Taking Action for Youth Mainstreaming is essential. The following suggestions, drawn from The Freechild Project experiences and research, can help leaders get started with this effective and cutting-edge strategy.
1. Engage youth in every aspect of the Youth Mainstreaming planning process.
Youth must be directly, equitably and effectively engaged in each of the next steps and beyond, from crafting a vision to identifying and facilitating action for moving forward. Many cities have found youth partners invaluable in community building. Youth gain practical skills while also generating a wealth of new data from diverse sources.
2. Appoint youth to leadership roles.
Youth Mainstreaming positions young people in leadership roles throughout the organization and community where its happening. It is absolutely essential that young people have at least half of all leadership roles throughout all Youth Mainstreaming activities. Its also essential that all activities are not youth-led, but embody youth/adult partnerships to the fullest.
3. Educate youth and adults.
Both youth and adults will benefit from educational activities that teach them to adjust their working styles for maximum cooperation. Adults will need to overcome their perspectives of youth and learn how to engage youth as equitable partners, while youth may need to overcome their own preconceptions of adults and learn business meeting procedures. Both need to learn about youth voice, youth engagement and of course, Youth Mainstreaming, as well as adultism and youth/adult partnerships.
4. Commit to Youth Mainstreaming.
Youth Mainstreaming takes many forms, but the process for creating effective Youth Mainstreaming plans engages all stakeholders; forges a common vision; develops comprehensive strategies; shares accountability; and coordinates initiatives. Commit to a comprehensive planning process centering on Youth Mainstreaming and ensure collective commitment to it through consensus building, problem solving and strategic partnerships.
5. Effectively Engage Young People.
Engaging a diverse group of youth with different perspectives is as vital as having a broad range of adults participating in the process. Youth can contribute to all of the various aspects of the Youth Mainstreaming planning process, but both young people and the adults with whom they interact will need training and support to ensure that youth are equitable partners who are valued, encouraged, and reflected in throughout all Youth Mainstreaming plans and activities.
6. Envision a plan that can guide future action.
Before you begin, think about what your organization or community’s Youth Mainstreaming plan will look like, including what issues it will cover, what actions will be taken, how the outcomes will be presented, and what re-invention of the process will be like. Developing and documenting clear goals, action steps, and specific timelines heightens the Youth Mainstreaming plan’s impact and prospects for success.
7. Lay the groundwork for sustainability from the beginning.
The long-term success of Youth Mainstreaming hinges on generating support across whole organizations and throughout entire communities to implement and sustain the plan. Implementing a public outreach campaign, celebrating early victories, and making plans to collect data on key outcomes can help build a sense of ownership and commitment among both youth and adults who are involved, and throughout the broader community.
8. Engage as many people as possible throughout organizations and communities.
Ever single young person in every dimension of the program, no matter what their engagement, education, motivation, behavior or attitude, should be affected by your organization’s Youth Mainstreaming strategy. Parents, youth workers, program supervisors, executives, board directors and others are essential partners within organizations committed to Youth Mainstreaming. In every community, a diverse range of adults have a stake in the well-being of young people, too, and the ability to contribute, sustain and expand Youth Mainstreaming.
9. Promote a shared vision for Youth Mainstreaming.
Youth or adults can develop and promote a shared vision for Youth Mainstreaming within your organization or throughout your community. A strong vision statement about Youth Mainstreaming speaks to the urgency of the strategy. It should be linked to a measurable set of indicators and resonate with an organization or community’s broader hopes and concerns. The vision should also focus on inclusiveness and define shared priorities that are central to Youth Mainstreaming.
10. Assess needs and design comprehensive approaches.
The process of moving from a common vision to a cross-cutting approach for Youth Mainstreaming requires an assessment of what is working (i.e., strengths/assets on which to build) and what is not (i.e., biggest problems and challenges). Focus groups, community meetings, surveys, data collection and analysis, and community youth mapping are a few methods of generating an initial needs assessment with youth and adults involved.
11. Create a framework for shared accountability.
Keeping key stakeholders at the table after a Youth Mainstreaming approach has been crafted is vital. Shared accountability will specify the roles and responsibilities of each major partner, resting on the success of setting clear benchmarks and agreeing at the outset on the consequences when those benchmarks are not met. Stressing connections between new activities and each partner’s existing priorities can further strengthen their commitment to collaborative initiatives.
12. Coordinate cross-community efforts.
Identifying organizations and individuals that have the capacity, motivation, and standing in the community to monitor and report on the progress of Youth Mainstreaming is an important element of this work. Coordination of Youth Mainstreaming strategies can also promote better alignment of current programs, policies, and systems.
13. Empower youth and adults to promo together.
One effective way to generate publicity and recruit other participants in the planning process is to enlist youth and adults together as key messengers to local leaders and media outlets. When youth and adults speak from experience about Youth Mainstreaming, they can be powerful advocates. Youth and adults can speak together about Youth Mainstreaming at city council meetings or community events.
14. Make your Youth Mainstreaming plan public, obvious and apparent.
Creating the youth master plan document is not the culmination of work, but the starting point of a community’s comprehensive efforts for children and youth. An important component in a youth master plan is the documentation of next steps, including a delineation of the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders charged with implementation, an outline of the organizational structure(s) that will guide ongoing work, and a method for evaluating the plan. Setting priorities, using timelines with target implementation dates, and developing clear benchmarks for measuring success in each area can also enhance the plan’s effectiveness
15. Continually build support among community leaders.
As Youth Mainstreaming is implemented and moves beyond your organization throughout your entire community, it is vital that a broad range of city and community leaders lend their support and blend the strategy into the way organizations do business. In addition to youth throughout your organization and the entire community, adult leaders should include nonprofit executives and elected officials, as well as community leaders, faith community representatives, and others.
16. Measure progress over time.
By establishing a process for ongoing data collection, the planning team can assess the status of child and family wellbeing and measure the effectiveness of each strategy delineated in the plan. Planning teams have drawn on numerous sources of community-level data to track progress, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s online Data Center, city, county, and state governments, and local school districts and police departments. There are other measures of the effectiveness of Youth Mainstreaming, too.
17. Celebrate early and ongoing victories.
Demonstrate tangible results of Youth Mainstreaming as soon as possible. Celebrating these early victories will help generate and sustain momentum and maintain support from the youth and adults taking part in activities. Using periodic opportunities to recognize and celebrate success, Youth Mainstreaming organizations and communities can hold a press conference to announce the opening of a new youth positions or action centers, inviting local media to visit an engaged youth program, or honoring team members who worked collaboratively to achieve important milestones.
Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support Youth Mainstreaming in your community or organization, contact us.