Why does the Freechild Institute make the choices it does when it works with organizations? How are those judgments informed? Whether we’re providing training, tools, or technical assistance, the Freechild Logic Model informs our every action and response. See below for details!
The Freechild Logic Model is a graphic map that shows readers the ways our activities, resources, outputs, outcomes, and impact, can affect young people and the adult allies who support them. Here are the steps in our logic model.
Problems: Freechild Institute activities help young people and the adults who support them identify the problems they are solving, which often include adultism, ephebiphobia, apathy, and/or antipathy. We do that identification through listening sessions, strategic process assessments, and other steps.
Interventions: We work with partners to identify which strategies might affect them problems most effectively. Common interventions include Youth engagement; Youth voice; Youth involvement; Youth empowerment, and; Youth/adult partnerships. There are other interventions available too. We work with partners to identify appropriate interventions, then identify processes for infusing those interventions within and throughout their programs, processes, policies, and organizations.
Activities: This is how we ensure commitment and knowledge of the chosen interventions. These activities can include (but aren’t limited to) speeches, trainings, professional development, consulting, curriculum, program development, and evaluation services. The activities
Goals: After identifying the interventions and activities to address the problems at hand, we establish goals to ensure mutual community success for partners. These goals could include, Inspiration and motivation; skill-building; knowledge-sharing; action planning; project implementation, and; project objectives. The goals inform the outcomes.
Outcomes: The outcomes of these interventions, activities and goals should include social justice; empathy, reciprocity; community, and; social capital.
Across the United States and around the world, an increasing number of government agencies are establishing an office of youth engagement. This approach makes youth engagement formal and establishes it as the the most desirable avenue or outcome of the government agencies involved. It can be a very effective way to make a difference in the lives of youth and their communities.
If your government agency or elected official is considering addressing young people, this article shares some considerations and ways to establish a government youth engagement office.
Locations for an Office of Youth Engagement
For more than 20 years, I have worked with government agencies across North America to establish, revitalize and re-imagine youth engagement.
I have learned that there are a few basic places in government where an office of youth engagement might exist. They include within an elected official’s office, such as a mayor, governor or parliament member.
Another location for an office of youth engagement is within a government agency, department or division. This could include public health, education, public safety or transportation, or several other agencies. The issues these offices can address are as myriad as the agencies or departments they are located within. These can include national service, homelessness, student voice, juvenile justice, foster care, climate change or other individual issues, as well as multiple issues.
The other point about locations for youth engagement offices is that they can exist at many levels. For instance, they can be within an elected official’s office, such as a mayor, governor or parliament member. Another location is within a government agency, department or division. This could include public health, education, public safety or transportation.
Perhaps most importantly is the reality that a government office of youth engagement can exist on the local, county, state or province, or federal level.
Finally, a youth engagement office can supersede any given office, issue or location by addressing an entire jurisdiction and all of its needs.
Note that this isn’t singularly about youth civic engagement, but rather any form of youth engagement throughout a community.
Considerations and Strategies
There are many considerations for establishing an office of youth engagement. Following are some of them.
Placement: Where will the youth engagement office be located within the government? Having a firm, consistent location is essential for ensuring successful implementation.
Practices: What activities, cultures, and attitudes will the individual adults and youth involved with the office of youth engagement exhibit and possess?
Personnel: Who has roles in the youth engagement office and to support youth engagement? How are they selected, who ideally fills them and how are those people supported for success?
Policies: What are the practical, applicable rules, regulations and outcomes codified in government policy to support the office of youth engagement?
Products: Can you identify the actual outcomes of the youth engagement office, including the effects on individuals, the impacts on communities and the considerations for the jurisdiction that supports government youth engagement?
Processes: What are the everyday, mundane considerations that can make or break youth engagement, who’s responsible for them and what are the anticipated outcomes?
Promotion: Who strategically shares the stories, successes, challenges and failures that are essential for promoting youth engagement?
