Youth Engagement in Portland, Oregon

Back in the early 2000s, Portland, Oregon, was another midline American city with nothing special happening. Sure, they had a city youth council, but it was under-energized and ill-equipped for the new century that just began. Then, action happened.

In 2002, Multnomah County hired a new youth development coordinator named Josh Todd, and he transformed the entire operation. Over the course of a half-decade, he basically super-charged the county’s youth programs and set them up for the future.

During that time, there were several significant developments. They included:

  • Focusing on youth of color and low-income youth to dramatically increase their participation in youth engagement activities throughout the entire county;
  • Expanding the Multnomah County Youth Council and including the City of Portland to make the youth commission a joint City-County policy body;
  • Creating a two-year, community-wide project that created a Youth Bill of Rights, with more than 4,000 youth involved in the creation and implementation of the final document;
  • Securing significant funding from the Youth Innovation Fund of the Kellogg Foundation. They gave the City of Portland and Multnomah County $325,000 over 4-years to support their countywide youth engagement work. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation Youth Innovation Fund supported “diverse groups of young people, working in partnership with community institutions, to create civic innovations that address public issues and problems using a service-learning framework.”
  • They trained a lot of people through their program.

According to youth and adults there, the City of Portland and Multnomah County still have issues in their youth development, youth engagement and youth/adult partnership work. However, the work of the Youth Commission has made great strides today and into the future that all communities worldwide can learn from!

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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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Youth + Social Change through Youth Forums

Freechild Project youth and adult workshop participants

Placing youth voice at the center of social change, Youth Forums can provide an engaging, empowering way to develop consensus, discuss issues and build community among youth in a community. As a structured, purposeful event, Youth Forums are meant to give youth an opportunity to express their ideas, opinions, and needs to adults or other youth. Youth Forums can be youth-led or adult-led; because the purpose of Youth Forums is to engage youth voice, young people should be prepared to share it. Rather than all talking, multiple engagement styles should be used. Youth don’t need permission to share youth voice or change the world—Youth Forums just make it easier for them to do both.

Key Questions

Before you launch a Youth Forum, there are many roles to understand.

Organizational Roles

  • What is your objective for hasting a Youth Forum?
  • What resources is your organization willing to commit to your Youth Forum, including staff, financial resources and expertise?
  • What other organizations are willing or necessary to co-host this Youth Forum?
  • What will the follow-up to the Youth Forum be? How will youth continue to be engaged?

Youth Roles

  • How will youth be involved in planning and facilitating the Youth Forum?
  • What experience does your organization have facilitating Youth Forums?
  • Do you currently work with youth? Will you need to recruit youth to co-lead the Youth Forum?

Adult Roles

  • What are the roles of adults in planning and facilitating the Youth Forum?
  • How will adults be trained in youth voice?
  • When will adults speak up and when will they listen?

Shared Action

  • Who decides the topics and breadth of the Youth Forum conversations?
  • What committees are needed to implement the Youth Forum?
  • Who will direct whom in accomplishing the various activities?
  • Where is the central location for your meetings and work?
  • How and how often will committees communicate?

Attendees

  • What age group do you want to attend?
  • If you want mixed ages to attend…
    • How will you ensure the majority of attendees are youth?
    • How will you ensure youth are heard foremost at your Youth Forum?
    • How will you ensure adults will not sit on the outside and look in, creating uncomfortable fishbowls?
  • How many people do you want to attend? Number of youth? Adults?
  • How will you recruit and support diverse youth attendance? Where will these youth come from, including geographic areas, different races and gender identities, socio-economic levels, educational attainment and varying leadership tendencies?

Format

  • Who will develop the agenda?
  • What will the length of the Youth Forum be?
  • What is the format for the learning opportunities at the Youth Forum?
  • What role will adults play at the Youth Forum? How will they differ from the roles of youth?
  • Will there be speakers at the Youth Forum? Who?
  • Will there be facilitators? Who? Where will they come from?
  • Who will train the youth facilitators and/or the adult facilitators?

Logistics

  • Where and when will the Youth Forum be held?
  • Will you provide snacks, drink and/or meals? Where will they come from?
  • Will you be doing anything that requires addressing liability issues or have permission slips?
  • Will there be a registration fee for the Youth Forum? If so, how will you include youth without money to pay that fee?
  • Will there be a pre-registration or on-site registration?
  • Will the Youth Forum need its own logo?

