The critical elements of youth mainstreaming don’t vary according to the time, place and people involved. Following are some of the most critical things The Freechild Institute has learned from their experience and research.
Youth Mainstreaming Should…
- Always support the organizational mission or community values.
- Define communitywide roles, responsibilities and expectations for youth and adults through clear systems and structures.
- Establish firm commitments throughout the organization or community adopting the strategy of Youth Mainstreaming.
- Reflect the diversity of the community and actively build on those assets.
- Establish clear, frequent and deliberate communication and value partnerships and teamwork above all else.
- Develop youth allies and adult allies through equitable youth/adult partnerships within the organization, at home, in schools and throughout communities.
- Recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of young people and adults working together.
- Commit to continuous improvement throughout organizations and communities.
Keep Youth In The Center
Build an organizational infrastructure that incorporates youth in all aspects of its work and operations.
- Organizational transformation must seriously engage youth.
- Policies must be made that support Youth Mainstreaming with strong language, regular budgets and realistic outcomes.
- Use or create staff positions for youth to become permanent, regular employees.
- Support adult staff in their well-being in order for them to support youths’ well-being.
- Talk to youth affiliated with the organization to evaluate how they feel about their work and what they think needs to change.
- Emphasize the use of activities that infuse the ideals of Youth Mainstreaming, like Participatory Action Research and youth as trainers.
- Foster critical thinking and integrate regular feedback among youth and adults together focused on the implementation of your organization or community’s Youth Mainstreaming strategy.
- Shifting plans if feedback leads the organization or community to reevaluate its goals.
Keep It Equitable
Provide youth with meaningful and appropriate support.
- Organizations need to be aware of the changing needs of youth today, including identifying opportunities for continued, if different, engagement in systems change work as they grow into adulthood.
- Take time necessary to inform and engage youth so that they can be successful at voicing their opinion and advocating.
- Acknowledge youth with a stipend or salary, transportation money, and other incentives so they know they are valued and, for some, so they choose Youth Mainstreaming over economies.
- Provide youth with benefits, make them obvious, and show youth how to use them. Teach them the history of the worker-led movement that resulted in workplace benefits.
- Help youth identify and plan to achieve educational, economic and all sorts of life goals.
Grow the Smarts
Train administrators and others where youth will be presenting or partnering.
- Provide deep professional development on Youth Mainstreaming
- Treat staff as equal partners in Youth Mainstreaming and throughout your organization or community
- Speak to staff in ways they understand about Youth Mainstreaming.
- Make sure staff genuinely understand the value of Youth Mainstreaming and how relevant all activities are, including setting practices and policies.
- Encourage staff to find meeting times and facilitation methods that work for Youth Mainstreaming.
Once you’ve considered each of these elements of Youth Mainstreaming, you should decide the potential activities you will take.
Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Institute can support Youth Mainstreaming in your community or organization, contact us.