Understanding Roles for Youth in Community Development

This week I’ve had the honor of participating in a Thinkery in London with the Community Development Journal, an international academic publication produced by the Oxford University Press. Along with providing a keynote address to provoke conversation and growth in the field, I’ve sat in on three days of meetings with their international advisory board. I want to share some of what I’ve learned over this time, and share the ways I see community development intersecting with youth-led action around the world.

Opportunities and Avenues

Community development is a vague, overarching concept that attempts to group together any attempts by groups of people who work together to transform the places and spaces they live, work and play. Concerned with justice, equity and transformation, community development includes structured government and nonprofit programs; grassroots social justice activism, and; much more. People working together to transform the economy, education, culture, housing, healthcare, public health and many other issues are included under the umbrella of community development.

Youth have been the subjects of community development, participants in community development and critics of community development for more than 25 years. Internationally, youth have built movements, established conversations and spread the intentions and possibilities of community development, especially in the last decade. These include the 99% movement, the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, #metoo and other actions.

Concerns and Challenges

Adultism⁠—bias towards adults that discriminates against youth⁠—appears predominate throughout community development. Attitudes reflecting adultism drive the agendas, goals, activities and outcomes of community development worldwide. In turn though, adultism is routinely dismissed by practitioners and researchers who are dismissive of the roles of children and youth in their work.

Young people are concerned about the appropriation of community development, too, especially as its been overwhelmed by neoliberal goals that diminish or simply take away the radical heart of community development. The critical consciousness necessary to maintain this commitment needs regular reinforcement and encouragement. Rather than being holistic, many actions are interested only in parts of youth and/or their communities, unconsciously perpetuating the neoliberal concept of youth as marginally useful instead of being central to community development.

Concerns affecting youth and community development include questions of engaging diverse youth and communities; generating fiscal sustainability; training, educating and otherwise building the movement, and; ensuring the relevance of youth-led action.

Similarly, many young people are engaged in specific issues in community development only because of the beneficence of adults who are well-meaning but poorly informed. Driven by the limited funding and the specific interests of adult-driven forces, youth are forced to concentrate on adult interests who inadvertently act as the puppets of organizations and agendas that are formed without their interests in mind.

Possibilities

The radical possibilities of community development reflect the broadest, deepest and greatest potentialities of the field overall. Engaging youth as equitable partners might be the best possibility to actualize a lot of theoretical conversations about diversity and nontraditional engagement. Focusing on the many avenues for engagement identified by the Freechild Institute, community development advocates, organizers and participatory researchers can move beyond the suspected and routinely disproven limitations of youth to build the capacities, possibilities and hopes throughout the field.

Most important, there is hope and perhaps that’s what we need to focus on most. For information, training and more contact the Freechild Institute today.

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The End of Grades and Grading

The practice of teachers assigning students letter or number grades to illustrate how students are performing is an outmoded method, left over the times when schools were regarded as factories, teachers were supervisors, and students were workers. Not only is grading just outdated, research has shown that grading students is damaging as well. Research has shown that grades can:

  • Cause students to regard learning as a chore
  • Avoid challenging tasks
  • Think less deeply
  • Fall apart when they fail, and
  • To value ability more than effort.

In today’s society the process is as important as the outcome; schools should reflect that.

 

 

“The students, motivated/rewarded (or not) by grades, try to shape their writing so as to get a better grade, and that may become their primary goal in some cases. In turn, the teachers feel grading forces them to give up some of their role as “fair-minded judges and sympathetic readers.” – Lotto and Smith in College Education.

 

Ways Youth Can Change the World Without Grades

Teaching Classes — One of the best ways young people can learn is through teaching. Young people of all ages can teach people younger than themselves, the same age and older than themselves.

Reforming Schools — Becoming actively engaged as partners in school reform at the local, district, state and federal levels can allow students to advocate against grades in powerful, effective ways.

Youth as Education Advocates — If youth stand against grades, they should make student voice heard to education decision-makers everywhere. Providing substantive alternatives and stepping into action are priorities.

 

Tools Youth Need to Change the World Without Grades

Inspiration — Children and youth need stories to motivate them against grades, while teachers and school leaders need the vision to eliminate them.