These seven P’s can provide a useful framework to embark on government youth engagement strategies. Offices of youth engagement can facilitate the most authentic forms of connectedness within and throughout communities. These were some approaches and considerations for your government’s journey to establishing an office of youth engagement.
Several government agencies across the United States have opened an office of youth engagement.
For instance, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement operates with the motto, “Learning from young people and building a new generation of leaders.” They support the Philadelphia Youth Commission and the Millennial Youth Advisory Committee in order to develop youth leadership skills, bridge generational gaps and more. Part of the city’s Office of Public Engagement, the youth engagement office is seen as a key to the city’s success.
Similar offices around the country focus on youth/police relations, youth development, foster and homeless youth, and other specific opportunities for youth engagement. They include:
Our society is filled with systems. A lot of them affect youth. A system is any group of coherent connections resulting in a predictable result.
Whether we’re talking about obvious systems like education, health care and juvenile justice, or less tangible systems like culture and families, it is important to understand how each of these systems affects youth engagement.
Parts of Systems for Youth Engagement
Systems are made of many parts. Some of these are the ways youth engagement is supported and happens; others are the various systems for youth engagement.
WAYS: The ways youth engagement happens through systems include Procedures, Policies, Practices, Possibilities, Products, Places, Personnel, and People.
VARIETY: The various systems for youth engagement include Education, Racial identities, Friendships, Mental health, Economics, Nonprofits, Faith communities, Healthcare, Culture, Business, Sexual identities, Recreation, Ethnic identities, Families, Governments, Entertainment, Public health, and Gender identity.
While I’ve worked with schools, nonprofits, government agencies and other orgs for decades, I’ve explored how and these systems operate. I’ve seen “under the hood” in dozens of communities, watched the bad and the good arise in times of crisis and seasons of apparent ease… and every time I’m reminded of the systems at work.
Wherever they’re sustainably connected, youth engagement happens in systems.
Education—Education systems are formal and informal, apparent and subversive. Youth engagement starts in the space where they’re learning.
Sports—The youth athletics system includes rules, teams, scores, morals, codes and more
Culture—The cultural system all youth belong to includes obvious and not-obvious rules, behavior, attitudes and beyond
Economics—The youth employment system exchanges goods and services for money and more
Other systems of youth engagement include school, faith, justice, health, family, civic action, social services, mental health, recreation, or other systems, ALL youth EVERY where can experience the positive, powerful potential of youth engagement. Let’s explore that together!
Youth empowerment happens when young people get the ability to do something. This can happen through education, activities, positions, or promotions. Youth empowerment happens at home, in schools, at work, and throughout communities. Youth empowerment can literally happen everywhere, anytime, for any reason.
At the Freechild Institute, we believe youth empowerment best occurs when it focuses on young people positively changing their own lives, their families, their communities, and the world. Following are some of the strategies we practice, promote and train for youth empowerment to happen.
