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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Youth + Social Change through Youth Summits

Adam at Vancouver WA youth summit 2018 2

Youth Summits are opportunities for young people to become engaged in positive, powerful and passionate action to change the world. They create short, safe time and space where youth and their adult allies can learn and grow, share youth voice, and become engaged in what matters most to them. Also called Youth Conferences, Youth Summits should increase the inspiration, education, ability and impact of empowerment-oriented action through youth/adult partnerships.

The Basics of Youth Summits

Youth Summits should…

  • Assess youth needs from the perspectives of youth
  • Focus on identifying practical, tangible action with immediate, identifiable outcomes that are visible to youth
  • Create safe and healthy networking opportunities for youth and adult allies
  • Provide opportunities for youth and adult allies to commit to doing something and taking action afterwards
  • Create opportunities for youth and adult allies to lead and follow throughout, including developing skills in communication, teamwork, problem-solving and other lifelong areas
  • Address adultism directly and deliberately bridge gaps between age and cultural gaps

Benefits of Youth Summits

During and after Youth Summits, young people should…

  • Get the chance to meet other youth and adult allies in a specific community or interested in a specific issue area
  • Add youth voice to issues affecting entire communities or organizations or fields
  • Become active in practical, visible action that can benefit them today and in the future
  • Build their knowledge, skills and abilities to make their own ideas and the concerns of their families and communities heard
Ephebiphobia is the fear of youth. The Freechild Project
Improve your program or organization. Learn about the fear of youth today.

Tips for Planning Youth Summits

  • Develop clear big picture objectives for the Youth Summit
  • Identify SMART goals for the Youth Summit that are Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive
  • This is a group project – delegate as much responsibility as possible to create youth ownership and adult investment
  • Develop a clear decision-making process
  • Estimate how much planning time is needed, then double it.
  • Obligate all partner organizations to commit staff time and name which staff in their organization will become involved
  • Hold an orientation for all youth planners to help them understand what kind of commitment is necessary to participate in the Youth Summit
  • Help everyone involved, youth and adult allies, understand the Youth Summit requires hard-working volunteers who can be held individually accountability for their roles
  • Caution everyone involved against burnout
  • Required elements of every Youth Summit include:
    • Inspirational and motivational activities
    • Interactive activities
    • Hands-on, directly applicable learning opportunities
    • Social times and non-facilitated spaces
    • Food, snacks and drinks
    • Action planning opportunities
  • Pre-registration is highly recommended
  • Make participants feel important and special for attending. You can…
    • Limit the number of attendees
    • Give special certificates to all attendees
    • Send out a press release with participants’ names
    • Give t-shirts and other swag to attendees

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Facing Adultism by Adam Fletcher

Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1517641233/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1517641233&linkCode=as2&tag=thefreechildp-20&linkId=43XBKODOPHWZ46XW
The cover of Facing Adultism by Adam Fletcher
This is the cover of Facing Adultism by Adam Fletcher (2015).

Discover a grim reality facing all children and youth today called adultism.

Do you feel like society treats young people poorly?

Does youth empowerment appeal to you?

In Facing Adultism, renowned educator Adam Fletcher talks straight about discrimination against young people, and pulls no punches as he lays out the realities of adultism today.

Originally published as Ending Discrimination Against Young People, in this book Fletcher lays out the details of adultism in all of its forms. Showing how adultism affects everyone, he shows the way for anyone who wants to defeat discrimination against young people. In these pages, you’ll learn what adultism is; where adultism happens; and how YOU can make a difference.

It can be rough out there for children and youth, and the ways we’re young shape our whole lives. You don’t have to be blind about adultism anymore, as this book shines the light like no other.

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at http://amzn.to/29Rflw2
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Finding Resources to Change the World

Freechild Project youth in a summer camp session

No one wants to meet roadblocks to changing the world, but when we do, we need to know how to overcome them. The tools we need already exist- we just need to find them. Sometimes everything we need is within reach; other times, our friends and family have them. The things we need to change the world are almost always in our communities, even if we can’t see them.

The following questions are designed to help you explore why, what, how, and where you can find the resources you need to change the world. Give careful thought to why and when you need these resources.

WHO needs to be involved?!?

  • Who does our action immediately affect? Who does it indirectly affect?
  • Who else wants to see change in your community? What do they stand for? Who and what do they stand against?
  • What people do we need to take action? Are we the people most affected by the problem? Are we engaging the people most affected? Do we need a small team? A large crowd? Mass mobilization? City-wide action? A national effort? A global movement?
  • What specific jobs can specific people do to get our aims done? Why do we need these jobs done? Background researching, phone calling, web outreach, group meetings.
  • Who can help us?  Friends, people we know, people we don’t know, felllow students, teachers, college professors, parents, community activists?
  • What skills do people in our community have?

