Understanding Roles for Youth in Community Development

This week I’ve had the honor of participating in a Thinkery in London with the Community Development Journal, an international academic publication produced by the Oxford University Press. Along with providing a keynote address to provoke conversation and growth in the field, I’ve sat in on three days of meetings with their international advisory board. I want to share some of what I’ve learned over this time, and share the ways I see community development intersecting with youth-led action around the world.

Opportunities and Avenues

Community development is a vague, overarching concept that attempts to group together any attempts by groups of people who work together to transform the places and spaces they live, work and play. Concerned with justice, equity and transformation, community development includes structured government and nonprofit programs; grassroots social justice activism, and; much more. People working together to transform the economy, education, culture, housing, healthcare, public health and many other issues are included under the umbrella of community development.

Youth have been the subjects of community development, participants in community development and critics of community development for more than 25 years. Internationally, youth have built movements, established conversations and spread the intentions and possibilities of community development, especially in the last decade. These include the 99% movement, the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, #metoo and other actions.

Concerns and Challenges

Adultism⁠—bias towards adults that discriminates against youth⁠—appears predominate throughout community development. Attitudes reflecting adultism drive the agendas, goals, activities and outcomes of community development worldwide. In turn though, adultism is routinely dismissed by practitioners and researchers who are dismissive of the roles of children and youth in their work.

Young people are concerned about the appropriation of community development, too, especially as its been overwhelmed by neoliberal goals that diminish or simply take away the radical heart of community development. The critical consciousness necessary to maintain this commitment needs regular reinforcement and encouragement. Rather than being holistic, many actions are interested only in parts of youth and/or their communities, unconsciously perpetuating the neoliberal concept of youth as marginally useful instead of being central to community development.

Concerns affecting youth and community development include questions of engaging diverse youth and communities; generating fiscal sustainability; training, educating and otherwise building the movement, and; ensuring the relevance of youth-led action.

Similarly, many young people are engaged in specific issues in community development only because of the beneficence of adults who are well-meaning but poorly informed. Driven by the limited funding and the specific interests of adult-driven forces, youth are forced to concentrate on adult interests who inadvertently act as the puppets of organizations and agendas that are formed without their interests in mind.

Possibilities

The radical possibilities of community development reflect the broadest, deepest and greatest potentialities of the field overall. Engaging youth as equitable partners might be the best possibility to actualize a lot of theoretical conversations about diversity and nontraditional engagement. Focusing on the many avenues for engagement identified by the Freechild Institute, community development advocates, organizers and participatory researchers can move beyond the suspected and routinely disproven limitations of youth to build the capacities, possibilities and hopes throughout the field.

Most important, there is hope and perhaps that’s what we need to focus on most. For information, training and more contact the Freechild Institute today.

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Spectrum of Youth Action

Freechild Institute Spectrum of Youth Action, https://freechild.org
This is the Spectrum of Youth Action from the Freechild Institute.

In order to understand the breadth and ability of youth to change the world, we have to understand what exactly is happening through youth action. Over the course of working with hundreds of organizations across North America in the last 20 years, Freechild Institute has learned, listened and led dozens of projects focused on youth action.

To share our experience, we’ve summarized some of our learning into this graphic we’re calling a Spectrum of Youth Action. It includes five main points:

  1. Youth Voice⁠ is any expression of any young person anywhere, anytime, for any reason. Learn more »
  2. Youth Involvement⁠ is the systematic placement of young people to affect, drive, or take action within an activity, organization or community. Learn more »
  3. Youth Engagement⁠ is when youth choose the same thing over and over. Learn more »
  4. Youth Empowerment⁠ is when young people take charge of their lives, actions and surroundings. Learn more »
  5. Youth Participation⁠ is when young people actively belong in activities, organizations or communities. Learn more »

Use the links above to learn more about the points on the Spectrum of Youth Action.

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The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!
Order The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

Adultism in the Law

Terms related to adultism

After a decade of research focusing on United States and international laws, the Freechild Institute has found there are many laws that both enshrine and combat adultism. Many of these try to protect youth from discrimination.