Publicity

  • How will you publicize the Youth Forum?
  • What media sources need to be contacted?
  • What other key contacts need to be made in the community to assist you with publicity?

Evaluation, Celebration and Distribution

  • How will the Youth Forum be evaluated?
  • If youth evaluators assess the event, who develops the evaluation?
  • What kind of response do you want from youth attendees? From adult attendees?
  • What kind of response do you want from youth facilitators? From adult facilitators?
  • What will make this Youth Forum a success?
  • Will another Youth Forum be held in the future?
  • How will you keep up the motivation?
  • What will you do with the outcomes, both good and challenging?

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Action Councils

Freechild Project youth program participants in Seattle

Youth Action Council is a group of young people who develop a group approach using their individual abilities in order to solve serious social issues. In Youth Action Councils, young people develop, implement and evaluate actions through youth/adult partnerships. Youth Action Councils can be hosted by nonprofits, local/state/federal government agencies, school districts, community groups, international NGOs, and other organizations. Member ages, terms, numbers, issues and actions vary according to organizational priorities, youth voice and other factors. Youth Action Councils are the activity that changed everything for youth engagement. Before Youth Action Councils, organizations didn’t imagine what youth could do to change the world; after they started to exist, organizations only wanted to dream bigger.

How to Build Youth + Social Change through Youth Action Councils

Youth as Trainers ― Working together with their communities, Youth Action Councils are teaching adults, other youth, and young children about issues that matter to them. Some of these topics, including sex ed, environmentalism, and racism are at the core of major struggles today, while others are emerging issues.

Youth Grantmaking ― Young people are partnering with foundations and philanthropic organizations, as well as leading their own efforts, to raise funds and support causes that matter to them. This is happening through Youth Action Councils at the community level, nationally, and internationally.

Youth as Policy-Makers ― Youth Action Councils are active on the federal, state or provincial levels, and local levels around the world, making policy, informing elected and appointed officials, and evaluating decision-making that affects rules, guidelines, laws and regulations.

Tools for Youth + Social Change through Youth Action Councils

Motivation ― After years of being routinely disconnected from real activities that change the world, it can be challenging for youth to want to join Youth Action Councils, and when they do join them, it can be hard to feel inspired. Motivation can come through storytelling, action research, and other opportunities.

Training ― Simply being appointed, selected or choosing to be on a Youth Action Council does not make a youth capable of being successful. Careful self- and group assessments should be conducted to learn what skills are present in the group, and what needs introduced and developed.

Opportunities ― When an organization creates a Youth Action Council, it becomes essential to provide real, practical and obvious opportunities for that group to change the world. Developing SMART goals, identifying useful tools and other resources, and having Youth Advisory Councils conduct meaningful evaluations and reflect on their work midcourse and at the end of their projects is essential.


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

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!

Institutional Adultism

Freechild Project youth at a summer camp in Seattle

Institutional adultism may be apparent in any instance of systemic bias where formalized limitations or demands are placed on people simply because of their young age. These limitations are often reinforced through physical force or police actions. This is increasingly seen as a form of gerontocracy, explained by James Carville when he wrote,

“This is not class warfare, this is generational warfare. This administration and old wealthy people have declared war on young people. That is the real war that is going on here. And that is the war we’ve got to talk about.”

From every report I have read, institutional adultism rages across our communities, and includes banks, courts, police, schools, nonprofits, churches, mosques, synagogues, and all levels of governments. I would summarize the effects of institutional adultism as:

  • Compulsory education
  • Access to contraceptives
  • Legalized corporal punishment
  • Curfew laws
  • Anti-youth loitering policies
  • Criminalization and demonization of youth via media
  • Voting age
  • Age of candidacy
  • Access to healthcare
  • Typecasting of youth by police
  • The Draft

Total institutions, which are the organizations in our society which dominate the entire being of a person, include the military, prisons, schools, and hospitals. Young people are affected by total institutions more than any other social group.

Ultimately, the normalization and legitimization of historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal dynamics that routinely advantage adults while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for young people is best summarized as institutional adultism.

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

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 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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