Education — Leaving the traditional grade structure of schools can be challenging, but with education and training in alternative scoring teachers and students can become committed to not relying on these false measures of academic success.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working in classrooms, across schools and throughout the education system can be a key to eliminate grading forever. Fostering and sustaining substantial youth/adult partnerships throughout the education system can be a powerful way to do that.

 

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Elsewhere Online

  • Adultism in Schools on the SoundOut website
  • The following schools are models of successful learning without grades and grading.
  • Alternatives to Traditional Grading” – A summary of different practices from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning at Kansas State University.
  • Grading Alternatives” – From the Indiana  Department of Education.
  • SoundOut Student Activism Map – Find out where students are organizing to challenge schools to listen to student voice and engage students as partners in school improvement. Includes examples and organizations from across the US.
  • Rise Against Terrible Schools – While there are many different ideas on how schools should work, we share one common goal: changing schools for the better. Whether that means getting students to unschool or homeschool or just simply campaigning for some rights of students in schools, the goal of RATS is to students work together so they can be more effective.
  • Students Against Testing – Students Against Testing was created to be a strong force against the score-obsessed education machine known as standardized testing. At the same time, SAT also exists as an advocate for bringing positive, creative and real-life learning activities into the schools. SAT believes that for the reasons stated below urgent action from the student body itself is the most direct way to counteract the boredom and petty competition that currently plagues the schools.
  • Alternative Education Resource Organization – AERO advances learner-centered approaches to education. AERO is considered by many to be the primary hub of communications and support for educational alternatives around the world.

 

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Why Play Games When There’s Work To Do? Fun, Games and Social Change

SoundOut Summer Camp Participants

“There are at least two kinds of games.  One would be called finite, the other infinite.  A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, and an infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing to play.  The rules of a finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must… The finite game player aims to win eternal life; the infinite player aims for eternal birth.” – James P. Carse, as quoted by Dale LeFevre*

 

“We must abandon completely the naive faith that education automatically liberates the mind and serves the cause of human progress; in fact we know it may serve any cause. It may serve tyranny as well as freedom, ignorance as well as enlightenment, falsehood as well as truth. It may lead men and women to think they are free even as it rivets them in chains of bondage… In the course of history, education has served every purpose and doctrine contrived by man; if it is to serve the cause of human freedom, it must be explicitly designed for that purpose.” – George Counts*

 

There’s so much to do!  Communities seem like they’re falling apart; and young people, old people, brown people, black people, poor people, and lots of other people aren’t getting the respect or power they deserve.  Why play games when there’s so much work to do?  There’s a lot of reasons to look at, but first let’s define what we’re talking about.

 

What Are Cooperative Games?

Cooperative games emphasize participation, challenge and fun rather then defeating someone. Cooperative games focus on fun and interaction rather than competition and alienation. Cooperative games are not new.

Some of the classic games we played as children are classic because they focused on play. There may be competition involved, but the outcome of the competition is not sitting out or losing. Instead, it may involve switching teams so that everyone ends up on the winning team.

 

What Are Initiative Games?

Initiative games are fun, cooperative, challenging games in which the group is confronted with a specific problem to solve. Initiative games can be used for several reasons.  The games can be used to demonstrate and teach leadership skills to people, which helps to promote the growth of trust and problem-solving skills in groups.  Games demonstrate a process of thinking about experiences that helps people learn and practice responsibility.

Some people avoid calling them “games,” choosing “activity,” “challenge,” or “problem” instead.  Whatever a group chooses to call them, these games can boost our efforts to create powerful, lasting community change.

 

Why Play Games?

When a group of people are preparing to participate in social change, there needs to be some breaking down of inhibitions before they become group participants.  “There is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M” and all that.  Before a group can build effective solutions to the problems facing their communities, they need to trust each other and communicate.

Cooperative games also help set the tone of an action.  Social change work is often hard-driven and energy-consuming.  Many groups find that cooperative games offer a brisk, friendly way to couple passionate task-oriented goals with driven, group-minded teambuilding.  In other words, fun and games help propel social change.

Another purpose of games is to get people to think together, as a team, so that everyone in the group has input and shares ideas.  When we have input we have ownership, and when more people have ownership there is more success.

 

Aren’t Games Distracting?

When used right, games can actually accentuate the purpose of your day’s work or your group’s purpose.  Through a technique called “framing,” games become relevant and powerful tools to break down barriers, build up focus, and make your group’s process more effective and inclusive of all involved.

