Youth + Social Change through Youth as Board Directors

Freechild Project youth in São Paulo, Brazil.

Healthy nonprofit organizations and government agencies consider their entire communities or populations when they are determining organizational leadership and stewards. Engaging youth as board directors can ensure relevance to the people being served and healthy relationships between young people and adults.

Youth + Social Change through Youth as Board Directors

Youth on Boards — When young people serve as regular members of boards, they can raise issues, vote, advocate and critique the policies, processes, programs and any other part of an organization the board is responsible for.

Youth School Directors — As those most directly affected by school board decision-making, young people can serve as full members of boards of education. As school directors and school trustees, students add current, real time data, energy and much more.

Youth as Advocates — When adults won’t make room for youth as full members, young people can advocate in public organizations and entities, including public nonprofits, community groups, government agencies and other places.

Tools for Youth + Social Change through Youth as Board Directors

Opportunities — In adult-led youth-serving organizations, young people may feel alien to the decisions that affect them most. They need real opportunities to participate fully as board directors without being manipulated or tokenized.

Education — Learning about nonprofit boards, policymaking, advocacy and organizational leadership is essential for youth on boards. Aside from training on the skills necessary for action, young people also can learn about the issues, activities and outcomes of their boards and organizations, too.

Inspiration — Children and youth aren’t regularly involved in the decisions that affect them most. In order to get a sense of the democratic possibilities in society, they may need inspiration and motivation to take action. Whether stories of their peers, stories in history or otherwise, children and youth can be moved to action.


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Youth + Social Change through Youth as Consumers

Youth in Seattle with a Freechild Project summer camp

Anytime a person uses something, they are consuming it. This is especially true when money is used for goods and services. Youth as consumers do a lot with money, include paying for recreation, clothing, food and a variety of services. Young people might also buy money, transportation, and other key living tasks. Children and youth can learn to change the world by consuming responsibly, and more.

Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well. ― Frantz Fanon

Ways Youth + Social Change Happens for Youth as Consumers

Youth-Led Boycotts — When young people keep their money at home or refuse to shop in a specific stores, they are boycotting. Ways to help boycotts work including trading or bartering for things, or trading labor (action) for things. When children and youth stop spending their money in stores that depend on them, change can happen.

Shopping for Social Change — Choosing where to shop and what to buy on purpose can lead to powerful social change. Young people can spending their money to challenge bad business focused on many issues, including facing adultism, reducing poverty, ending hunger, stopping illegal child labor, increasing access to education, promoting ender equality, fighting for the equality and empowerment of women, increasing access to child health, increasing access to maternal health, and so on. Where children and youth spend their money and what they buy can affect all these issues and many more. When young people shop intentionally, they can change the world.

Youth as Trainers— Building the local economy can be a powerful way for young people to change the world, and one of the best ways to do that is by educating others. When youth learn about the economy, consumerism, creation, production, commercialism and other ways the economy works, they can teach others. Using hands-on, engaging learning methods can allow youth as trainers to effectively teach their peers, younger people and adults.

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Tools for Youth + Social Change through Consumerism

Education — Before anyone can effectively challenge the economic circumstances of themselves and others, they should learn about the economic systems they are engaged in. Learning the influences, impacts, outcomes and consequences of the economy and sharing them with others can transform the ways people see and engage with money and more.

Inspiration — Learning the impacts others have made on the economy, money and society can inspire and motivate young people to take action and make the world a better place. Its important not to use the failures of others as a motivation, especially when other people have decided they’re failures. Instead, allowing everyone to speak for themselves and share their own stories can provide genuine inspiration.

Money — Participating in the economy requires recognizing young people have something to contribute to the economy. With their roles largely unacknowledged by policymakers and parents, young people have to assert their economic impact. They can do this by learning what they have, how they spend it and what difference it can make.


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Youth + Social Change for Youth as Artists

Creating any kind of art, making any kind of art, or demonstrating any kind of art can allow youth as artists to change the world. Youth artists can entertain people, share social messages, create momentum and build support for changing the world, and otherwise transform their lives and the lives of others in countless ways.

Ways Youth + Social Change Happens through Art

Graffiti Art — Youth who create graffiti art can contribute to the social life of their communities and world. Their art can happen in small or large spaces, public or private places and in many forms, including spray painting and otherwise. The messages they share can be political, cultural, educational and otherwise.