Issues Addressed By Laws

These laws prohibit or ban things that are done to youth or things that youth are excluded from, including:

  • Discrimination against youth by physical, sexual, and/or psychological maltreatment or neglect
  • Discrimination against youth through illegal labor, endangerment and infanticide
  • Discrimination against youth through parental actions including youth maltreatment
  • Discrimination against youth because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation
  • Discrimination against youth through sexual abuse/exploitation
  • Discrimination against youth through neglect or abuse
  • Discrimination against youth through sexual or labor trafficking
  • Discrimination against youth with disabilities
  • Discrimination against youth through familial migration
  • Discrimination against youth through unaccompanied children in a situation of migration
  • Discrimination against youth without parental care or who are in alternative care
  • Discrimination against youth in police custody or detention
  • Discrimination against homeless youth
  • Discrimination against youth with parents in prison or custody
  • Discrimination against youth in court or other judicial proceedings
  • Discrimination against youth in custody disputes, including parental child abduction
  • Discrimination against youth because of their race
  • Discrimination against youth in minority ethnic groups
  • Discrimination against youth through female genital mutilation or forced marriage
  • Discrimination against youth through who are not in compulsory education or training or working children below the legal age for work
  • Discrimination against bullying or cyberbullying against youth

Who Is Affected?

Stakeholders in these issues space all the areas touched upon, including youth, parents, law enforcement, teachers, community educators, public health workers, social workers, government officials, school leaders, elected representatives, youth workers, business owners, medical doctors, NGO leaders, community advocates, mental health counselors, and many, many others.

Lawmakers who could make laws to further prevent youth discrimination include local elected officials include mayors, members of a county commission, city counsel, school board, utility or hospital district; a judge, a justice of the peace, a county or city attorney, a marshal, a sheriff, a constable and a registrar of deeds; tax collectors and assessors; and members of advisory boards and committees.

These individuals control, have power over, legislate or otherwise represent all people in democratic societies, including youth. They can make, enforce, modify or otherwise affect youth in countless ways, and are essential all elected officials who can prevent youth discrimination.

Similarly, in many countries a president and the vice president or another democratically elected official on the national level can prevent youth discrimination. In many states, a governor, a secretary of state, or a member of a legislative body such as the Congress or a state legislature can affect youth discrimination.

How To Change Laws

Organize and mobilize youth to speak up, take action and advocate for change! You can change laws to stop adultism even more effectively. Here are some steps you can take.

  1. Invite policymakers to freechild.org to learn about adultism. Educate legislators by providing them with data, research, stories and general information about adultism. They might not know what it is, what it does, who it affects and what the outcomes are. Share us!
  2. Meet with policymakers in person while they are at their in-district offices during congressional recess. Make appointments and go to meetings and share data and research that highlights adultism in your community.
  3. Call your elected officials’ offices to weigh in on specific adultism-related issues. Host educational meetings and trainings to gather, network and share information on adultism in policies, rules and laws.
  4. Share stories, data and resources with elected officials to illustrate how their decisions promote adultism. Educate the public about the policymaking process and how it promotes adultism. Introduce youth and their adult allies to elected officials who represent them, and talk about adultism.
  5. Participate in lobbying visits or hold anti-adultism advocacy days to advocate for or against specific legislation. Build public awareness by educating community members on adultism in specific laws that impact young people and their communities.
  6. Draft a petition or sign-on letter to express views about adultism and recruit youth and/or adults to sign on.
  7. Organize a rally, town hall or press conference to build public awareness about adultism and to hold policymakers accountable.
  8. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor to share your expertise on adultism in laws that recently became important in your school or community.
  9. Participate in a town hall and ask your elected officials questions about their position on adultism overall and in specific laws.
  10. Encourage citizens to vote (through nonpartisan voter mobilization efforts).
  11. Submit comments or feedback on policies affecting children and youth as they are being developed.
  12. Use social media like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to educate the public and lawmakers about adultism. Don’t forget to tag them and include #facingadultism hashtags!

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Series on Adultism

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help face adultism in your community or organization, contact us.

Citywide Youth Engagement Strategies

This is a map of any city youth engagement strategy by Adam Fletcher for Freechild Institute

Transforming a city—one that is likely complex and has been in place for centuries—into a place that engages all youth everywhere all the time can be difficult. Questions commonly raised by youth and adults looking to foster citywide youth engagement strategies include:

  • Who should be engaged?
  • What should our youth engagement strategy look like?
  • How will we know if it works?  