In all settings games should be used to build a sense of purpose, passion, and opportunity.  Without those pieces as goals, games become pacifiers for the grown, as their potential to stave off the appetite of a group that hungers for power is immense.  In classrooms where teachers use games as “fillers” the students mope lazily back to their desks, as they know the grueling pain of continuity is about to continue.  In classrooms where teachers use the games in context of the lessons, students aim to learn with eagerness and a sense of purpose.

The purpose of the games is often set during the introduction, or framing, of the activity.  Participants may be forewarned of the deeper meanings, or the activity may be introduced as a metaphor.  Another way to inject purpose into activities is in the reflection or debriefing of the activity.

An easy way to see the relevance of reflection is to picture games as a circle: you start with an explanation of the activity, framing its purpose and goals to the group.  The activity progresses, with the facilitator taking a more hands-on or less guiding approach as needed.  Finally, the group reflection helps participants see how they met the goal, and to envision the broader social change implications.  Then the group has come full-circle.

 

What Games Should We Play?

Games can be chosen to meet almost any purpose.  The following games mentioned are all in the book mentioned below. Does your group need to develop its teambuilding skills?  Try the Caterpillar.  Do you need to work closely and get used to each other’s physical space?  Try Sardines.  You’ve been inside all day, sitting on your butts and thinking, and you just want to play?  Check out Blob Tag or Human Scissors-Paper-Rock .  Your group needs to trust each mentally, emotionally, and physically?  Use the Trust Circle.  Learning, trusting, feeling and thinking together are the goals of these games.  Its helpful for every group to remember that.

 

Many people use games as an introduction or a closing to their activities.  However, its a good idea to add them throughout your day, between or as a part of a larger event.  Games are a great way to break up the monotony of a long day’s learning, or a hard day’s work.  They are also a great way to keep small children busy, and big children happy.  You may want to play a game to reinforce teamwork after a sucky day (because they happen) or play a game to relieve some group stress or build the scenario to work through a problem.  Games are actually tools that a skilled facilitator has at their fingertips in a time of need.

 

Great! How Do We Get Started?

Below is a list of easy-to-use games.  They come from a wide collection of games available from the Freechild Project’s FireStarter Youth Power Curriculum.  Check out this list and go visit FireStarter for more!  You can also look up the bibliography listed under the Facilitator’s Guide there.

For many more resources on cooperative and initiative games, visit the links on the right, and read some of the great books available (especially those by the greats Karl Rohnke and Dale LeFevre.  Play safe, play purposefully, play fun and play hard!

 

Selected Games

Check out our free book, The Freechild Project Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change. This insightful new guide will help community workers, teachers, activists, and all kinds of people find fun, engaging, and powerful activities that promote teamwork, communication, and social justice.

Sources
  • LeFevre, Dale (1988) New Games for the Whole Family. New York: Perigee Books.
  • Counts, George S. (1963) Education and the Foundations of Human Freedom. Out-of-print.

 

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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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Activist Learning

Freechild Project youth with picket signs in Seattle

Activist Learning is an intentional strategy for creating knowledge characterized by taking action to realize just relationships that transform unequal power structures in our personal, social, political, environmental, spiritual, and economic lives. This page describes what it is, how it happens, where it occurs and what difference it can make.

This is accomplished by linking critical reflection to activism with intentional opportunities to connect the action to self-reflection, self-discovery, and the creation and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge.

What is Activist Learning?

Activist Learning can be a youth-only, actively encouraging self-direction and self-education through community activism. Activist Learning with young people can also happen in partnership with adult allies, although in this situation the emphasis should always be on youth-led action, with opportunities for adult-shared learning facilitation optional.

Why Activist Learning?

  • Activist Learning can challenge ideas that educators can deposit knowledge into the empty minds of students by engaging co-learners as the co-creators of knowledge.
  • Activist Learning can engage young people and educators as co-facilitators of learning, encouraging young people to become knowledge creators and adults to become allies.
  • Activist Learning can empower activist/learners to articulate themselves in a way that is relevant to their lives and their roles as agents of change.
  • Activist Learning can move activist/learners from acts of charity and sympathy towards solidarity and allyship.

