Youth Voice Tools

Youth participants in a Freechild program.

The Freechild Project Youth Voice

The Freechild Project defines Youth Voice as the active, distinct, and concentrated ways young people represent themselves throughout society.

The Freechild Project has been promoting Youth Voice in nonprofit organizations, schools, foundations and government agencies since it was founded in 2001.

Working with a variety of partners across the country, Freechild has learned about Youth Voice from the 1000s of young people and adult allies in our workshops and critical conversations.

Use the Table of Contents below to find some of the tools, examples and resources we have developed and collected over the years.

Youth Voice Tools
Table Of Contents

Elsewhere Online


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

Youth and Economics

Freechild Project adult ally teaching youth media making skills

Designing and producing products, selling services, paying taxes, making consumer choices, critiquing marketing, and saving money are some of the ways young people affect the economy. Through education, action and empowerment, youth and economics can lead to social transformation and engagement in range of ways. Economic literacy is the start; economic engagement, critical thinking, and reimagining the economy expand from there.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”— R. Buckminster Fuller


Ways Youth are Changing the World through Economics

Youth Creating Economies — The knowledge and skills of young people today allow them to create legal economies and navigate the larger economies around them in ways never possible before. Youth creating economies are responsible for creating, designing, producing, marketing, selling and re-investing in things they care about, in ways they care for. This can change the world in powerful ways by fostering dynamic, disruptive new ways.

Youth as Teachers — Are you a driver in the economy, or a victim to the economy? Do you control your job, your income and your role in the workplace, or does some invisible force? Young people can teach their peers, younger people and adults about mindsets focused on economics. This can include community workshops for youth and adults, building lessons in how we think into early childhood development programs, teaching educators teach about learning styles and mindsets, and more.

Youth Motivators — Instead of piping false hope across social media and television, young people can promote practical hopefulness to support youth action. Actively building youth/adult partnerships, serving as a mentor, in an apprenticeship, as professional staff, and many other actions can all give young people stories to tell and lessons to share that can change the world.


The Freechild Project Political Action Institute
For info about The Freechild Project Political Action Institute contact us!


Things Youth Need to Change the World through Economics

Training — If we really want to promote youth engagement in the economy, we have to create training programs specifically made for youth that are not only theoretical but also practical and experiential. Appropriate financial help and mentoring by experienced practitioners are also vital.

Opportunities — Creating real programs, projects, activities and services that promote youth engagement in the economy can radically transform economies. Young people of all ages have capacities that can build economies at the local and international levels, and every point between.

Organizing — Youth-led community organizing can focus on economic justice, creating jobs, fostering local economies, and many other issues important to youth in the economy. Their action can be self-driven and assisted with adult allies, or represent youth/adult partnerships in action. With critical thinking and reflection built in, these opportunities can create new knowledge, develop new economies and foster community empowerment for everyone involved, including children and youth.


Related Articles


Elsewhere Online





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

Youth Mainstreaming

Freechild Project youth in a summer camp session

Youth mainstreaming is deliberately creating places and positioning young people throughout society in order to foster full, regular and normalized youth voice everywhere, all of the time. It can happen at home, in schools, business, government, nonprofit organizations, places of worship, and other places. Elected officials, teachers, youth workers, parents, ministers, and many other people can benefit when the voices of youth, including their knowledge, ideas, wisdom and thoughts are actively embedded in decision-making, research, teaching, evaluation, policymaking, and advocacy. Youth mainstreaming is all of this and more, and all of it can change the world.


Ways Youth Mainstreaming Can Change the World

Government Agencies — Local, regional, federal and international policymaking organizations can all facilitate youth mainstreaming throughout their functions, from the broad policymaking actions to everyday, operational activities including program facilitation, research, evaluation, and other actions. Policies, procedures, funding and outcomes should all be part of youth mainstreaming activities in these organizations.

Education Systems — On the federal, regional and district levels, youth mainstreaming can revolutionize learning, teaching and leadership throughout schools. Youth mainstreaming in education takes the form of engaging students in every action throughout the education system. It also means changing the roles of students and educators by fostering youth/adult partnerships for every student in every school at every grade level all of the time.