To help address these and many other questions, the Freechild Institute has written this article to guide the development of citywide youth engagement strategies. We have worked with several communities to develop these strategies. The approaches we develop strive to build youth engagement systems that help communities design, implement, and sustain strategies to youth engagement that are data-driven and focused on your community’s unique strengths and needs, making your systems much more likely to succeed.


Step 1: Plan an Assessment

Plan a systemwide assessment. Identify the extent to which current operations align with or deviate from the features of an effective citywide youth engagement strategy. Specifically, it can offer guidance on:

  • Reviewing the scope of youth engagement;
  • Reviewing the roles and responsibilities, and;
  • Affirming the timeline for youth engagement throughout your community.

Step 2: Review Citywide Policies

Review the policies that affect what’s happening in your city. Examine the rules and policies that govern youth engagement throughout your community to figure out what is and is not needed at each point throughout your community.


Step 3: Collect Quantitative Data

Collect quantitative data on how and who is using the system. Explore how to gather data on the volume and characteristics of youth engagement throughout your community, allowing you to identify those areas that are working well and those that are broken and in need of repair. Specifically, collect high-level, aggregate statistics on the following data elements:

  • Types of engagement
  • Demographics of young people, communities and stakeholders
  • Purposes, intentions and visions
  • Champions
  • Service needs and other systemic opportunities
  • Youth engagement times and costs
  • Locations for youth engagement, length of engagement, and costs
  • Outcomes

Step 4: Collect Qualitative Data

Collect qualitative data on how local stakeholders perceive youth engagement. Gather the impressions, opinions, and general insight of youth engagement system stakeholders. This can help order to form a more holistic narrative of the community. Specifically, gather this information from the following groups:

  • Young people
  • Stakeholders who work in the youth engagement system
  • Family members

Step 5: Collect Information

Collect information on local service capacity. Determine the existing local capacity for facilitating youth engagement with young people, parents, nonprofits, schools, government agencies, and others. Specifically:

  • Develop a list of youth engagement champions, providers and facilitators
  • Survey champions, providers and facilitators

Step 6: Analyze the Data

Analyze the quantitative and qualitative data together, allowing each to inform the other. Actively and intentionally use the policies and quantitative, qualitative and service capacity information you have collected to inform and drive your work. Specifically:

  • Uncover the narrative of your youth engagement system
  • Present and reflect upon key findings as a citywide youth engagement strategy

Step 7: Create a Citywide Strategy

Create a citywide youth engagement strategy. Using the data you’ve collected, create a citywide youth engagement strategy. As you develop your tool, consider each of the data points you’ve collected and your analysis of the data. Your strategy should be applicable throughout your entire city and reflect your goals. Essential elements of the strategy should reflect:

Your citywide youth engagement strategy should also unveil a clear action plan for implementing youth engagement for all youth, everywhere, all the time.

After presenting your citywide youth engagement strategy, contact the Freechild Institute to share your plan! If you’re looking for examples of what citywide youth engagement strategies do, check out our features on Portland, Oregon and Hampton, Virginia.

When you’ve implemented your strategy, remember to reflect and celebrate throughout the process, and stay committed to social justice while you’re at it!