Slam Poetry — Slam poetry pits young people in competition with others in a celebration of art, expression and community involvement. When they share social messages, political purposes and youth voice, youth slam poets can provide communities with powerful messages, authentic feedback and meaningful contributions.

Youth as Actors — Before becoming engaged on stage, youth actors may have to go through rigorous training and education to become actors. Finding their voices through theater can allow youth to express themselves in ways they’ve never known.

Tools for Youth + Social Change through Art

Education — Art cannot be trained. Instead, all forms of art can require intensive study, deep and critical feedback, and thoughtful reflection on one’s craft. Youth who learn to learn about the Arts can benefit their own skills and build the culture of their communities through education.

Apprenticeships — While traditional in many of the Arts, apprenticeships can take a new form when conducted as equitable youth/adult partnerships. Suddenly, youth can gain powerful new perspectives while informing adults about the value, position and meaning of their art.

Self-Publishing — Platforms that allow youth to create art on their own terms for their own ends can be empowering on many levels. Working with adults as partners can enrich this too, by providing everyone involved with substantive reflection and guidance on their arts.


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Youth + Social Change through Farming

Gardening, farming and otherwise raising food can be a powerful way for young people and adults to work together. Teaching essential lessons about sustainability, production and hard work, engaging youth as farmers can be an exciting way to change the world.

Ways Youth + Social Change Happens through Farming

Youth-Led Agriculture — Engaging young people in directing and teaching farming can be a dynamic, empowering way to promote healthy communities through urban and rural agriculture, community gardening, food security, and related environmental justice activities.

Community Gardens — While community gardens engage youth in growing their own food, they can also teach youth how to market food. Growing their own foods and becoming entrepreneurs can foster youth learning about their contributions to local food systems, too.

Out-of-School Time — On the evenings, the weekends and over the summer, young people can grow, manage, and otherwise operate gardens and farms of their own and with adults as allies. Youth leadership can transform communities, ensure healthy foods for rural and urban places, and transform their relationships within themselves and the world around them.

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tools for Youth + Social Change through Farming

Apprenticeships — Traditional agricultural apprenticeships weren’t formal, and didn’t have much room for youth voice. Today, these learning opportunities can be formal or informal, and should be driven by youth/adult partnerships. Both young people and adult farmers can learn from each other, and engaging youth in changing the world through agriculture is one way that can happen.

Education — Farming is woven deeply in human heritage from all cultures around the world. Youth farmers can be essential partners in moving this heritage towards the future, with meaningful educational opportunities and the empowering sharing of knowledge from previous generations.

Stories — Stories of youth as farmers can be vital tools for engaging youth in agriculture. Young people can learn values, history and different perspectives on food and farming, and can see themselves as part of the ongoing arc of human evolution. This identity allows them to see deeply into the past, and understand where they can guide their communities and the world into the future.


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  • Youth-Led Farming Handbook by Felege Hiywot Center
  • GRuB – Garden-Raised Bounty
  • Offers empowerment programs that focus on building youths’ nutrition, self-esteem, community connections, and academic enthusiasm. These programs are in the form of academic and employment opportunities to these youth, primarily between the ages of 13 and 19 in Thurston County, Washington.
  • Durham Inner-city Gardens – A youth-driven urban market farm and landscaping business.  We empower ourselves by learning all that we can about organic gardening, healthy business practices and responsible leadership. We break down racial and cultural barriers through communication and understanding within our diverse crew. We grow produce using organic techniques and sell it at the Durham Farmer’s Market. And we promote and maintain open green spaces within the city.
  • Seattle Youth Garden Works – Empowers underserved youth through garden-based education and employment.  We are a youth market gardening program for homeless and youth-in-need ages 14-22 in the University District and South Park neighborhoods. Our goals are to connect youth to housing, health care, education, jobs and community.
  • The Food Project Youth Program – Agriculture, enterprise and service are combined to create a rigorous, practical and integrated experience. Through all of our youth programs, people of all ages bridge communities through farming and food and discover their interdependence with ach other as well as with those who purchase and receive their produce. Youth and adults in Lincoln, Nebraska and Boston, Massachusetts learn that work on the land can be a powerful equalizer, teacher and catalyst for personal, local and global change.
  • Mo Better Food – This student-led organization works in the West Oakland, California seeks to establish a self-sufficient network between African- American farmers and predominate African- American communities; to preserve and improve Land owned by African-Americans by networking with African- American farmers in the Southern states; and to educate the predominate African- American communities of their history concerning land ownership and farming.
  • Literacy for Environmental Justice – An urban environmental education and youth empowerment organization created specifically to address the unique ecological and social concerns of Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco, and the surrounding communities of Mission, Potrero Hill, Visitacion Valley, and Excelsior, California.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Trainers