Activist Learning can allow activist/learners to…

  • Prioritize ethics and a work towards social justice;
  • Challenge the ways schools perpetuate power structures in our society;
  • Support teachers in reflecting on their complicity in this perpetuation;
  • Show students that knowledge is socially constructed – and is not the ‘truth’;
  • Assist students in deconstructing knowledge to see how and why it is that way and whose purposes it serves, teaching them to “read the world differently” and “resist the abuse of power and privilege” that abounds (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 49);
  • “Create new forms of knowledge through … breaking down disciplinary boundaries and creating new spaces where knowledge can be produced” (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 50)

Important Concepts

  • Activist Learning — A community learning approach characterized by people taking action to realize a society based on just relationships by seeking to transform unequal power structures in our personal, social, political and economic lives.
  • Adult Ally — Adults in unity or connection with young people in personal relationships, as in friendship or partnership.
  • Collective — Flat organizational structure where the all members of a group are responsible for or involved in making all decisions.  There are no ranks or structures that make one person more powerful than another
  • Community Learning — A knowledge-creating practice in which traditional student-teacher roles are eliminated; co-learners are simultaneously encouraged to facilitate and receive knowledge.
  • Critical Reflection — Thinking about what we are thinking and doing, and then acting on what we have thought about; A circle of learning that promotes continuous action for social justice.
  • Praxis — Bringing together critical reflection and concrete action with/in a community in order to transform it.
  • Social Justice — The practice of putting democracy into daily practice with regard for the social conditions within a community.  Often associated with, but not limited to, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, poverty, and discrimination against persons with disabilities.
  • Popular Education — A space where young people and adults can learn together to foster a more equitable, just and democratic world. Facilitators use social justice, youth empowerment and active learning to foster and support real, positive and empowering relationships that teach and learn.
  • Solidarity — A union of interests, purposes, or empathies between people; a fellowship of responsibilities and interests.

Elements of Activist Learning

Activist Learning doesn’t just happen. There are critical elements that make Activist Learning the powerful, purposeful tool it is. Here are some of them:

  • Activist Learning develops communities as places that promote radical democracy, where diverse, consensus-based, non-hierarchical and non-discriminatory learning takes place.
  • Activist Learning fosters critical analysis of institutions and social structures, takes responsive action to promote justice and equity, teaches the history of social movements.
  • Activist Learning encourages learning to cross disciplines, issues, cultures and communities in order to foster knowledge creation, challenge and exploration.
  • Activist Learning honors and accentuates life-long learning that engages learners through community-based, innovative and effective pedagogy.
  • Activist Learning uses technology and media as liberating tools that support community needs.

Activist Learning in Schools

Following are a few suggestions for integrating Activist Learning in schools:

  • Organize a class project with all of the elements of Activist Learning.
  • Students can research news stories about social injustice by collecting and analyzing news clippings or Internet printouts that portray unjust sentiments, statements, or actions in their area.
  • Students can collect accounts of protective and supportive acts toward people of color, low-income people, differently-abled people, environmentally sensitive areas, etc.
  • Create a class mission statement about responding to one’s fellow citizens in a productive way. This can be an opportunity to brainstorm and model consensus-building.
  • Assign an essay comparing contemporary events to analogous events in history.
  • Dedicate an hour every week or month for students to locate and read publications written for largely minority audiences (e.g., Asian Week, Hispanic Review, Black Enterprise, Indian Country Today).
  • Work with interested students to form a Student Civil Rights Team in your school. Student Civil Rights Teams work in schools or other settings to teach their peers about prejudice, discrimination, hate crimes, and protecting victims or potential victims.

Activist Learning in Communities

YOUR voice is YOUR power!  You’re an activist, and you know you’re learning!  Around the world people are learning through activism and grabbing hold of learning and owning what they know.

And by the way – you probably aren’t already doing this. Activist Learning requires several important elements named above, and most groups don’t have them all.  But you can, and that’s why we offer these examples.

Young people always learn through activism.  By working with friends and partnering with adult allies, young people are developing powerful, effective Activist Learning projects.  The following are stories of young people learning through activism (click on the heading for the link):

  • Youth Act! Students Testify on Mayor’s Budget – Read this story from 2000 about young people in Washington DC who learned about homeless issues and advocated to the city’s Mayor for change.

  • Global Uprising: Stories of a New Generation of Activists – Read excerpts from this exciting book that documents young activists work today.  The stories on this page include the personal narratives of young people standing up for peace, the environment, and for social justice.

