Why Youth Engagement?

The Freechild Institute believes that no matter who youth are, where they live, whatever they do with their time and what they’ll do with the rest of their lives, young people today can, should and must become engaged everywhere throughout their lives and our society.

Youth engagement happens anytime a young person chooses the same thing over and over.

—Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement

For centuries, adults have held sway over the condition of the villages, cities, states and nations we live in. Given the status of the environment, society, economy and violence across the planet, we need new energy, ideas and actions to show how a new world is possible.

Since Freechild was founded in 2001, we have seen over and over that everyone benefits from youth engagement. We need young people to see and use their own endless potential to become engaged. As Albert Einstein wrote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Youth engagement fosters new thinking, new actions, and new solutions that can change the world in positive, powerful ways. THAT is what Freechild supports, and that is why youth engagement matters.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

—Albert Einstein

Children and youth can bring a new level of thinking to the the most challenging problems in our world today. They can also infuse the power and energy needed to put that thinking into action.

Concentrating on practical action that fosters transformation change, young people are currently reforming schools, building communities, empowering people and sustaining economies, all of which wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for children and youth. The issues they’re addressing and the ways they’re getting things done are unparalleled throughout history. However, it’s the strategies that’s most powerful.

These are Strategies for Youth Engagement from the Freechild Institute. Learn more at freechild.org.

Young people are engaged throughout their families, communities and societies in ways never before imagined using a series of strategies unmatched in the world today. They have been for more than three centuries. These strategies are sometimes seen as conflicting or competing, but in reality each of them are highly complimentary and engaging.

There are many reasons to foster youth engagement. They include…

Why? The Bottom Line.

Youth engagement saves time, energy, and money. Simply put, young people know what works for young people, and that knowledge can work for your organization. For a long time adults have decided to do activities for young people without young people. When activities went awry, we often blamed youth themselves for the failure of adults! Today we know that the programs and activities we operate to benefit youth can only be effective when youth themselves become engaged throughout those programs and activities. This increases the effectiveness of hosting organizations, which in turn can further show the organization’s funders and the organizations wider audience how successful the organization is at its mission. The bottom-line in many organizations is funding, and youth involvement can directly impact that in a positive, powerful way.

Why? Justice.

Youth engagement fulfills the promise of the United States Declaration of Independence, which states that “All men are created equal,” and all are entitled to “certain unalienable rights.” That includes the right to youth engagement in everything that affects them, including homes, communities, schools, nonprofits, business, government, and more. Young people of color, low-income youth, LGBTTQQI2S youth, neurodivergent youth, underachieving youth, youth in systems of care, incarcerated youth, and all young people have every right to youth engagement, everywhere, all of the time.

Why? Effectiveness.

Youth engagement is a successful approach to youth development and education. Adults become better teachers, mentors, and coaches; organizations meet community needs more effectively; and government agencies engage more citizens more actively.

Why? Culture.

Youth engagement transforms the attitudes and systems that underlay the culture of organizations, schools, and communities. Addressing personal challenges and organizational barriers leads to healthier, more democratic cultures where everyone is engaged as partners.

Why? Belonging.

Youth engagement can ensure cultural, racial, economic, and social diversity. The perspectives, ideas, and actions of young people are also important to consider, as the population of youth is substantial (26% of the US population), yet largely ignored throughout communities. It is important to remember, however, that there is no “stock” young person. Their opinions and ideas are as varied as those of any other group. Age is only one shaping force in their lives. Like the rest of us, young people’s outlooks are deeply affected by their personal experiences; their racial, economic, religious, and sexual identities; and their individual personalities. Therefore, you can’t bring one young person onto your board and assume that he or she speaks for all young people.

Why? Democracy.

Youth engagement teaches the skills required to be a powerful member of democratic society. Civic engagement requires knowledge, skill, and insight; youth involvement develops each of these capacities in young people and their adult allies. To make democracy work, all people need to be heard. This includes listening to the voices of young people. Organizations need to hear their views, ideas, and passions, and act on their ideas, so that democracy continues to thrive in future generations.

Why? Personal Growth.

Youth engagement builds the leadership skills young people need today and in the future.

Why? Community Development.

Youth engagement creates practical avenues for effective planning, assessment, and policy-making throughout communities. Young people provide powerful insight and energy in environmental, social, economic, and educational growth for community planners.

Why? Culture.

Youth engagement transforms the attitudes and systems that underlay the culture of organizations, schools, and communities. Addressing personal challenges and organizational barriers leads to healthier, more democratic cultures where everyone is engaged as partners.

Why? Today and Tomorrow.

Youth engagement challenges the “youth flight” or “brain drain” or inner-city and rural communities by establishing and strengthening powerful bonds between young people, adults, and elders throughout our communities. Youth engagement substantiates the urgency of change by challenging complacency, ignorance and neglect. By learning the practical considerations of leadership and civic engagement through youth involvement, young people and adults foster mutual authority and ability to meet the needs of the future.

Our world needs youth engagement because

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Elsewhere Online


  • Fletcher, A. (2014) The Practice of Youth Engagement. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing
  • Matarese, M., McGinnis, L. and Mora, M. (2005) Youth Involvement in Systems of Care: A Guide to Empowerment. Washington, DC: Technical Assistance Partnership. p.70.
  • Advocates for Youth. (nd) “Youth involvement in prevention programming“, Washington, DC: Author.
  • Some of the ideas in this text were taken from a speech given by Amy Weisenbach of the National 4H Council at the 1998 National Assembly Forum.