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This is a map of any city youth engagement strategy by Adam Fletcher for Freechild Institute
A MAP OF ANY CITY This is a map of any city showing citywide youth engagement. It includes the following places: 1. Youth in city hall 2. Youth on school boards 3. Youth engagement at home 4. Youth owned businesses 5. Youth engagement in the outdoors 6. Youth led nonprofits 7. Youth infused community planning 8. Youth centric public transporation 9. Schools focused on engagement instead of achievement 10. Obvious youth made art, writing, theater, music and other creations 11. Training and educational opportunities for everyone focused on youth engagement knowledge, skills, ideas and actions 12. Community-wide investment in youth engagement 13. Youth action research 14. Youth led training and technical assistance on youth engagement 15. Youth led spaces, activities, programs and organizations 16. New technology supporting youth engagement 17. Places where youth and adults interact as equals 18. Training for adults on all aspects of youth engagement 19. Educational opportunities to learn how to change the world 20. Safe places for youth to be, do, create, dream 21. Clear rules, laws, policies and procedures to build youth engagement 22. Sustained funding to build, support and grow youth engagement 23. “Edge spaces” for youth engagement that make some adults uncomfortable 24. Transitional activities to support young adults becoming independent 25. Specific activities to engage young people together for racial, cultural, social, educational, economic and other kinds of harmony and peace 26. Places to engage LGBTTQQ youth 27. Places to engage youth in racial, cultural and ethnic identities 28. People who think beyond youth engagement and towards solidairty 29. Opportunities to engage kids before they become youth 30. Youth voting rights * A single, unified, wholistic strategy for the entire city SUPPORTS * Personnel dedicated to youth engagement * Practices building youth engagement * Policies supporting youth engagement * Procedures that sustain youth engagement (c) 2018 Adam Fletcher for Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement

Start Anywhere and Go Everywhere

Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute

Do we need more special opportunities for particular youth to change the world? In these years of Freechild, we’ve discovered many youth engagement activities are merely opportunities for young people who are already privileged to exercise their privilege. Instead of making more opportunities for engaged youth to become more engaged, the Freechild Institute promotes the idea that we need to create new opportunities for youth engagement throughout our communities.

Youth Engagement: Start anywhere, go everywhere with every youth and every adult in every community all of the time.
Youth Engagement: Start anywhere, go everywhere with every youth and every adult in every community all of the time.

That’s why when we teach communities about youth engagement today, we say that in order to engage youth, you should start anywhere, go everywhere with every youth and every adult in every community all of the time.

That means that…

  • …If you’re a parent at home, watch what your youth are already doing right now, choosing to do again and again and build from that. Support them, help them expand their thinking, work with them to build their skills, and share new ideas about those things your youth are engaged in right now.
  • …If you’re a community-based youth worker, find out what issues matter most to the youth you support, and support them in taking action to address those issues instead of making everything focus on your issues that you or your organization have chosen for them to be involved in.
  • Teachers in classrooms can base their curriculum – whether its math or science or reading or public speaking – in the experiences, ideas and knowledges students bring into classrooms right now. Find out what they’re struggling with and make your lessons relevant to them, and move forward by sending them into action to learn from.

…No matter who we are or what we do, we each have an obligation to do what we can with what we have where we’re at right now. That’s what youth engagement is – practical, pragmatic and purposeful action, right now.

Start anywhere, go everywhere with every youth and every adult in every community all of the time. What can you do today?

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Creating a Youth Engagement Map

Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute

When we’re planning for youth engagement, it’s important to have a vision, dream big and hope for the absolute best. It’s vital to hold out for the most positive, powerful outcomes no matter what the odds, and to stick our necks out. However, to do that best we should put youth engagement plans on paper or type them up and share them with the people involved.

This is a map of any city youth engagement strategy by Adam Fletcher for Freechild Institute
A MAP OF ANY CITY This is a map of any city showing citywide youth engagement. (c) 2018 Adam Fletcher for Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement

The locations for youth engagement vary according to the community or organization doing the mapping. They can include formal and informal spaces; adult-approved and youth-driven places; and other sorts of possibilities for people to gather, belong, dream and take action. In the research and practice of the Freechild Institute since 2001, we’ve found there are many variables in mapping youth engagement.

Factors for Mapping Youth Engagement

Youth engagement mapping can include the following places.

  1. Youth in city hall
  2. Youth on school boards
  3. Youth engagement at home
  4. Youth owned businesses
  5. Youth engagement in the outdoors
  6. Youth led nonprofits
  7. Youth infused community planning
  8. Youth centric public transportation
  9. Schools focused on engagement instead of achievement
  10. Obvious youth made art, writing, theater, music and other creations
  11. Training and educational opportunities for everyone focused on youth engagement knowledge, skills, ideas and actions
  12. Community-wide investment in youth engagement
  13. Youth action research
  14. Youth led training and technical assistance on youth engagement
  15. Youth led spaces, activities, programs and organizations
  16. New technology supporting youth engagement
  17. Places where youth and adults interact as equals
  18. Training for adults on all aspects of youth engagement
  19. Educational opportunities to learn how to change the world
  20. Safe places for youth to be, do, create, dream
  21. Clear rules, laws, policies and procedures to build youth engagement
  22. Sustained funding to build, support and grow youth engagement
  23. “Edge spaces” for youth engagement that make some adults uncomfortable
  24. Transitional activities to support young adults becoming independent
  25. Specific activities to engage young people together for racial, cultural, social, educational, economic and other kinds of harmony and peace
  26. Places to engage LGBTTQQ youth
  27. Places to engage youth in racial, cultural and ethnic identities
  28. People who think beyond youth engagement and towards solidarity
  29. Opportunities to engage kids before they become youth
  30. Youth voting rights