  • Talk to Us. Listen. Take Us Seriously. – Eighteen young people from small communities across America—from the Mississippi Delta to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the Navajo Nation to the northern California coast—speak about their efforts to promote youth leadership and voice in their schools and communities. They recount their successes while offering pointed advice on ways adults can partner more effectively with kids.

YOU can get inspired, get informed, get active and learn something!  The following websites offer great information to promote young people taking action – all you’ve got to do is make something of it!  You can do that with Activist Learning.

Summary

Young people have increasingly been at the front of rallies, marches, and activism around the world over the last several decades. Children and youth organize, research, educate, analyze, and advocate for change around the world through local, national, and international movements. While this action is powerful and often effective, there has been one component that is usually missing: the intentional learning.

For several years The Freechild Project has been researching youth-led activism in several areas, including environmental activism. Using this research and our own experiences in activism, we have developed an exciting new model for youth engagement in social change work called “Activist Learning.”

We define Activist Learning with young people as an intentional strategy for creating knowledge characterized by taking action to realize just relationships that transforms unequal power structures in our personal, social, political, environmental, spiritual, and economic lives.

Activist Learning is a process that…

  • …develops communities as places that promote radical democracy, where diverse, consensus-based, non-hierarchical and non-discriminatory learning takes place.

  • fosters critical analysis of institutions and social structures, takes responsive action to promote justice and equity, teaches the history of social movements.
  • …encourages learning to cross disciplines, issues, cultures and communities in order to foster knowledge creation, challenge and exploration

  • …honors and accentuates life-long learning that engages learners through community-based, innovative and effective pedagogy
  • …uses technology and media as liberatory tools to support community needs

Elements of Activist Learning include shared assumptions and purposes; negotiated co-learning goals agreed upon among activists; common action and learning (“praxis”); continual critical reflection, and; emphasis on co-learner/community voice.

Activist Learning can be a youth-directed, youth-only activity that encourages self-direction and self-education through community activism. Activist Learning with young people can also happen in partnership with adult allies, although in this situation the emphasis should always be on youth-led action, with opportunities for adult-shared learning facilitation optional.

Activist Learning challenges the idea that educators can deposit knowledge into the empty minds of students by engaging co-learners as the co-creators of knowledge. It engages young people and educators as co-facilitators of learning, encouraging young people to become knowledge creators and adults to become allies. Activist Learning empowers young activist/learners to articulate themselves in a way that is relevant to their lives and their roles as agents of change. Finally, and most importantly to our work, it moves activist/learners from acts of charity and sympathy towards solidarity and allyship.

Recent studies have shown that Activist Learning can allow activist/learners to:

  • Prioritize ethics and a work towards social justice;
  • Challenge the ways schools perpetuate power structures in our society;
  • Support teachers in reflecting on their complicity in this perpetuation;
  • Show students that knowledge is socially constructed – and is not the ‘truth’;
  • Assist students in deconstructing knowledge to see how and why it is that way and whose purposes it serves, teaching them to “read the world differently” and “resist the abuse of power and privilege” that abounds (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 49);
  • “Create new forms of knowledge through … breaking down disciplinary boundaries and creating new spaces where knowledge can be produced” (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 50) [From Con/testing Learning Models by Gaell Hildebrand (1999).]

While taking action is powerful, learning from it is even more important. There are millions of people who are working to save the environment and change the world everyday – shouldn’t you make your effort today?


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Youth and Racism

Freechild Project youth protest in Seattle

Youth and racism are wound together, depending on each other to unravel the pain, hurt and despicable enduring nature of racism. Being “against racism” is to be against any system based on some kind of supremacy, including white supremacy, racial supremacy of any kind, tribal supremacy, class supremacy, even male and female chauvinism. Young people are taking power action against racism and making their communities more powerful, empowering places for all people to live in.

Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. — Paulo Freire

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World focusing on Racism

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t partner with young people or when young people want to take immediate action without permission, they can lead their own community organizing projects and rallying their peers to create change, or take action on their own. Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts and social media action are just some of the ways youth-led activism can affect racism.

Service Learning — Studying the social effects of racism, young people are building communities through service learning. Programs focused on white privilege, empowering communities of color and more can teach students about racism in distinctly effective ways. When facilitated effectively, service learning encourages students to apply their learning throughout their lives.