WHAT are we trying to accomplish?

  • Have we explored our assumptions?
  • Do we have reasonable, accomplishable goals?
  • Are our goals measurable- can we see the outcomes?

WHEN are we trying to make change happen?

  • Do we have a timeline set?
  • Do we have reasonable expectations?
  • Have we asked people who have done this before?

WHERE are we trying to make change?

  • What is the scope of our action- our neighborhood, city, state, nation, or is it global? Why work beyond our community?
  • Where does our action immediately affect?
  • What are the traditional places in your community to get the resources you need? Schools, churches, businesses, community groups, foundations…
  • What are the nontraditional places in your community to get the resources you need? Family, friends, children, youth, seniors, activist groups..

HOW do we get the job done?!?

  • Do we need to learn more about the issue? Conduct background research? Map our community?
  • What can our culture provide to our action? What customs, language, morals, literature, dance, art, poetry, philosophy, religion, ideals and rituals can help us?
  • What physical materials are needed? Where can we acquire those materials? What are the instruments, tools, machines, clothes, or other things we need? Why do we need them?
  • Do we need space for our work? Can we meet at someone’s house, in our school, at the community center, or in the park?
  • What about money?

5 IMPORTANT Points

  • Before you ask anyone for anything, give careful thought to why and when you need it- your first “ask” might be your only one.
  • Document the reasons you need certain items. This may be useful for future “asks”. It might look like this: “(4) gardening hoes – Two for each community garden plot” or like this: “Conducted a community drive for spray paint for a new youth-created graffiti mural, intended to establish ownership and belonging for youth downtown.”
  • What is the expected outcome if you get what you need? Make sure you let givers know that, as well as the recipients of your intended action.

 

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Urban Youth

Youth in Seattle with a Freechild Project summer camp

Living in a place shouldn’t condemn a person to poor health, weak education, unsafe living conditions or segregation from other races, socio-economic classes and religions. However, in cities around the world urban youth face countless barriers to successful lives. Experience and research shows that these same young people are engaged in substantive activities focused on changing the world, they become empowered, wise and transformative leaders. Urban youth can transform the lives of younger people, their peers, adults and elders living among them and throughout their cities.

There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people. — Al Sharpton

 

Ways Urban Youth are Changing the World

Youth Leadership — When urban youth are needed to fill in gaps, or where adults refuse the power of youth, youth leadership can be a substantive tool for communities. Building skills sets like communication, problem-solving, change management and peaceful negotiations, urban youth leadership programs, activities and organizations can be beacons of hope.

Youth as Mentors — Providing positive, intentional role models is an important task urban youth can excel through. Whether mentoring with younger children or adults, young people can build trust, mutual investment, and meaningful interactions into the daily lives of their mentees, and learn from them, too.

Youth Media Makers — Learning how to make media that reflects their communities’ true realities without sensationalizing, glorifying or otherwise manipulating circumstances, urban youth media makers can change the world. Its vital to use the media popular within a community to reach that community and beyond, whether on the Internet, through video or print, or via texting.

 

"Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society." - James Baldwin

 

Things Urban Youth Need to Change the World

Education — Education in cities should focus on developing a strong commitment within children and youth to transforming their urban communities from within, and changing the entire world. They should learn about urban transformation, economic development, cultural enrichment, community building and youth-led activism.

Funding — Urban youth deserve every opportunity to build their communities, progress their lives and build social justice simply because they live in cities. However, simply because they live in cities they often don’t have access to the fiscal resources of other young people. Foundations, government agencies and other funders should provide specific, sustained and substantial funding opportunities for urban young people to change the world.

Inspiration —  Living in poverty, struggling with family / gender / gang violence, and experiencing daily discrimination and fighting community depression can challenge the strongest people. Children and youth face the outcomes far more than adults. Inspiration and motivation for understanding they can change  the world in positive ways; have meaningful, positive effects on their communities; and see relevant outcomes that affect their lives and their families can be absolutely essential.

 

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Rural Youth

A learner who is homeschooling for social change

Growing up in small villages and towns or on farms and in other rural areas can present young people with considerable challenges. However, rural youth can be vital to transforming their communities, building ownership and engaging young people to stop the rural brain drain.

There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people. — Al Sharpton

 

Ways Rural Youth are Changing the World

Youth as Recruiters — Building their own opportunities to transform their environments is essential to children and youth engagement. After they’ve planned engaging programs and activities, young people can recruit their peers, younger people and adults. As facilitators, evaluators and decision-makers throughout their communities, rural youth can change the world.

Youth as Mentors — Engaging youth as mentors can allow children, other youth and adults in rural to become meaningfully influential and purposeful. Substantive activities for rural youth can focus on fostering community, building youth/adult partnerships and transforming organizations, schools and rural areas.