Supports for Youth Engagement

There are dozens of supports for youth engagement. They can include:

  • A single, unified, wholistic strategy for the entire city
  • Personnel dedicated to youth engagement
  • Practices building youth engagement
  • Policies supporting youth engagement
  • Procedures that sustain youth engagement

Discover more parts of systems for youth engagement »

Youth Engagement Mapping Process

Our youth engagement mapping process can help communities and organizations expand their activities with intention and purpose while deepening the impact they have on young people and their communities.

This is a graphic of the Freechild Institute youth engagement mapping tool.
This is a graphic of the Freechild Institute youth engagement mapping tool.

Here’s a process Freechild uses with youth and adults to map youth engagement.

  1. Define a goal. Name what exactly you’d like to do; don’t just say, “Engage youth.” Instead, name who, what, when, where, why and how you’re going to engage youth.
  2. Identify allies. Find younger and older people who will support you while you’re engaging youth.
  3. Identify likely challenges. There are a lot of forces working against youth engagement; name them.
  4. Uncover layers of power. Power affects youth engagement a lot. Name the ways, show their faces and write them down.
  5. Develop a strategy. There’s no magic wand and it doesn’t often just happen. How exactly are you going to engage youth?
  6. Create a message. Young people are saturated by media of all kinds. Appealing to them requires a real message that’s authentically delivered to them. What’s your message?
  7. Get out there. How are you taking action for youth engagement? What are the places, people, preparations and outcomes you’re looking for? Get to work!
  8. Create a calendar. Show people how, where and when youth engagement is going to happen by creating a visual calendar and sharing it.
  9. Estimate needed resources. Youth engagement takes resources – what are yours?
  10. Monitor and evaluate. Keep your eyes open, your heart beating, your feet on the ground and your hands in the mud through monitoring and evaluation.

Once you’ve started a youth engagement map, consider what’s missing, find other people to contribute, and keep building!


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Youth Action Planning

Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute

Do you want to take action with young people? Children, youth and adults around the world are working together more than ever to make a difference. It can be hard figuring out the process though!

After almost 20 years of launching youth action projects around the world, Freechild thinks we should share what we’ve learned. In addition to our workshops and books, we want to make sure anyone can take positive, powerful action to make the world a better place.

Here is the Freechild Institute’s youth action planning process.

Steps for Planning Youth Action

  1. Find history. Young people have been making positive, powerful change for a long time. Learn about it, read stories, ask older people and get connected. Read about the history of youth action here »
  2. Explore power. In a world run by the powerful, it’s important to rise above being powerless. When we work together in community to make a difference, children, youth and adults can create power and challenge those in power. Read a focus on youth power here »
  3. Define the issue. What do you want to change? Research what matters to you, explore how to make a difference, and get info. Read about the issues here »
  4. Build community. The powerful want to cut off youth from each other and adults. Challenge that by rallying your friends, strangers, older and younger people, and people who are different from you. Get everyone involved in taking action. Read about youth organizations here » 
  5. Network. Find people who aren’t invested in your issue who’ll be your allies and build coalitions to for them to share space, ideas, knowledge and strength with you. Read more about the youth movement here »
  6. Map engagement. Match action to your issue, map out the steps to making a difference, name your communication strategy, and get to work. Read how to create a youth engagement map here »
  7. Celebrate. Reach out to the people, organizations, elected officials and others who are your allies, as well as people in your networks using social media and in-person contacts. Tell what’s happening, gather ideas and support, and keep moving. Read stories of youth changing the world here »
  8. Reflect on it. Look back on what’s happened, explore what you have done and could do, and plan your next steps using your new learning. Read about how to reflect here »

Once you’ve planned action, take action! Remember Freechild’s motto: “Once through action do words take power!”