Strategies for Youth Empowerment
Youth Empowerment can happen through…
Youth Voice: Youth are empowered by sharing their active, distinct, and concentrated ways young people represent themselves throughout society. Learn more here »
Popular Education: Youth empowerment happens by engaging young people in education towards the struggle for a just, equitable and democratic society demands alternative approaches to learning and teaching. Learn more here »
Youth Participation: Sometimes youth empowerment can happen through the active attendance of young people in any mode throughout their lives or communities. Learn more here »
Adultism Awareness: Any action that challenges adult bias throughout society. Learn more here »
Youth Involvement: Any deliberate effort that centers on young peoples’ ongoing attendance can be empowering. Learn more here »
Youth-Led Activism: Young people taking deliberate, strategic and powerful action to draw attention to issues is empowering. Learn more here »
Youth Leadership: The practice of young people exercising authority over themselves or others, both in informal and formal ways, is empowering for youth. Learn more here »
Youth/Adult Partnerships: Youth empowerment can happen when young people are fully equal with adults while they’re involved in a given activity. Learn more here »
Youth Equity: The pro-active rebalancing of relationships between youth and adults to allow for appropriately empowered roles is empowering. Learn more here »
Youth Mainstreaming: A public policy strategy that acknowledges the roles youth can play and the issues affecting them across various sectors can empower youth in new ways. Learn more here »
Youth Infusion: Youth empowerment happens through the active, deep, and sustained integration of young people throughout an organization or community’s structure and culture. Learn more here »
Youth Organizing: An approach that trains young people in community organizing and advocacy builds youth empowerment. Learn more here »
Service Learning: Youth empowerment can happen when youth share meaningful service throughout their communities in order to achieve clearly stated learning goals. Learn more here »
Project-Based Learning: Infuses deliberately planned hands-on activities focused on teaching and learning to foster youth empowerment. Learn more here »
Experiential Learning: Youth empowerment comes from the process of making meaning from direct experience, which may or may not be planned and does or does not have specific learning goals. Learn more here »
Community Youth Development: Combines the developmental instincts of young people as they naturally desire to create change in their surrounding environments by partnering youth and adults to create new opportunities for youth to serve their communities while developing their personal abilities. Learn more here »
Youth Social Entrepreneurship: Young people moving passion into action, creating positive action and leading children, youth and communities into changing the world in tangible ways are social entrepreneurs. Learn more here »
Activist Learning: Focused solely on social justice and youth empowerment, activist learning moves young people from being passive recipients of adult-driven societies towards becoming active creators of the world they want to live in. Learn more here »
I believe we must eliminate the voting age entirely. For almost 20 years, Freechild has forwarded this idea.
Let’s begin with this starting point: All adults are ALL biased towards adults, including our opinions, attitudes, knowledge, perspectives, ideas, ideals, outcomes and activities. And note that I’m saying biased towards, meaning that we favor them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, its just a thing. As heinous as it is because it discriminates against children and youth, there are times when adultism is good and appropriate.
I don’t want to share a beer with a 7 year old, and I don’t care when they advocate for it. Same with driving, drinking, shooting guns, banking, etc.
However, there are times and places where adultism has to be confronted because its inappropriate, ineffectual, or otherwise doesn’t work.
I believe that voting for elections is a largely arbitrary activity that supposes adults are the only people eligible to choose elected officials, simply because of their age.
There is an international movement, including in the US, to lower or eliminate the voting age because it is arbitrarily adultist.
Rather than declare an age limit that arbitrarily supposes capability, capacity or otherwise qualifies people to vote, I think we should eliminate the voting age entirely.
The international movement is comprised of people who are all over the map on that. Some think it needs to reflect developmental capabilities or educational levels, while others think that there are only certain activities youth are qualified to vote for, i.e. the things that affect them most, like district school boards, city council membership, etc.
I think that’s rubbish too. In the United States and Canada, we never limit or qualify adults to vote, and any limits or qualifications assigned to young people are inherently ineffectual and arbitrary adultism that are disguised by intellectualism.
I would LOVE to hear what you think!
Thanks to my friends Sierra, Victoria, Tatiana, and Riley for prompting me to write this!
Are you a youth who wants to change the world? Are you an adult who wants to engage youth in social change? Since 2001, Freechild Institute has been training youth and adults who want to make a difference. Here are the 4 elements we’ve found that youth need for social change!
The four elements youth need for social change include traits, which are the characteristics of individuals; skills, which are the concrete, actionable abilities in specific and general areas; knowledge, which is the learned information applicable in specific and general ways, and; action, which are the practical ways young people can do things they learned and skills they’ve developed.
There are a lot of adults who want to make a difference in the world by becoming an adult ally to young people. However, many get frustrated because they don’t know what it takes. This article is about the traits of adult allies.