Local Nonprofit Organizations — Local nonprofits / NGOs work on the village, town, city and county levels to address critical community needs in education, public safety, health, the environment, and countless other areas. Infusing children and youth throughout every single part of their operations can lead these organizations to greater degrees of effectiveness in many ways.


Things Needed for Youth Mainstreaming to Change the World

Strategy — Perhaps more than any other strategy for young people to change the world, youth mainstreaming depends on deliberate strategies for success. Identifying where and when youth voice should be engaged; educating others about youth mainstreaming; determining different approaches to fostering youth/adult partnerships within systems; creating policies and procedures for mainstreaming; evaluating outcomes; and identifying next steps are all important. Once these strategic steps have been taken, practical action and reflection should begin as soon as possible.

Education — Youth mainstreaming requires addressing all three pillars of social change: individual attitudes; shared cultures; and specific systems. In order to spread ownership, foster support and sustain commitment, educating people about the types of changes that happen within those pillars is essential. Because youth mainstreaming is a responsive approach, education for each area should be different, as organizations vary in their scope, activities and outcomes.

Opportunities — Creating opportunities for youth mainstreaming requires organizational leadership, a program champion and youth advocates. These opportunities require substantive commitments of resources, including staffing, training, supplies and other tools, including sustained and appropriate funding.


Youth Mainstreaming by The Freechild Project

The Freechild Project Youth Mainstreaming Guide >>


Elsewhere Online



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.

Youth and Free Speech

Youth in Seattle with a Freechild Project summer camp

Around the world, generally well-meaning (but poorly informed) adults limit the abilities young people have to express themselves. However, the right to free speech belongs to children and youth, too. Parents, teachers, headmasters and principals, religious leaders, government officials, court judges and politicians who set limits on the free speech of young people simply because of their ages are actively practicing adultism, and are ill-advised. Youth and free speech can change the world, giving new leeway, new abilities and new realities to young people and communities around the world.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. — Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Ways Youth are Changing the World through Free Speech

Youth Organizing — Leading campaigns focused on free speech, young people can rally their friends, peers, younger people and entire communities. Organizing campaigns can target on repression of free speech, youth expression, community building activities, and other ways free speech happens throughout our lives and our communities.

Youth as Teachers — When young people gain knowledge and skills focused on free speech, they can develop  the skills necessary to transform the hearts and minds of students. Experiencing youth facilitation on learning, teaching and leadership can inspire others to take fast action, assume appropriate responsibility, and move people from resistance to acceptance to advocacy quickly.

Youth Media Makers — Developing, researching, reporting, distributing and critiquing the media they consume can position young people as powerful free speech advocates. Youth voice and advocacy can be bolder, last longer and have greater impact when youth media makers are active throughout a community, on the Internet or in other venues.

Youth as Artists — Creative expressions of attitudes, wisdom, knowledge, ideas, criticism and culture are powerful ways young people can express their free speech rights and advocate for youth free speech. Youth as artists can alter individual opinions, build community knowledge and share cultural expression that might otherwise be ignored, denied or lost.


The Freechild Project Cycle of Youth Voice
Learn about the Cycle of Youth Voice.


Things Youth Need to Change the World through Freedom of Speech

Education — Learning the extent of free speech, how to effectively advocate for free speech, and what the challenges to free speech are can be a powerful tool for social change. Young people can identify where free speech is and isn’t in their lives, reflect on its meaning to them, and learn through action by expressing their free speech.

Action — Engaging youth in expressing their free speech can be a powerful way to transform the places where young people live, learn, play and work everyday. Tools for action can include community organizing, media making, the Artsparticipatory action research, consumerism and many other expressions.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Fostering youth/adult partnerships can be a powerful way to engage youth for free speech. Parents, teachers, youth workers, community advocates and others can infuse the principles of youth/adult partnership into their relationships with young people, and specifically teach and encourage free speech by children and youth.