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Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute
Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World

Quotes about Critical Pedagogy

Critical pedagogy is a revolutionary approach to teaching and learning, as it strives to create an equitable, just and fair world through the radical facilitation of social justice within communities of learners. A growing tradition among youth engagement facilitators, critical pedagogy is sometimes referred to as problem-posing education or popular education.

Following are some quotes related to critical pedagogy. It can be dangerous to take these quotes out of context or to minimize what is being said. As Paulo Freire wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “Manipulation, sloganizing, “depositing,” regimentation, and prescription cannot be components of revolutionary praxis, precisely because they are component of the praxis of domination.” If you’re serious about learning about critical pedagogy we suggest you learn more and take critical, conscious action. The following are quotes that inspire Freechild Institute; maybe they’ll inspire you, too.

 


Quotes on Critical Pedagogy for Youth

“We make the road by walking.” ― Paulo Freire and Myles Horton

“This movement of inquiry must be directed towards humanization — the people’s historical vocation. The pursuit of full humanity, however, cannot be carried out in isolation or individualism, but only in fellowship and solidarity; therefore it cannot unfold in the antagonistic relations between oppressors and oppressed.” — Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy.” ― bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

“Critical pedagogy is a movement and an ongoing struggle taking place in a number of different social formations and places.” ― Henry Giroux

“The educator for liberation has to die as the unilateral educator of the educatees, in order to be born again as the educator-educatee of the educatees-educators. An educator is a person who has to live in the deep significance of Easter.” ― Paulo Freire as quoted by Paul Taylor in The Texts of Paulo Freire

“As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.” ― bell hooks, Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

“Getting ahead cannot be the only motive that motivates people” ― Henry Giroux, Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?

“Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.” ― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Home was the place where I was forced to conform to someone else’s image of who and what I should be. School was the place where I could forget that self and, through ideas, reinvent myself.” ― bell hooks, Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

“I have not forgotten the day a student came to class and told me: ‘We take your class. We learn to look at the world from a critical standpoint, one that considers race, sex, and class. And we can’t enjoy life anymore.'” – bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

“The stories a society tells about itself are a measure of how it values itself, the ideals of democracy, and its future.” ― Henry Giroux

“Many of these leaders, however (perhaps due to the natural and understandable biases against pedagogy) have ended up using the ‘educational’ methods employed by the oppressor. They deny pedagogical action in the liberation process, but they use propaganda to convince.” ― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind, faith in the power to make and remake, to create and recreate, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is a privileged of an elite, but the birthright of all).” ― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“When everyone in the classroom, teacher and students, recognizes that they are responsible for creating a learning community together, learning is at its most meaningful and useful.” ― bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking

“The central element of teaching for social justice is intended to address the supposed tyranny of the banking model – teachers must learn from their students, much as well-heeled revolutionaries must learn from the oppressed people they wish to liberate.” ― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Power is never so overwhelming that there’s no room for resistance.” ― Henry Giroux

“Worse yet, it [banking model] turns them [students] into ‘containers’ to be ‘filled’ by the teacher. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teacher she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.” ― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“The school system is mostly geared to the interests, skills, and attitudes of the middle-class child. Though I also argue that the system is failing to educate middle-class students, it is the children of poverty who really suffer, being streamed into courses that prepare them for a life of temporary, dead-end, underpaid, undignified, and menial jobs.” ― Peter McLaren, Life in Schools: An introduction to critical pedagogy

“The teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration, and reconsiders her earlier considerations as the students express their own.” – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Critical pedagogy is concerned with teaching students how not only to think but to come to grips with a sense of individual and social responsibility, and what it means to be responsible for one’s actions as part of a broader attempt to be an engaged citizen who can expand and deepen the possibilities of democratic public life.” ― Henry Giroux

“Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.” – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Engaged pedagogy does not seek simply to empower students. Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process.” ― bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

“Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student and student-teachers’ who are ‘jointly responsible for a process in which both grow.” – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

 


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Youth/Adult Partnerships: Nothing About Us Without Us Is For Us

Youth + Social Change through Youth Popular Education

SoundOut Summer Camp Participants

Creating spaces for youth and popular education can support dynamic, powerful and just opportunities for social justice, youth empowerment and community engagement. Popular education is a way of facilitating learning that moves youth from being recipients towards becoming fully equal partners. Brazilian educator Paulo Freire taught that this approach can build learners’ beliefs they can change the world, by engaging them in the world instead of separating them from it. It can also integrate youth throughout communities by positioning them as co-learners, co-leaders and full members of society.