After more than a 20 years of teaching people around the world how to do it, I’ve developed the following list of what adults need to have within them in order to be an adult ally. This list is grounded in my experience talking with thousands of young people about what matters most to them. I also pulled from a variety of research and proved these traits in the fires of more than 50 projects over the years. The following traits make the difference between adults who talk about being adult allies and those who are actually adult allies.
These traits of adult allies determine what we can do, who we can be, and where we are with young people. If it helps you understand them better, think of this as a list of capacities, skills, dispositions and abilities.
Please leave your questions, comments, concerns, considerations and critiques at the bottom.
Traits of Adult Allies
Change Management—Adult allies can successfully move young people, adults, leadership, and constituents through transitions and times of change.
Collaboration & Teamwork—Adult allies build and sustain the necessary group and cross-group cohesion and operations needed to maintain success.
Learner Mind: Adult allies work to S-T-R-E-T-C-H themselves both personally and professionally. Learn more about adults with learner mind »
Conflict Management—Adult allies identify and successfully navigate conflicts and problems with youth as partners from an operational, day-to-day perspective as well as in the big picture.
Transparency: Adult allies are open and honest with young people. They are appropriately available and vulnerable with children and youth, and work to create strong relationships built on trust and courage. Adult allies foster strong and appropriate relationships with young people to accomplish so much more than adults can on their own, and recognize that it’s not easy getting there! Striving to always act with integrity, be compassionate and loyal, and try to be a good listener. At the end of the day it’s not what we say or do, but how we make people feel that matters the most. We care about others, both personally and professionally. Peeling away the layers, we work to be open.
Passion: What keeps us going? It’s passion for engaging people. We’re inspired because we believe in what we are doing and where we’re going – even when we don’t know where that is! We don’t take “that’ll never work” for an answer. A lot of people tell me that the Engagement Revolution will never happen; imagine if we had listened to them so far! We have positive and optimistic attitudes because we have open eyes and are inspired by everyone around us. We are passionate.
Decision-Making—We discern how, when, where, and why to make decisions, and how to help others make decisions, both on a micro- and meta-level scale.
Community: We want to build community, not just colleagues. We serve children, youth, adults, and organizations by removing obstacles and enabling people to succeed on their own terms. The best decisions and ideas are made by people who take action, and we want to foster action among people. We collaborate with people and organizations to address the challenges in their worlds. Beyond that, we watch out for our community and care for others. We work together and play together with our community because our bonds go beyond the typical consultant/coach/trainer/speaker relationship. We work to build community.
Diversity & Cultural Competency—We acknowledge, embrace, and enable all sorts of differences as powerful motivators and assets.
Amazement: We seek amazement in this work, and we seek to amaze others when it happens. To amaze, we differentiate myself by doing things in an unconventional and innovative way. We go above and beyond the average level of action to create an emotional impact on people and organizations and to give them a positive story they can take with them the rest of their lives. We seek to amaze.
Coaching—We guide, transition, and mentor others through their daily professional and personal challenges without attempting to teach or lead them.
Boldness: We are bold and try not to be reckless. We aren’t afraid to make mistakes because that’s one way we learn. We take appropriate risks and we encourage others to take risks too, and we use risks to make better decisions. We believe gut feelings, and we know everyone can develop gut feelings about decisions as long as they are open to new ideas and can allow failure to happen.
Motivating & Empowering—We constantly seek to engage others in consistent, substantive, and sustainable ways that are motivating, empowering and sustainable.
Drivenness: We constantly change and embrace it with open arms. We never accept status quo and I’m always thinking of ways to change processes, perspectives, and opinions, hopefully for the better. Without change, we can’t continue to be useful to myself or other people. We are driven.
Personal & Professional Goal Development—We recognize our own goals and their relevance to our position, as well as help others do the same.
Open-Heartedness: Help is a key word for us. We offer it and ask for it often. Often, we can’t do everything required in a project, so in a large part, part of our livelihood is helping others do their projects successfully. We are not expected to know all the answers, but we know where we can go to ﬁnd them, and we share that with others. We help myself help others.