Students in the SoundOut Summer Camp in Seattle

Training can mean many things. When they train adults, youth, children, and others, young people can share their wisdom, ideas, knowledge, attitudes, actions, and processes in order to guide programs, nurture organization and community cultures, and change the world. Roles for youth as trainers can build youth/adult partnerships, engage diversity in practical ways, and build communities that everyone can benefit from beyond their ages.

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Trainers

Youth as Public Health Educators — In addition to reaching their peers effectively, youth public health trainers can teach their families and their communities in general about important public health issues, including drug abuse, sanitation. disease prevention and other topics.

Youth/Adult Partnerships and Youth Voice — Facilitating educational and training opportunities for their peers and others, youth trainers can expand organizational horizons, build community capacity and develop new approaches for youth workers, adult educators, nonprofit workers and others to foster youth/adult partnerships and engage youth voice.

Technology Teachers — Educating adults, their peers and young children about technology can allow youth to develop skills and knowledge, as well as create opportunities to develop their critical literacy and coding abilities. When youth are engaged as technology teachers they can contribute fantastically to their present and future, developing knowledge and skills needed for the rest of their lives.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Trainers

Education — Educating young people about the knowledge and abilities they need to empower others to create new dynamic and engaging opportunities for learning and teaching. Youth can learn through action and empowerment, given real-world goals, interactive activities and community-oriented opportunities to interact with the world beyond themselves.

Action — Using training as a way to activate others can happen through service learning, experiential education and other avenues. However, using that action to actually impact the world they live in and contribute to every day is essential.

Empowerment — Being able to train, teach, educate and facilitate others isn’t necessarily empowering. Instead, empowerment only becomes obvious when its made explicit in the eyes of the learner and the trainer. Empowerment through training others can happen by moving beyond rote memorization and toward group learning and interaction.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Politicians

Adult allies of youth explore what they need to learn for themselves.

Running for political office at the community, city, county, or state and provincial levels, youth as politicians should be able run for a variety of positions. While this practice is currently illegal in most places around the world, there are standout examples where young people have changed the world through engaging in government and politicians.

Older, younger, anyone can help. We’ve learned that our legislators listen, and people with passionate and thoughtful concerns make a difference every day. We’ve had constituents initiate legislation, lobby for it, organize meetings and events, and, of course, call, mail, email and visit legislators to express their views. It’s really great to see how much difference that individuals can make. — Doris Day

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Politicians

Youth Mayors — For more than 100 years, youth have been leading villages, towns and cities around the world. Through democratically elected positions, young people have provided leadership, guidance and direction to adults and youth people, building better communities, managing civic infrastructure and leading local governments.

Students as School Board Members — Working with adults as allies, students on school boards can learn about the governance of schools through full memberships, equal in number with adults. Their contributions have led to at least one school board saving hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are motivating districts to engage students as partners in education leadership.

Youth as Political Party Members — Every major political party has a youth wing that’s working to advance party politics. When youth are full members of these parties, they can create political agendas, reinforce their perspectives and demonstrate youth engagement.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Politicians

Education — Learning about democracy is not enough; learning through democracy isn’t enough either. Instead, young people of all ages need opportunities to become fully immersed in democracy education through action. Planning, learning, action and reflection are all parts of the education process they should experience.

Opportunities — Young people need opportunities to serve their communities, countries and the world as elected officials. With full youth suffrage, all elected positions throughout every government should get rid of their age requirements. In turn, all youth everywhere should be encouraged to run for office as frequently possible.

Empowerment — Empowerment is a tool that ensures youth have full opportunities to become just as engaged as adults, with complete voting privileges, the right to raise issues, and every other opportunities adults have.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Makers and Youth Producers

Freechild Project youth in Seattle

Producing, creating, manufacturing, designing, redesigning, recreating, identifying, specifying, and otherwise making anything is at the heart of the maker movement. Engaging youth as makers can mean empowering them with the resources to build what they want, what communities need, and what the world is calling for.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. — Alan Kay

Ways for Social Change through Youth Making and Youth Producing

Youth as Builders — When youth are engaged as builders, they are creating, designing, assembling and manufacturing things the world needs. They may make devices, computer programs, instruments, mechanisms or other technology. These things can change the world when they answer unmet social needs.