“This movement of inquiry must be directed towards humanization — the people’s historical vocation. The pursuit of full humanity, however, cannot be carried out in isolation or individualism, but only in fellowship and solidarity; therefore it cannot unfold in the antagonistic relations between oppressors and oppressed.” — Paulo Freire

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Popular Education

Youth-Led Programs — Supporting youth-led action moves popular education beyond traditional classroom learning towards interactive, engaging and hands-on social change. Youth design, develop and facilitate programming, including lesson plans, activities and projects, and more. This generative process builds knowledge and ideas while supporting the individual strength, self-esteem, and the overall capacities of youth, and it challenges assumptions about what youth can and cannot do.

Youth-Led Learning — Facilitating learning for themselves, their peers, younger people and adults allows young people to experience motivation, self-empowerment, hope and ability by positioning them in positions of capability while co-learning from others. Strengthening and challenging their knowledge, youth facilitators can grow the abilities of others in unique ways, too.

Youth Learning with Adults — Engaging youth and adults as co-learners through popular education can redefine their expectations of each other while fostering safe, supportive learning environments to grow and expand their knowledge, ideas and abilities. Providing access to each other as comrades in learning can foster healthy interactions between youth and adults, challenge negative stereotypes, improve intergenerational relations, and redefine social norms that negatively affect both youth and adults.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Popular Education

Education — Comprehensive training on popular education should teach youth about the ability, capability and power inherent in co-learning, co-teaching and cooperative education. Youth should learn about the role of the facilitator (versus a teacher, trainer, leader, etc.) by experiencing group animation and motivation; staying focused on learning during a popular education activity; ensuring all the voices within a group are heard; seeking consensus, and; offering supportive and helpful feedback.

Opportunities — Young people need substantial opportunities to facilitate popular education. By actively employing popular education strategies, they can experience the humility and learning needed to become effective community advocates; inspire people to change the world, and; have real fun!

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Real youth/adult partnerships engage young people and adults in equitable relationships that can build the power, purpose and potential of youth through popular education. Transparency, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement in popular education can allow young people and adults to work together to transform communities in powerful, positive ways.


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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how the Freechild Institute can support youth+ social change through youth as mediators in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth Engagement in Portland, Oregon

Back in the early 2000s, Portland, Oregon, was another midline American city with nothing special happening. Sure, they had a city youth council, but it was under-energized and ill-equipped for the new century that just began. Then, action happened.

In 2002, Multnomah County hired a new youth development coordinator named Josh Todd, and he transformed the entire operation. Over the course of a half-decade, he basically super-charged the county’s youth programs and set them up for the future.

During that time, there were several significant developments. They included:

  • Focusing on youth of color and low-income youth to dramatically increase their participation in youth engagement activities throughout the entire county;
  • Expanding the Multnomah County Youth Council and including the City of Portland to make the youth commission a joint City-County policy body;
  • Creating a two-year, community-wide project that created a Youth Bill of Rights, with more than 4,000 youth involved in the creation and implementation of the final document;
  • Securing significant funding from the Youth Innovation Fund of the Kellogg Foundation. They gave the City of Portland and Multnomah County $325,000 over 4-years to support their countywide youth engagement work. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation Youth Innovation Fund supported “diverse groups of young people, working in partnership with community institutions, to create civic innovations that address public issues and problems using a service-learning framework.”
  • They trained a lot of people through their program.

According to youth and adults there, the City of Portland and Multnomah County still have issues in their youth development, youth engagement and youth/adult partnership work. However, the work of the Youth Commission has made great strides today and into the future that all communities worldwide can learn from!

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