Knowledge Management—Using diverse ways of identifying, developing, sharing, and effectively using the knowledge of communities, we work to expand the knowledge of individuals and organizations.
Humor: We have a sense of humor, and we know it’s good to laugh at ourselves frequently. Living shouldn’t be drudgery or toil. We have fun and can be goofy even when there’s work to get done, and we get lots done. Being a little goofy requires being a little innovative, and we are always looking for a chance to fully engage in life by bringing out the fun and goofy side of it.
Problem-Solving—We effectively, consistently and realistically identify, address, critique, and re-imagine challenges.
Action Orientation: We avoid the risk of not trying and the regret of wishing we had done something. When we were young, we knew that it would be far more haunting to live with the regret of having not followed our instincts than to have followed our gut and failed. We have lived in action and done risky things. We see our ideas when we have them and make note of them. That’s why we always have a notepad. If we think an idea is compelling, we go after it. We live life only once, and we all die too soon. We always try. We take action.
Training & Facilitation—We successfully identify and meet the needs of people through group training and individual learning.
Simplicity: More and more, we realize the power of simplicity. Since we are in the business of ideas in action, we want to share them as effectively as we can in our complex world. We do that by being simple. It takes more mental space for me to create something simple or communicate something complicated in basic terms, but ultimately, that’s what people want. We don’t need to explain everything the first time around. WE need to facilitate the best tailored learning experience ourselves and our organization or community. We always need to break down knowledge into easily digestible, clear statements and actions. We work hard for simplicity.
Listening: Engaging with young people in meaningful ways starts with listening to youth voice. This means not interpreting, translating or bastardizing youth voice; it means taking action, reflecting, and authorizing youth voice. Learn more about listening to young people »
Release: We have to release everything we do when it’s done, and just let it go. Instead of trying to figure it out, we just let it be and accept that it is what it is, nothing more or less. It doesn’t determine our worth, others don’t validate our choices, and our contributions never go unnoticed, even if it seems like it. We release what we do when it’s done.
Personal Engagement: We foster our own connection to the work you’re doing, maintain that connection, and sustain the relevance of the work you’re doing throughout our own life, as well as help others do the same.
Focus: We work to transform the lives of youth, no matter what I’m doing. We do not look for fame or fortune, and we reject greed and deceit. Instead, we constantly look for opportunities to serve others, and we share our energy and efforts as often as we can. We see the ripple effect in everything we do, not just the flashy or huge things. If we don’t see the ripples, we trust the waves work. We know every action in our lives sets off an entire cascade of responses whose overall impact is huge, and we know this is true for others, too. We are focused.
Compassion—We develop our ability to establish and foster empathy with people and places outside of our own personal or professional sphere.
Listening: We speak by listening. Instead of rushing to come up with a quick reaction to what someone has said or done, we listen to them. When the time is right, we respond with knowledge. When we were younger, we assumed that the world was more interested in us than we were in it, so we spent most of our time talking. We were generally under-informed, we shared whatever we thought, we tried to be clever, and we thought about what we were going to say instead of listening to what someone else was saying to me. We have learned to slow ourselves down and engage rather than debate. We take time to really listen to what people say, and we try to learn from everything we hear. We listen to people.
Systems Thinking—We see how small things that seem separated can create big things through complicated interactions.
Facilitation: We provide appropriate support to learners. We do not train people, because we don’t do tricks or routine work. Instead, we adapt and contrast, modify and transform. We encourage learners through questions and activities that build confidence, stretch understanding, and foster engagement in learning. We facilitate learning.
Deliberation: We regularly stop to check our intentions and affirm our actions, so that what I’m doing actually reflects who we are. If I’m not aware of why we do what we do, we are disconnected from what matters to me. If I’m disconnected, I’m ineffective. Staying aware of our intentions and being deliberate allows me to guide our work with purpose, and challenge myself when its time. We are deliberate.
