagement strategy look like?
- How will we know if it works?
To help address these and many other questions, the Freechild Institute has written this article to guide the development of citywide youth engagement strategies.
We have worked with several communities to develop these strategies. The approaches we develop strive to build youth engagement systems that help communities design, implement, and sustain strategies to youth engagement that are data-driven and focused on your community’s unique strengths and needs, making your systems much more likely to succeed.
Step 1: Plan an Assessment
Plan a systemwide assessment. Identify the extent to which current operations align with or deviate from the features of an effective citywide youth engagement strategy. Specifically, it can offer guidance on:
- Reviewing the scope of youth engagement;
- Reviewing the roles and responsibilities, and;
- Affirming the timeline for youth engagement throughout your community.
Step 2: Review Citywide Policies
Review the policies that affect what’s happening in your city. Examine the rules and policies that govern youth engagement throughout your community to figure out what is and is not needed at each point throughout your community.
- 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
Step 3: Collect Quantitative Data
Collect quantitative data on how and who is using the system. Explore how to gather data on the volume and characteristics of youth engagement throughout your community, allowing you to identify those areas that are working well and those that are broken and in need of repair. Specifically, collect high-level, aggregate statistics on the following data elements:
- Types of engagement
- Demographics of young people, communities and stakeholders
- Purposes, intentions and visions
- Service needs and other systemic opportunities
- Youth engagement times and costs
- Locations for youth engagement, length of engagement, and costs
Step 4: Collect Qualitative Data
Collect qualitative data on how local stakeholders perceive youth engagement. Gather the impressions, opinions, and general insight of youth engagement system stakeholders. This can help order to form a more holistic narrative of the community. Specifically, gather this information from the following groups:
- Young people
- Stakeholders who work in the youth engagement system
- Family members
Step 5: Collect Information
Collect information on local service capacity. Determine the existing local capacity for facilitating youth engagement with young people, parents, nonprofits, schools, government agencies, and others. Specifically:
- Develop a list of youth engagement champions, providers and facilitators
- Survey champions, providers and facilitators
Step 6: Analyze the Data
Analyze the quantitative and qualitative data together, allowing each to inform the other. Actively and intentionally use the policies and quantitative, qualitative and service capacity information you have collected to inform and drive your work. Specifically:
- Uncover the narrative of your youth engagement system
- Present and reflect upon key findings as a citywide youth engagement strategy
Step 7: Create a Citywide Strategy
Create a citywide youth engagement strategy. Using the data you’ve collected, create a citywide youth engagement strategy. As you develop your tool, consider each of the data points you’ve collected and your analysis of the data. Your strategy should be applicable throughout your entire city and reflect your goals. Essential elements of the strategy should reflect:
- Who youth engagement is for
- What youth engagement does
- When youth engagement happens
- Where youth engagement occurs
- Why youth engagement happens, and
- How youth engagement takes place, could happen and should happen.
Your citywide youth engagement strategy should also unveil a clear action plan for implementing youth engagement for all youth, everywhere, all the time.
After presenting your citywide youth engagement strategy, contact the Freechild Institute to share your plan! If you’re looking for examples of what citywide youth engagement strategies do, check out our features on Portland, Oregon and Hampton, Virginia.
When you’ve implemented your strategy, remember to reflect and celebrate throughout the process, and stay committed to social justice while you’re at it!
Freechild Institute Youth Engagement Toolkit
by Adam F.C. Fletcher
- What Is Youth Engagement?
- What Youth Engagement is Not
- Who is Youth Engagement For?
- How to See Youth Engagement
- All Youth Are Already Engaged
- Why Youth Engagement Happens
- Where Youth Engagement Happens
- How to Engage Youth
- How to Support Youth Engagement
- How to Sustain Youth Engagement
- 111 Ways to Engage Youth
- The Cycle of Engagement
- Barriers to Youth Engagement
- Youth Engagement in Government Agencies
- Government Office of Youth Engagement
- Citywide Youth Engagement Strategies
- Systems for Youth Engagement
- Creating a Youth Engagement Map
- The Future of Youth Engagement
Does your organization or community need support to create, foster, transform, or sustain youth engagement?