Servant Leadership — Learning to lead others can mean learning to serve, too. Servant leadership can build the humility, empowerment and engagement of young people throughout rural areas in unique ways. They can become more capable and involved than before, and can develop the ability to meet the needs of their areas in unique and important ways.

 

"It's a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with." - Pete Seeger

 

Things Rural Youth Need to Change the World

Training — Learning practical skills and relevant knowledge they can apply to change rural communities is essential for children and youth. Whether focusing on communication, teambuilding, networking, problem-solving or change management, young people can be essential partners for community development in rural areas.

Technology — Weaving together the power and potential of young people in rural areas can be easier through technology. Cell phones, texting, social media and the Internet can be powerful tools to reach across broad distances and other barriers.

Inspiration — Discovering the roots of action and finding motivation to take action can move young people from being passive recipients of adult actions towards becoming active partners in social change.

 

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Youth and Food

Freechild Project youth making a trail

Whether they’re hungry for any food, healthy food, or to end food injustice, youth and food are bound together like beans growing up a corn stalk. In homes, neighborhoods, schools, villages, towns and cities around the world, young people are changing the world through thoughtful, productive and engaged action focused on food production, food consumption, food quality and food waste.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” ― Ann Wigmore

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Food

Youth as Teachers — Young people can change the world by starting in their schools, homes and communities, teaching their siblings, peers, younger children, parents and adults about food, food-related issues and more.

Youth as Farmers — Raising the food they eat can allow children and youth to be more invested, educated and engaged in their health and wellness. Learning, growing and harvesting their own fruits and vegetables, meats and other foods can empower young people in tremendous ways, causing their world to be healthier and more connected than ever.

Youth-Led Community Organizing — Working together with their families, their peers and their neighbors, young people can organize their communities to change the world through food. They can lead community gardens, advocate for healthy foods in food deserts, or teach healthy nutrition courses for their peers.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Food

Education — Learning about the food they eat, including where its from, how its raised, what it does to their bodies and how it affects their communities can significantly improve the abilities of young people. They can learn which food is the safest and most powerful for their health, well-being and their communities’ sustainability.

Training — Young people can build the skills and abilities they need to change the world through food with training focused on applicable skills. They can learn farming skills, nutritional teaching information, assessment skills and other information. By becoming trainers of trainers, children and youth can also transform the food cultures they live in everyday.

Technology — Young people can learn about food, nutrition, food deserts and related issues through technology. Social media, videos, email, texting and other tools can empower, engage and educate children and youth. Changing the world through food can happen thoroughly, quickly and meaningfully.

 

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Youth and Nonprofits

Whether working locally, nationally or internationally, almost every single nongovernmental organization, also called nonprofit organizations, should rely on children and youth in their daily activities, including staffing, leadership, evaluation and more. Youth and nonprofits are tied together through their mutual energy, commitment and passion; however, the onus is on adults for engaging youth and not vice versa.

If you had a problem in the Black community, and you brought in a group of White people to discuss how to solve it, almost nobody would take that panel seriously. In fact, there’d probably be a public outcry. It would be the same the for women’s issues or gay issues. But every day, in local arenas all the way to the White House, adults sit around and decide what problems youth have and what youth need, without ever consulting us. — Jason, 17 years old, Youth Force Member, Bronx, NY

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Nonprofits

Youth as Board Members — Young people can be vital and integral to organizational leadership. Every nonprofit should engage youth on their board of directors; local and international youth-focused NGOs should have at least one half of all board seats assigned to full-voting, regular youth membersMutual mentoring and adult champions of youth engagement must be strategically developed in order to ensure longevity and effectiveness.

Youth-Led Programs — Creating obvious, powerful and significant opportunities for young people to lead their own programs is another way youth can change the world through nonprofits. Working across many issues that are important to themselves, local and international communities, and with many different technologies both in-person and online, youth-led programs can be educational, social, cultural and empowering.

Youth as Founders — When adults aren’t responsive; when young people see the need; and when there’s authentic determination focused on changing the world, children and youth need to start nonprofits. As social entrepreneurs, young people can create and grow dynamic, responsive and engaging operations focused on meeting unmet needs and fostering social change around the world.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Nonprofits

Training — Children and youth who become involved in operating nonprofits and NGOs need substantial training and technical assistance to be consistently effective, engaged and empowered staff and leaders. Training should focus on practical, applicable skills for their positions, while educational opportunities should development their knowledge relevant to the missions they are trying to accomplish and the visions at their core.

Inspiration — With the vast majority of NGOs being adult-led, adult-driven and adult-oriented (including youth-serving nonprofits) young people sometimes need inspiration and motivation to take action. Providing examples of youth action in organizations; offering meaningful opportunities for action; and creating new approaches to engaging youth as leaders and staff can all provide motivation.