Youth Construction — Constructing the physical spaces humans live in in an example of youth as makers. They may design and build parks, buildings, indoor spaces, outdoor places and other areas humans and nature occupy, literally changing the world and compelling people to live better, do better and be better through intention.

Youth Internships — Working with adults as learning interns can allow young people to build their knowledge and skills while contributing to maker works. Whether happening in the textile arts, metalwork, woodwork, or technology, maker internships should be focused on youth/adult partnerships that recognize young people teach and learn while adults learn and teach, and that in maker culture, it’s never an either/or situation.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Making and Youth Producing

Technology — Practical training and unique exposures to a range of applications and organizations can allow young people to use technology to in powerful, meaningful and substantive ways. Where 3-D printers can allow young people to design physical objects like prosthetic limbs and housing materials in real time, handheld devices can allow them to create apps and construct physical spaces on their own.

Maker Spaces — Maker spaces are places with people, tools and opportunities for youth to become makers. Through equipment, community, and education, young people can design, prototype and create things they might not be able create otherwise. Providing access is key to maker spaces, and young people’s engagement and empowerment can be a key to making them work for everyone.

Training — Training young people how to make things, whether through manufacturing, creation, or otherwise, can engage youth voice in exciting new ways. Building the skills and knowledge of young people is vital, and can compel young people to get engaged and change the world!

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  • Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager
  • YoungMakers – Participants ages 8-18 and of varying backgrounds, interests, and skill levels, work together in small clubs throughout the season to design and make a youth-chosen, open-ended project, culminating in an opportunity to share and exhibit at a showcase event.
  • YouthBuild – In programs across the United States and across the globe, low-income young people learn construction skills to help build affordable housing and other community assets such as community centers and schools.
  • Youth inclusive product development” by Youth Economic Opportunities
  • Youth producers” by Central Washington Animal Agriculture Team
  • Simphony Productions” by Youth Impact HUB Oakland

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Voting

Freechild Project Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre

The highest civic duty of any person anywhere in any democratic society is voting. That key tool is the highest ability of everyone, but unfortunately, in most democracies worldwide, extremely large minorities of residents aren’t allowed to vote: young people. Children and youth around the world are not allowed to share their voices and represent their own best interests through voting.

Freechild Institute advocates and works towards entirely, wholly and completely towards full youth suffrage or eliminating the voting age in every election in every municipality, city, state, province and country around the world. Gaining the right to vote is also called suffrage; we believe in children’s suffrage and youth suffrage. The following quotes were spoke at the signing of the time of the United States Voting Rights Act in 1965. Their points apply to youth suffrage today as well.

“Lowering the voting age will… provide [youth] with a direct, constructive, and democratic channel for making their views felt and for giving them a reasonable stake in the future of the nation.” — Former United States President Lyndon B Johnson

“The reason the voting age should be lowered is not that 18 year olds are old enough to fight. It is because they are smart enough to vote. Youth today are not as young as they used to be.” —Former United States President Richard Nixon, on signing the Voting Rights Act

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Voting

Youth Voting for City Offices  — A few cities in the United States and several in Europe have lowered their voting ages to allow youth to vote for city council elections, local government officials and other positions in their communities. This allows young people to become active and engaged in changing the world through democratic processes.

Youth Suffrage — In Scotland, all people older than 16 can vote in every election, all of the time. Originally instituted in 2015, this police is allowing young people to actively contribute to their nation’s health and well-being, as well as fortifying the already substantial contributions youth are making to Scotland.

Youth as Lobbyists — Even without the right to vote, young people can advocate to politicians, government policy makers and other government officials to move social, economic, educational, political and cultural laws, rules and regulations in directions they want. As lobbyists, youth are changing the world by becoming engaged in an essential part of the democratic system that governs most nations.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Suffrage

Education — Training young people about democratic processes and educating them about democracy in general can be an empowering, engaging activity. It is absolutely essential that student/adult partnerships focused on mutual accountability, transparency and respect are at the center of educating youth about voting, politics and government.

Organizing — When young people work together with adults as allies, they can organize their peers, friends and entire communities. This tool can allow youth voting to become an issue in local, state, provincial and national politics by promoting media attention, political motivation and cultural growth.

