Why Should We Care about Modern Youth Leadership?

Modern Youth Leadership by Adam F.C. Fletcher for the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement

Modern Youth Leadership is different than ever before. Young people today have been faced with many crises, vast technological advances, violence, and more like never before. Responding to that, they have adapted to new ways of being with different ideas, approaches, strategies, and outcomes than have ever happened before.

Effects of Modern Youth Leadership

Modern Youth Leadership affects learning; relationships with adults; communities; diversity, equity and inclusion; environments; positive youth development; culture; program outcomes; integrity; and engagement. See the end of this page for works cited.

1. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Learning

Modern Youth Leadership may be the most powerful lever available to improve young people’s learning.

  • Young people learn better when they are engaged partners throughout the educational process.
  • Young people learn more effectively when taught by peers.
  • Young people learn more from self- and peer-evaluations.
  • Young people are represented more effectively by themselves or their peers.
  • When young people plan activities their investment, ownership, and subsequent learning is greatly increased.
  • Youth-led research can pose more effective questions and identifies more useful findings.

2. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Relationships with Adults.

Modern Youth Leadership in the program process, from planning to evaluating professional adults, can increase adult efficacy, self-confidence, and retention.

  • When they are taught to engage Modern Youth Leaders in communities, both as learners and partners, professional adults feel better prepared to reach diverse young people.
  • Organizational activities facilitated by adults can be more effective when young people are engaged as Modern Youth Leaders.
  • Organization activity and adult evaluations are more authentic and valuable when Modern Youth Leaders are central evaluators and assessors of data.
  • Adults feel they are better mentors and coaches to young people when they are Modern Youth Leaders.

3. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Communities

Involving Modern Youth Leaders can significantly and positively affect adults throughout communities.

  • Communities can meet needs more effectively when youth are engaged as Modern Youth Leaders.
  • Youth have more investment in community efforts when they are engaged as Modern Youth Leaders.
  • Modern Youth Leadership can encourage adult leaders to make important decisions and effectively prioritize decisions in communities.
  • Actively engaging youth through Modern Youth Leadership can strengthen young people’s trust in adults.
  • Policy-making is more effective when youth are partners in the process.

4. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Positive Youth Development

Young people can become more effective in their own lives when their emotional, intellectual, and social needs are met.

  • Involving Modern Youth Leaders throughout communities can build participation skills young people need today and in the future.
  • Modern Youth Leadership can lead to significant gains in youth development goals.
  • Modern Youth Leadership increases youth voice and youth engagement.

5. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Culture

The attitudes, policies, and structures of organizations and communities may change through Modern Youth Leadership .

  • Involving Modern Youth Leaders in decision-making transforms the attitudes and systems that underlay the culture of organizations, schools, and communities.
  • Organizations can become mutually supportive for adults as well as young people through Modern Youth Leadership.
  • Addressing personal challenges and organizational barriers to Modern Youth Leadership can lead to healthier, more democratic cultures where everyone can be engaged as partners.

6. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Embracing a diversity of perspectives can make Modern Youth Leadership the most significant tool in achieving justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

  • Engaging Modern Youth Leaders can ensure cultural, racial, economic, and social diversity in school improvement efforts.
  • Modern Youth Leadership can reinforce high-risk young peoples’ investment in organizations and communities.
  • Modern Youth Leadership can lead to creative, energetic, and effective decision-making that may not have existed without them.

7. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Program Outcomes

Engaging Modern Youth Leaders can help organizations of all kinds save money while meeting the rigorous demands facing communities.

  • Involving Modern Youth Leader in decision-making saves time, energy, and money in organization.
  • Simply put, Modern Youth Leaders know what works for young people, and that knowledge works in organizations.
  • Stories of organizations transformed through Modern Youth Leadership exist throughout the United States and Canada and around the world.

8. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Integrity

Through intellectual humility, intergenerational co-conspiracy and authentic collaboration adults can meet moral demands through Modern Youth Leadership.

  • The ethical imperative of teaching in a democratic society demands adults who support democracy and young people actively engage Modern Youth Leaders.
  • Despite the face that people under 18 make up 26% of the U.S. population, young people are routinely denied opportunities to participate.
  • Modern Youth Leaders can be critical partners who challenge ineffective, anti-democratic practices throughout education.
  • While young people make up approximately 92% of any given school’s population, the decisions in schools are routinely made by the remaining 8% who are adults.

9. Modern Youth Leadership Affects Youth Engagement

When young people are Modern Youth Leaders they can learn about the necessity of active citizenship in organizations, communities, and throughout their lives.

  • Engaging Modern Youth Leaders can lead to increased feelings of belonging and purpose in organizations, communities and beyond.
  • Engaging young people as Modern Youth Leaders can lead to the development of vital skills and abilities which allow them to be effective members of their larger communities.
  • Modern Youth Leadership throughout communities teaches young people the responsibilities required to be a citizen in a democratic society.

MAYBE the most important factor to Modern Youth Leadership is that it just feels right. Young people, youth workers, teachers, community leaders, researchers, professors, parents… the rooms of people attending Freechild Institute workshops come from a lot of different places and do a lot of different work that affects young people in many different ways. However, by the end of any of our workshops they usually agree that, at the very least, Modern Youth Leadership feels right.

That important identification lays a foundation to work from, and the important findings detailed above support it. For more details, see our Works Cited section below.

Please leave your questions and ideas in the comments section!

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Modern Youth Leadership by Adam F.C. Fletcher for the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement

Why should we care? | Who are youth leaders? | What do youth care about? | What do youth leaders do? | Can Modern Youth Leadership help? | What difference can adults make? | Can I help? | What stops youth leaders? | What help is available for Modern Youth Leadership?

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