Funding Foundations, philanthropists and funders of all stripes should provide substantial and sustained funding to support youth engagement in the operation of NGOs and nonprofits, and make this funding the normal and regular expectation of all youth-serving organizations. Infusing funding opportunities with this is key for the future of youth engagement, and anything less than this is disingenuous and inauthentic at best.

 

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Youth and International Development

SoundOut Student Voice Team in Seattle

After millennia of European domination, nations around the world are emerging in healthy, powerful ways. International development is slowly coming to focus on the whole planet, including young people.  Youth and international development are tied together, addressing a variety of issues including extreme poverty and hunger; universal education; gender equality and women’s empowerment; ending child mortality; improving maternal health; ending HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global commitment to human empowerment. Youth are partnering with adults to lead these movements today and towards the future.

When we’re talking about youth participation, we’re talking about challenging longstanding practices that hinder young people participating at all levels. So when we hear our leaders talking about young people getting involved, we actually would like to see them follow that through with concrete suggestions, such as a quote on all decision making boards for young people. — Jacque Koroi

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through International Development

Youth as Decision-Makers — Whether they’re focusing on economics, hunger or other issues, young decision-makers can be major contributors to international development through decision-making. Becoming active, involved and full members of boards and decision-making committees in international NGO and international specialized agencies can empower and engage young people in changing the world.

Youth as Movement Leaders — Working on their own or as partners with adults, young people can lead movements focused on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals or any international development issues that matter to them. Working across the Internet, using social media, texting or on the ground in local communities, youth can change the world as movement leaders.

Youth Media Makers — Learning about the issues that matter to them and taking action to inform others, children and youth can create and promote a variety of media, including print, online and video. Sharing messages and building consensus, youth media makers can create new approaches and foster new support for international development.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through International Development

Opportunities — Creating, building, sustaining or recreating opportunities for youth involvement in international development can be vital for engaging youth. Opportunities can be systemic, educational, cultural, social, religious, or otherwise.

Education — Working with adults as allies or on their own, children and youth can learn the essential knowledge they need to take action for international development. Whether they’re promoting NGOs becoming involved in their local communities and nations, or working for those NGOs to building youth involvement or youth activism, young people can change the world by learning about international development.

Inspiration — With so many traditional messages focusing on “act local, think global”, it’s important for young people to get inspired to take on international development. As integral leaders over the last twenty years, young people have taken action, changed policies, and helped millions of people around the world. Sharing these stories and building interest matters.

 

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Youth and Government

Freechild Project youth in New Hampshire

Democracy demands active, involved and engaged citizens taking almost-constant action to make societies better places. Counting as more than 25% of the human population, children and youth are routinely, consistently and constantly left out of governments at all levels today. However, growing numbers of local, state, national and international government bodies are engaging young people. Bringing together youth and government can transform societies and change the world in countless ways.

“Words like ”freedom,’ ‘justice,’ ‘democracy” are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.”— James Baldwin

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through the Government

Youth as Policy-Makers — Empowering young people to participate as full-fledged policy-makers includes providing educating nontraditional youth leaders, providing substantive opportunities for action, and training adults as allies throughout the process. Through meaningful youth involvement, young people can transform systems, empower communities and infuse adult-driven institutions with youth power.

Community Youth Development — When young people are systemically involved throughout their communities, applying powerful skills and knowledge along the way, they can shift governments into action and encourage powerful transformation. Community youth development can also build the capacities of children and youth, their peers, families and others to change the world, too!

Service Learning — Combining meaningful service with real classroom learning goals can give students substantive opportunities to improve government services, engage more people in democratic processes, and ensure people stay informed and empowered through action. Service learning can teach students vital knowledge and build their skills to change the world. When infused in government, it can be more real than ever!

 

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

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through the Government

Opportunities — There must be substantial and inclusive opportunities for young people of all ages to affect governance. This can happen at the neighborhood level through community associations; at the village, town or city level by getting youth on board, creating positions for youth as city council members, or lowering the local voting age; at the county and parish level by creating youth action boards and lowering the voting age; at the state and provincial levels in many ways, including youth as staff and youth empowerment activities; and on the federal and international levels. These must be fully empowered, fully trained and focused on youth mainstreaming.

Training — Young people need high quality, practical training on the ways government operates, what difference it makes and why it matters to be involved. Focused on skill development, training can include communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Emphasizing knowledge-sharing, training can focus on democratic purpose, government functions and interacting with the public.

Inspiration — Young people need to know what government is, what government does and most importantly, how government operates. Without pedantic traditional classroom teaching styles, they should learn function, purpose, operation and outcomes, as well as how to successfully advocate for what matters most to them, their families and their communities.

 

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