Related Articles


Elsewhere Online



Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in free speech in your community or organization, contact us.

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.

Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

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.

You Might Like…

Elsewhere Online


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

Youth/Adult Partnerships

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

At the middle of every part of society are relationships: Parents and children, teachers and students, businesses and consumers, politicians and voters, doctors and patients, and many other relationships. If people are honest about wanting young people to change the world, they need to admit that many of these relationships do not currently allow children and youth to make a difference. The framework provided by youth/adult partnerships does. These are intentional relationships that can happen anywhere, anytime and move young people from being the passive recipients of an adult-driven world towards being active partners everywhere, all the time.

The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown… The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.

— Margaret Mead, anthropologist

Ways Youth can Change the World through Youth/Adult Partnerships

Youth as Allies — Young people can develop compassion and understanding towards adults and offer themselves as resources in order to foster positive relationships. Youth being adults to allies can teach about adultism, practice nonviolent communication, and become actively engaged throughout their own lives.

Parenting Partners — In historical family models, parents and children assumed a binary relationship where each person was seen as an opposite. Youth as parenting partners are actively engaged in their own upbringing by being actively involved in decision-making and taking responsibility in proportion to the rights they experience. Parents who are parenting partners actively seek to engage children and youth in the family and throughout the home, and actively advocate for young people throughout the community, too.

Youth-Led Programming — Youth/adult partnerships can flourish in youth-led programming. Equitable training, planning, facilitation, reflection and critical thinking can position youth as substantial agents of change while allowing adults to have appropriate roles as mentors, co-planners and staff.

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth/Adult Partnerships

Critical Thinking — Critical thinking is being able to name a thing; seeing where it exists; doing something with it; taking it apart; summarizing it; and/or assessing the thing. When young people deliberately develop their abilities to doing these things, they can change the world through their beliefs and actions that happen as an outcome. Critical thinking can be fostered and grown into a powerful skill that youth/adult partnerships can embody, foster and embolden in healthy and appropriate ways.

Opportunities — Creating clear, practical opportunities for youth/adult partnerships can happen in schools, youth programs, nonprofit organizations, government agencies any other place that can benefit from meaningful youth involvement. Understanding youth/adult partnerships as a framework can empower adults and youth throughout society.

Education — The skills of trust, communication, respect, mutual investment, and meaningful involvement are at the center of youth/adult partnerships; intentionality, transparency and reciprocity drive these relationships. Learn all of this provides an opportunity and challenge for many young people and adults who are used to traditionally passive or adversarial interactions with each other.

You Might Like…

Elsewhere Online



Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth/adult partnerships in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth and Adults

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

Young people live in an adult world. Youth and adults constantly interact, react and have transactions with each other. Reliant on adults for basic needs, advanced needs, and most wants in-between, for a long time children and youth were forced to accept whatever adults gave them. However, more than ever before, adults are recognizing that young people today should be allowed to choose how they interact with adults.


Ways Youth Can Change the World with Adults

Youth Facing Adultism — In schools, communities and homes throughout the world, adults act arbitrarily and with contempt for children and youth. Social customs, government laws and official systems have been developed in most nations to ensure young people act how, when, where and why adults want them to. Youth fighting adultism challenge the assumptions behind adultism, which is bias towards adults.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — When young people and adults form intentional relationships based on trust, transparency, mutual investment and meaningful involvement, they can form youth/adult partnerships. Youth/adult partnerships position both adults and youth as equitable partners who contribute to the growth of each other in practical, positive and purposeful ways. They can happen anywhere in our society.

Youth as Mentors — When adults decide they are mature enough to learn from young people, they can seek youth as mentors. In this capacity, adults can gain new knowledge, challenge old assumptions and develop their skills as teachers, police officers, social workers and other types of positive professional relationships with young people. Adults can also gain powerful new abilities in their personal relationships with children and youth, as parents, older relatives and friends.


Spectrum of Adult Support for Young People
Discover our Spectrum of Adult Support for Young People!


