Youth Mainstreaming is a comprehensive strategy for integrating youth throughout the operations of an organization or community. Because of the complexity of organizations and communities, it can be essential to spell out exactly what Youth Mainstreaming is and what it can do.
There are three essential points for understanding the strategy of Youth Mainstreaming:
- Youth Mainstreaming can be implemented and can benefit all organizations and communities;
- Youth Mainstreaming must affect entire organizations, or else its not Youth Mainstreaming;
- Youth Mainstreaming requires investment of funds, staff time, physical resources, and professional expertise, as well as the energy, knowledge and commitment of youth.
The Goals of Youth Mainstreaming
The goals of Youth Mainstreaming should vary from organization to organization, community to community, but always keep the following at their core:
- Deeply engaging youth throughout organizations and communities, positioning them in every facet of operations as leaders, teachers and learners through youth/adult partnerships;
- Fostering partnerships between adults and young people that deeply integrate their youth voice and priorities as well as collaborate with youth in developing projects, programs, operations and cultures that deeply infuse youth as equitable partners, and;
- Integrating young people throughout society youth voice and issues throughout the sustained policy and culture of organizations and communities to create spaces and opportunities for empowering youth, giving recognition, visibility and credibility to young people, everywhere, all the time.
Main Components of Youth Mainstreaming
Organizations and communities that commit to Youth Mainstreaming are making a commitment not only towards a strong and sustainable future, but in their programs and operations today. Implementation happens through several measures, including strategic planning; policy transformation; staff development; program implementation; continuous improvement, and; operational reflection.
In order to do those things, organizations have to understand that Youth Mainstreaming requires three components. They follow.
Component 1. Personal Attitudes
Youth Mainstreaming begins by building awareness and understanding. Youth Mainstreaming changes the way every adult in an organization, including decision-makers and practitioners, thinks about youth by…
- Regularly facilitating trainings and presentations about youth
- Constantly sharing data and resources related to youth and Youth Mainstreaming
- Sustainably engaging youth in partnering roles with practitioners and policy-makers
- Meaningfully communicating with and becoming policy makers
Component 2. Shared Culture
Youth Mainstreaming changes institutional culture and practices. Youth Mainstreaming weaves and infused new values, attitudes and outcomes into organizations by…
- Having youth train adults throughout organizations and communities
- Creating an equal number of equitable seats for youth members on staff and boards
- Ensuring that youth and community issues are addressed from a youth lens
Component 3. Systems and Structures
Youth Mainstreaming in embedded in new policies. Better serving youth and communities in sustained, effective ways happens through policy development. Youth Mainstreaming does this on the organizational and community levels by…
- Developing laws and policies requiring a systemic approach to Youth Mainstreaming
- Increasing and sustaining all types of support for youth throughout your organization and community
- Protecting the wellbeing of practitioners of all sorts
- Engaging youth directly in policy implementation, including supporting the rights of children and youth throughout an organization or community through enforcement, conflict resolution and restorative justice
- Ensuring that youth are acknowledged and receive benefits for their Youth Mainstreaming actions
- Looking for specific traits in potential new employees that will ensure commitment to Youth Mainstreaming
Outcomes of Youth Mainstreaming
Youth Mainstreaming can lead to many changes throughout organizations and communities. When Youth Mainstreaming is fully operational with youth as equal and equitable partners…
- Adults involved in policy making can make more effective decisions
- Professionals who work in the systems affected can make better decisions.
- Through a variety of strategies, Youth Mainstreaming works to build understanding and awareness among policy makers, practitioners in systems that impact youth; youth themselves, and; the public at large.
Our work has revealed several lessons and reflections along the way. Among them are these recommendations.
Recommendations for Adult Leaders
If you are a youth-serving organizational leader, government agency administrator, or other key adult stakeholder, there are several recommendations for implementing Youth Mainstreaming. Key among these are:
- Placing Youth Mainstreaming at the center of your work, including your personal and professional work;
- Forming substantive, sustainable mutual mentoring activities immediately for yourself and your staff;
- Holding meaningful conversations with youth and adults throughout your organization and community about the potential of Youth Mainstreaming;
- Actively advocate for Youth Mainstreaming throughout your entire neighborhood, village, town or city; and
- Continue to read The Freechild Institute Youth Mainstreaming Toolkit.
Recommendations for Youth
If you are a young person or an adult who works directly with youth, several lessons have become clear to us for successfully engaging in Youth Mainstreaming. Youth Mainstreaming can empower young people and the adults who support them by giving them critically-needed support and demonstrating greater commitment and capacity for youth agendas through Youth Mainstreaming.
Key among these are:
- Supporting youth in achieving stable lives before they engage powerfully about and organize effectively for Youth Mainstreaming;
- Building the capacity of youth to change lives and systems by teaching them to advocate for themselves;
- Helping youth reflect on their experiences and build communication skills so they can articulate issues and recommendations;
- Channeling the survival skills youth develop to endure traumatic experiences in their lives in order to successfully navigate complex systems and advocate for positive systems change;
- Investing in individual youth in order to demonstrate that they are valued as individuals and not simply useful for an organization’s own agenda of Youth Mainstreaming, and;
- Positioning youth on staff who are self-aware, have tools for maintaining stability in their lives, and have a range of professional skills and strengths.
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.