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:
- Community & Youth Engagement Office in the Danville, Virginia Police Department
- Council for Women & Youth Involvement Office in the North Carolina Department of Administration
- City of Aurora, Colorado Office of Youth Development in Aurora, Colorado
- Office of Youth Development in the New York State Office of Children and Family Services
- Navajo Nation Office of Dine Youth in Chinle, Arizona
- Office of Youth Development in Louisville, Kentucky
- Office of Youth Development in the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
For further information, including examples, training and technical assistance, call the Freechild Institute at (360) 489-9680.