Things Youth Need to Change the World with Adults

Training — Young people and adults can develop their healthy abilities to work with each other through skill-building and knowledge sharing activities that are designed to empower and engage each group. Communication, conflict resolution, intergenerational relationships, and other skill-building can benefit adults and youth in a variety of ways.

Education — Learning what matters to each other is an important step in youth and adult relationships. Through youth-led workshops and listening activities with adults, both young people and adults can develop their compassion, connections and understanding of each other.

Inspiration — Discovering stories and finding motivation to learn from each other can compel youth and adults to work with each in dynamic new ways.


Related Articles



Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement with adults in your community or organization, contact us.


Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Youth and Child Labor

Freechild Project youth protest in Seattle

In communities around the world, including the United States and other industrialized countries, there are countless numbers of young people who work for a living. These young people often work without schools; healthcare is a dream; and sanitary conditions often escape them, too. These same children and youth can overcome their conditions, and change the world. Youth and child labor can be a powerful combination when young people are concentrating on overcoming illegal, forced child labor.

You can’t regulate child labor. You can’t regular slavery. Some things are just wrong. — Michael Moore


Things Youth Are Doing to Change the World focused on Child Labor

Youth-Led Activism — When young people take action on child labor they have a variety of actions to use. Picketing, protesting, walk-outs, sit-ins and voter education are steps in the right direction. They can also attend schools, research issues and teach adults about child labor. Youth-led activism can transform very negative situations, push policy change and expand awareness.

Youth-Led Research — Studying the reality of child labor in everyday settings can be a powerful activity for youth. Youth-led research can focus on the service sector, around the house, street labor, farming, making things, and trafficking. By conducting their own studies, developing reports and presenting them to decision-makers and the public, young people can provide substantive evidence, meaningful pictures and factual information.

Youth and Economics — Building the positive power of young people in economies can provide an essential and immediate transition from forced child labor towards an educated, positive future for everyone. Healthy economic development can happen through entrepreneurialism, social entrepreneurship, engaging youth in positive workplace activities, and of course, through education. All of these activities can change the world focusing on ending forced child labor.


child labor


Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Child Labor

Education — Access to education is the major barrier for children and youth to escape poverty and forced child labor. Education can also be the key to ending generational ignorance about the negativity of forced child labor and alternatives. Young people can build their personal power, increase community responsiveness and empower each other, younger people and adults to make a difference through education, too.

Opportunities — Young people need non-tokenistic, substantial opportunities to challenge child labor, whether they are in it or interested in it. These opportunities should include training and education; be sustainable; and focus on actionable goals with visible, real goals.

Inspiration — Struggling through being forced to work at a young age or being numbed out as mindless consumers can take away the motivation and enthusiasm of young people. Meaningful inspiration to throw off the shackles of oppressive child labor can be essential for addressing the situation.


Related Articles


Elsewhere Online





Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth challenging child labor in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth and Commercialism

More stuff than ever is for sale today. Young people buy things. However, youth and commercialism is not a simple relationship between abusive marketers and simplistic young people. Instead, there are children and youth today who are challenging the addiction to buying things, including images, ideas and culture. Around the world children and youth are creating new ways to relate to the corporate and commercial culture that has been built around them. They are pushing away professional athletes, Internet websites and cellphone apps, television stations, schoolbook covers and other targeted marketing designed to sell them things. Instead, they are supporting local economies and simply not buying as much as they used to. This is changing the world right now.

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” ― Noam Chomsky


Ways Youth are Changing the World by Challenging Consumerism

Youth Teaching Consumer Education — Teaching children and youth to make informed decisions about what they buy, how they purchase it, what it truly costs, and what the outcomes are of their purchases can be a powerful role for youth as teachers. Educating their peers, young people, parents and communities about commercialism is one way youth are changing the world right now.

Youth as Advocates — Building community, creating consensus and fostering social change are some of the ways youth as advocates are changing the world. By organizing their peers, leading movements against marketing in schools, and shifting public perception about consumerism children and youth are helping reduce the footprint of their communities on the Earth, build sustainable economies and foster a new world.