Youth and Incarceration — Young people are challenging the school-to-prison pipeline, long-term incarceration, incarcerating youth with adults, and solitary confinement within prisons, all wrapped together with analysis focused on the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. Youth and incarceration shouldn’t be synonymous, and youth can change the world when they focus on ending the racism which makes this happen.

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Racism

Education — Learning about the history of racism isn’t enough. Young people need to understand their role in white privilege and racism, whether they’re people of color or white. Learning how to see privilege, dismantle white supremacy, overcome structural racism and fight against dominant cultural norms is essential, too.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Creating intentional relationships designed to foster trust, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement can effectively engage youth in changing the world focused on racism. Young people can transform communities and organizations through youth/adult partnerships, increasing effective action and building support along the way.

Opportunities — Young people need substantive opportunities to take action against racism. Schools, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations can create opportunities. Young people can create their own opportunities through youth-led community organizing and youth-led programs, too.

 

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Mediators

Freechild Project youth in São Paulo, Brazil.

Engaging youth as mediators teaches young people to understand conflict within themselves and others. Discovering how they influence conflict, how to self-manage conflict, and how to identify strategies for calmness and clarity is enhanced by learning listening and speaking skills and how to understand other peoples’ point of view. Youth mediators can help other youth, younger students, and adults to have important conversations in order to become clearer themselves, understand each other’s perspectives, and make decisions about next steps. Youth can change the world as mediators when they apply these skills throughout their lives, including at home, in school, and throughout their communities.

You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist. — Indira Gandhi

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Mediation

Youth-Led Programs — Young people can learn the deep parts of conflict resolution, become program designers and managers, and lead their own efforts to promote mediation in their schools and communities. Young people transform relationships when they move past struggle and towards interdependence and community-building.

Youth Courts — Youth courts are powerful tools for young people to develop their own capacity for problem-solving and mediation. Through jurisdiction and official proceedings, youth can reduce recidivism, promote conflict resolution and build communities instead of tearing them apart like traditional juvenile justice programs have.

Youth Managing Adult Staff — When young people participate in hiring, training, supervising and evaluating adult staff, they balance the perceptions of power within organizations and throughout communities. This acts towards mediation by empowering those who are taught, watched and facilitated by adults with the ability to rectify their challenges with adults, laying a substantive foundation for youth/adult partnerships.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Mediation

Education — Comprehensive youth mediation programs should include education for youth and adults on how to: Identify goals and outcomes; Identify and engage stakeholders, Create a team to plan and develop the program, Develop systems including referral, intake, mediation coordination; and Train students to become mediators and providing continuing education. Programs should also receive on-going technical assistance. Youth mediator programs should have immediately positive impact on conflict and be sustainable.

Opportunities — Young people need substantial opportunities to be mediators in the places they spend the most time, including at home, in schools and throughout their communities. They also need real adult allies who stand with them for mediation, and support from government agencies, law enforcement and others.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Real youth/adult partnerships engage young people and adults in equitable relationships that can build the power, purpose and potential of youth mediators. Through transparency, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement, young people and adults can transform community culture for the better.

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Project-Based Learning 

Freechild Project youth in Seattle

ALL children and youth are active people who want to be actively involved in learning, teaching and leadership throughout their communities. Responsible adults acknowledge that its not up to young people to become involved; in our adult-driven society, it is adults’ responsibility to engage youth. Project-based learning can give young people meaningful opportunities to move beyond negative participation and become meaningfully involved.

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Project-Based Learning

Youth-Led Media — Assuming control when adults act out of control, young people can use media to create their own messages, share youth voice and build community belonging through youth-led media. Whether they use the Internet, social media, video, print media, or otherwise, youth-led media can change the world by positively empowering children and youth to create the messages and share the stories that matter to them.

Youth as Facilitators — Facilitating project-based learning can allow learners to become teachers and leaders, too. Centering on activities that matter to them, youth facilitators might teach their peers, younger learners and adults, too, in a variety of settings, including schools, nonprofits, community centers and other places.

Service Learning — Centering their projects on changing the world in positive, powerful ways and serving other peoples’ agendas can allow students to understand interdependence and community in powerful ways. Service learning connects real service with classroom learning goals, completing the promise of project-based learning in a different way.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Project-Based Learning

Education — Discovering what project-based learning is empowers many young people in new and powerful ways. Learning how to implement this strategy is powerful too. But when children and youth discover the assumptions behind project-based learning, the realities of facilitating project-based learning, and what it takes to assess and share project-based learning with the world they soar even higher.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working together across generations towards creating, completing and fulfilling the promise of project-based learning can empower young people in new ways. Youth/adult partnerships foster youth equity and support mainstreaming in powerful, meaningful ways.