Inspiration — Focusing on the successes of the youth suffrage movement can be an essential way to inspire, motivate and otherwise compel people of all ages to take action for youth-led social change.


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Youth + Social Change through Youth Volunteers

Freechild Project youth and adults working together in Seattle

Volunteering happens when anyone gives their time to a cause they believe in. Without getting paid, engaging youth as volunteers can use natural talents, develop skills, share knowledge, and gain experience. They can also experience the joy that can come from making a real difference to other people’s lives, as well as their own.

You’re never too young to change the world! — Freechild Institute motto

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Volunteering

 Youth-Led Organizations — When young people take initiative, identify resources, and secure support to create the organizations, programs and activities they want and need to make the world a better place, they are changing the world. Youth-led organizations can address any issue, take any action and rally any people to transform society, change attitudes, and move culture forward.

Youth as Project Leaders — Focusing on specific projects and activities, young people can recruit, train, facilitate, evaluate, advocate and recreate the things they want and need to do throughout communities.

Student-Driven Service Learning — Using volunteerism to meet real classroom learning goals, student-driven service learning can transform schools and communities. Young people can learn and engage others in action in order to change society, while enforcing, reinforcing or gaining new knowledge about dozens of subjects in schools.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Volunteering

Training — Learning what actions, ideas and reflections matter in volunteerism can enrich young peoples’ experiences in social change. Children and youth can be trained in skills like creative problem solving, building consensus, and navigating disagreements. Training can also help build knowledge, like project planning, resource acquisition, grantwriting and more.

Inspiration — Becoming inspired to take action and improve their lives and the lives of others can be essential to young people. With stories and examples from their friends and peers, children and youth can feel compelled to make a difference in the world around them.

Credit — Acknowledgment can be quickly given when people are older, but when they are younger its hard sought. Giving children and youth credit for volunteering can take a lot of forms, from simple verbal acknowledgment to classroom credit. Its essential for adults to let young people are making a difference, and that parents, teachers, counselors, elected officials and others see that difference.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Media Makers

Freechild Project adult ally teaching youth media making skills

Showing communities how to move forward and transforming the behavior of youth and adults, engaging youth media makers can lead to social change in a lot of ways. Youth can become change agents through television, zines, radio, social media, magazines, podcasts, and newspapers, together with the people and organizations involved in their production.

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. — Malcolm X

Ways Youth can Change the World by Making Media

Youth Created Newspapers — Young people can create newspapers in print or online that report the facts, share the editorials and generate conversations young people and adults need to hear. Using their voices can lead to engaging reporting, progressive opinions and meaningful dialogues throughout communities.

Youth as Reporters — Identifying what news matters to them and their communities, youth as reporters can share unique perspectives, get unique angles and drive powerful stories. Reporting on the stories that matter to them can reflect youth voice in substantial, meaningful ways that nobody else can.

Youth Websites — Youth making websites to reflect their knowledge, opinions, ideas, wisdom and actions can provide powerful, meaningful and creative outlets for youth voice. Building regular websites that share dynamic, engaging content can allow young people to build communities in ways few other media can.

Things Supporting Youth + Social Change through Youth Media Making

Internet — The internet is a media tool that can be used for research, storytelling, production, community building and many other purposes that are important for media making. That makes providing youth with unfettered access to the Internet is an essential avenue for fostering youth + social change with media making.

Education — Learning the skills and knowledge necessary to be responsible media makers and critical media consumers is essential for all youth, everywhere. Being able to choose whether or not to consume and produce media is a choice all people should have in democracies, youth too.

Small Batch Printing — Being able to produce youth-created newspapers, zines, posters and other print materials can transform youth and generate interest in youth voice. It can also create broad support for young people

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  • Youth Radio – A media production company training diverse young people in digital media and technology by partnering with industry professionals. Students learn to produce marketable media for massive audiences while bringing youth perspectives to issues of public concern.
  • Adobe Youth Voices – Ignites young people’s ability to har­ness creative skills to solve problems to empower them to find their voice and make it heard.
  • Youth Media Reporter (YMR) – An open access, peer-reviewed professional journal for scholars, practitioners and others who develop, organize, teach, study and support youth media practices and programs. YMR includes research articles, descriptive case studies, brief reports from the field, and reviews of scholarship, technologies, conferences and other events related to the practices, pedagogies, and analysis of youth media.

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