Local Economies — In communities around the world, youth as makers and producers are growing local economies, designing solutions and solving the crisis consumerism has thrust upon the planet. Through farming, production, design and conscientious consumption, children and youth are disrupting and directly challenging unsustainable, non-holistic approaches to production and consumption.


Things Youth Need to Change the World by Challenging Consumerism

Education — Learning about commercialism is a key to children and youth becoming informed young consumers who are capable of critical thinking focused on changing the world. Commercial is different from consumerism, too; many things that used to be free or paid for with public money are now paid services, products or places. Young people need to learn the effects of commercialism, neoliberalism and other economic changes in their lives. Educating young people about commercialism can change the world in a variety of ways.

Inspiration — Given its ever-present reality, challenging commercialism can feel overwhelming and revolutionary. It is. However, sharing stories, personal examples and other inspirational tools with children and youth can change the world.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Taking action together to change the world, youth/adult partnerships can be tools for understanding, criticizing and challenging commercialism. Adults can empower young people to challenge the negative effects of commercialism while children and youth empower adults to be more effective and sustainable in their efforts, too.


Related Articles


Elsewhere Online




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

Youth and Globalization

Freechild Project youth with picket signs in Seattle

Around the world, more young people than ever are building a global culture focused on engagement, interaction and democracy. Whether building economies, promoting peace and nonviolence, creating educational opportunities or developing transnational cooperation, youth and globalization are tied together tightly. Culture, communication, science, peacemaking, the Arts and more can cross boundaries easily, and young people around the world today are more interdependent than any previous generation. By focusing on democracy and empowerment, they are changing the world right now.

An individual action, multiplied by millions, creates global change. — Jack Johnson


Ways Youth can Change the World focusing on Globalization

Facilitating Action — Creating and co-leading opportunities for themselves, their peers, young people and adults to become connected with each other globally is one way children and youth are changing the world. Engaging youth as facilitators means fostering substantive ways they can take the reigns and move forward with globalization in a positive, powerful way that moves beyond money and capitalism and towards a new economy focused on cooperation and connectivity.

Advocating Change— Simply and blinding accepting every economic, social and political decision made for them doesn’t work for many young people today. Instead, youth as advocates are standing up for what they believe in; engaging their friends and peers as allies; and fostering powerful new connections with adults and institutions to make a difference.

Going Mainstream — Youth mainstreaming is deliberately creating places and positioning young people throughout society in order to foster full, regular and normalized youth voice everywhere, all of the time. As it focuses on globalization, youth mainstreaming can happen in businesses, government, nonprofit organizations, places of worship, government agencies, and international policymaking organizations. Elected officials, policymakers, program staff, and many other people can benefit when young people are thoroughly and actively embedded in decision-making, research, teaching, evaluation, policymaking, and advocacy. Youth mainstreaming focused on globalization can unite far-flung cultures, create relevant strategies for cooperation, and foster new relationships in ways that adults have never been able to.


Things for Youth to Change the World focused on Globalization

Strategy — Working in youth/adult partnerships, young people can create powerfully disruptive strategies that promote globalized social change. Their creativity and energy combined with knowledge, ability and determination can shift organizational cultures, technological applications and social norms.

Education — Providing opportunities for children and youth to learn about the negatives and positives of globalization, helping foster critical thinking and building service learning into globalization education can be powerful ways to foster social change.

Opportunities — Creating practical opportunities for young people to engage with the issues and outcomes of globalization in an empowering way can change the world. Opportunities can include youth organizing, web development, engaging in local / global economics, and other action. They can also include infusing globalization learning into other programs, including those focused on the Arts, politics, community building, etc.


Related Articles


Elsewhere Online

  • Check Your Head – A youth-driven organization that educates young people on global issues, by looking at the connection between global events and issues and local realities.
  • Global Youth Connect – They build and support a community of youth working to defend human rights and social justice and to inspire and empower a new generation of youth to act for meaningful social change.
  • Globalisation and Youth-Led Development” by Global Changemakers /



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