Technology — Using the power of the internet, social media, gaming, texting and other technology can allow young people to change the world through project-based learning. Embracing their everyday technology as a learning device can bring them through indifference and inability towards empowerment and sustainable youth engagement.

 

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Experiential Learning for Youth + Social Change

SoundOut Summer Camp Participants

When young people learn through doing, they are participating in experiential learning. When youth-led experiential learning is happening, young people focus on real issues they can relate to that are taken from the real world they live within. Experiential learning is individually oriented, even when children and youth work in groups. Action learning, service learning, cooperative learning and challenge learning are all forms of experiential learning.

“…for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them” — Aristotle

Ways Youth can Change the World through Experiential Learning

Youth-Led Projects — When young people lead experiential learning, they can change the world. Learning about different activities, planning experiences, facilitating groups and assessing their projects can show youth they are powerful beyond measure.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working with adults as allies allows young people to build their abilities, knowledge and skills in safe, healthy relationships. Experiential learning can allow children and youth to build new understandings of how teaching and learning happens.

Community Youth Development — Become engaged in actively, meaningfully changing their communities can give young people opportunities to learn through experience while changing the world. Learning about community, social change and action is at the heart of CYD.

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Experiential Learning

Training — Learning about experiential learning as a concept and a practice can build the ability of children and youth to make life experiences more meaningful for themselves. They can be trained in the methodology, in the facilitation, in assessment and in how to apply experiential learning beliefs across different applications.

Inspiration — Going through learning activities without knowing what is happening, why its happening and where its going to, young people can lose their motivation for learning. Becoming inspired can happen through storytelling and a lot of other ways.

Classroom Credit — Experiential learning can be challenging to plan, hard to facilitate and risky to assess. Acknowledging the energy, action and goals of learners with classroom credit can add substance, meaning and depth to experiential learning.

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Youth Infusion

Freechild Project youth and adult workshop participants

The term youth infusion was coined by expert and Freechild Project advisor Wendy Lesko, who says the term summarizes “where young people are involved in every conceivable way — as volunteers and paid community organizers, as facilitators and trainers, as conference planners, and as full-fledged members on a board of directors.”

The Freechild Project expands on Wendy’s idea and suggests youth infusion means the absolute and complete integration of youth throughout all of society. It encapsulates the total end of all age-based restrictions against children and youth, instead acknowledging their vast and under-acknowledged contributions and energies as they apply throughout homes, schools, organizations, communities, nations and the world. As youth infusion becomes apparent throughout a society, young people gain the rights to vote, move freely, and partake in the economy. They also gain the responsibilities of paying taxes, engaging civically and building community.

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Youth Infusion

Youth Mainstreaming — Transforming institutions by engaging young people throughout their functions is a key step towards youth infusion, and is embodied by youth mainstreaming. Professional development, training and programs should reflect this commitment.

Policy-Ins — Changing organizational policies can be harrowing, especially when nonprofits, government agencies and legislative bodies have dozens and hundreds of pages. Policy-ins give youth and adults opportunities to work together to study existing policies, propose changes and work together to infuse youth throughout policies.

Mutual Mentoring — Working together with adults as allies, youth can teach adults and be taught by adults in a mutually-beneficial way. Eliminating the barriers of adultism, youth infusion can be fostered

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Infusion

Education — Before young people can effectively become infused throughout the organizations and communities they spend their lives in, they can learn about the vision, mission, goals, functions and outcomes of the places they are at. They can learn about the issues they’re addressing and the most effective actions to take. Perhaps most importantly, they can become more effectively involved throughout the organizations and communities where youth infusion is the goal.

Opportunities — Youth infusion can happen in organizations and communities that create deliberate, intentional and accountable opportunities. Youth/adult partnerships become apparent throughout every step, including transparency, mutual accountability and each of the principles involved. There are also structural and systemic actions taken that foster youth infusion, too.

Champions — Whether they are youth or adults, every organization and community needs a champion for youth infusion. These champions can be the people served, staff, managers, or board directors. Oftentimes, the most effective champions are leaders who believe in youth infusion.

 

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