Introducing Comprehensive Youth Engagement

Comprehensive Youth Engagement

It is normal, appropriate and necessary for young people to choose the same things over and over again. At the Freechild Institute, we refer to this as youth engagement, and for over two decades we have been working with youth and adults across the United States and around the world to foster empowering youth engagement in communities, organizations, and their own lives.

We have found that the most successful efforts to engage young people come from intentional, strategic and coordinated approaches. In this model, systems work together with individuals, individuals work with organizations, organizations recognize their communities, and everyone is deliberately working to support Comprehensive Youth Engagement.

For instance, the community of Hampton, Virginia, has had a powerful coordinated approach to youth engagement for almost 20 years now. Young people are meaningfully involved in government, communities, and organizations citywide. As the city’s website says, “Everywhere you go in Hampton, young people are working to improve their neighborhoods, schools, community programs and even city government.” This city is an example of Comprehensive Youth Engagement, because it intentionally sets about acknowledging the whole young person and working to engage their entire self, rather than simply appealing to the easiest or most familiar types of youth engagement.

8 Domains of Comprehensive Youth Engagement

Understanding that youth engagement happens in a lot of ways, youth-serving programs and organizations can transform the lives of children and youth of all ages. We call these different ways youth engagement happens domains. Through our work, Freechild has identified eight domains of Comprehensive Youth Engagement.

  1. Personal Engagement: Focused on identifying their personal passions, interests, activities, issues and abilities, personal engagement allows youth to develop inside themselves. Personal engagement can happen in nearly countless ways.
  2. Family Engagement: At all ages in a young person’s development, engagement allows them to bond, belong, and sustain healthy, safe and supportive connections to their parents or guardians, siblings, extended family and others.
  3. Community Engagement: The social and cultural connections around young people form their communities. These identities, places, and other forms of connectivity establish their belonging. Activism and community organizing, faith-based communities, sports and athletics, the outdoors and lots of other opportunities can foster community engagement.
  4. Civic Engagement: On neighborhood, local, state, national and international levels, young people advocate, make decisions and otherwise provide leadership and participate fully in governance, and connect with people to do the same.
  5. Economic Engagement: Creating, purchasing, or selling products or services in order to have money, save money and create wealth is an opportunity every young person should have. This means earning money, having a job, turning hobbies into profit, saving money, investing for profit, and more.
  6. Social Engagement: When young people choose to connect with others, make and keep commitments, and interact with other people of all ages, they are experiencing social engagement.
  7. Online Engagement: Coming back again and again and using the same apps, services and spaces online are forms of online engagement. When young people experience purpose and belonging online, they stay engaged online. This can include social media, gaming, and other activities.
  8. School Engagement: From pre-kindergarten through high school, education that allows young people to choose the physical, mental, emotional, and social avenues of their lives can be engaging. School engagement happens through learning, teaching and leadership.

When these eight domains are acknowledged, assessed, and entwined, the lives of young people can be dramatically affected in positive, powerful ways.

For more information about training, tools and technical assistance from the Freechild Institute focused on the 8 Domains of Comprehensive Youth Engagement, contact us.

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