Challenge: When a we get too attached to the way things are, we lose the the greatest freedom of all: the freedom to fail. Without feeling like a failure, we don’t have to assume that a slight misstep is a deep plunge into the abyss. Instead, we step forward to challenges and see them each as an opportunity to innovate using a smart idea or strategic thinking. When I’m stepping up to challenges, we accept that failure is going to happen while I’m growing. Ultimately, we won’t become a better person because of how we respond to success, but instead, what we do with failure. We accept the challenge.
Mindfulness: Adult allies strive to develop and maintain the constant conscious awareness and acceptance of our imperfections and inabilities, as well as our abilities and responsibilities to the young people, families and communities we strive to serve.
In order to be adult allies, adults have to learn to listen to children and listen to youth. Listening can be simple, painless and easy; it can also be complex, painful and hard. Either way, adults have to learn to listen to young people in order to get past just hearing what they said. This is how adult allies listen to young people.
This is how to listen to young people:
Open my heart and mind to children and youth
Release my assumptions about young people and their interests and abilities to speak for themselves
Make space for children and youth to speak for themselves
Be quiet and listen to young people
Ensure opportunities for children and youth to speak for themselves always
Continue always to stay mindful about my voice, my listening and my actions that affect young people
Constantly be aware of my conscious and unconscious impact on children and youth
Step aside so young people speak for themselves
Advocate for children and youth to always speak for themselves
When they are absent, speak for young people who cannot speak for themselves
Constantly and deliberately build my ability and the ability of other adults to listen to children and youth
Intentionally and deliberate move from listening to validating; validating to authorizing; authorizing to action; action to reflection; and reflection to listening again.
This isn’t meant to be completely comprehensive; instead, its intended to hold space for adults who want to learn what they can do for themselves and young people in order to build their ability to listen to children and youth.
What would you add? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Learner mind is the experience of staying open, honest, humble and accepting of opportunities to learn, examine, critique and explore who we are, how we are and what we do in life. Adults with learner mind are committed to learning from young people as well as other adults.
Adult allies work to stretch themselves both personally and professionally. Whether you are a parent, teacher, youth worker or other adult who supports young people, you have to risk embarrassment, misunderstanding and even failure in order learn as much as you can from the people you serve. Having a learner’s mind helps us do that
Seeing through the differences between being stuck in a rut and moving through a groove, adult allies know every youth and every adult has more potential than they ever realize. Adult allies work to constantly unlock that potential, both in themselves and the young people we work with.
Adult allies know they will never “get it right,” and that’s a reality we gladly accept. The only way young people and adults can address new challenges that arise is by learning and growing ourselves to meet them head-on.
Do I judge young people too quickly?
Do I assume things about young people without evidence, proof or experience?
Is it okay for me to become overwhelmed?
Do I ask young people for help when I need to?
What do young people teach me unexpectedly?
Can other adults teach me about myself?
Adult allies strive to keep learning, especially from young people themselves.
It is important for adult allies of young people to have humility. Humility is a modest view of your own importance. It means adults see who we really are and what we actually do with young people.
Whether adults are parents, youth workers, teachers or otherwise, being humble can improve relationships, foster partnerships and transform lives.
Adult allies of young people develop and maintain a modest view of their own importance in public and personal perspectives regarding our efforts. Despite all the things they may have accomplished in the past, adult allies will always be challenges ahead.
When adults are not humble, they can show arrogance, which is the opposite of humility. When we work with children and youth, this is shown as adultism and adultcentrism. It diminishes the ability to connect with young people and takes away the effectiveness of every activity we try to do with youth. Adult allies remain committed to challenging their own adultism as well as others because we all struggle with the arrogance instilled in adults simply because of our age–not because we deserve it, earn it or otherwise should have it.
No matter what happens, adult allies want to always respectful towards everyone. Adult allies love to celebrate youth successes, but not in an arrogant or boastful way; instead, adult allies have a quiet confidence because in the long run their character will speak to young people.