Youth Voice on the Internet

Youth Voice on the Internet by Adam Fletcher

Research shows youth are using the Internet more than ever right now. Based on almost 20 years experience, the Freechild Institute is interested is exploring the reality that this usage is complex and sophisticated, and shares youth voice in nearly countless ways. This article explores how youth voice is happening on the Internet, where it is happening and why it is happening.


Understanding the Issue

With the COVID-19 pandemic sending young people online worldwide, its more important than ever to understand how youth voice can be heard on the internet. This means understanding who shares youth voice, how it happens, why it matters, when youth voice occurs online, and what it means to listen to youth voice online.

Adults’ concerns for young people are often and accidentally distrustful and disrespectful of children and youth. Without intention, we assume the worst of our students and participants in many spaces. Relying on cold data and calculated statistics, our programs and classes figure young people are doing the worst possible things they can be until we correct their course.

Unfortunately, this is true online too. With sensational headlines and screaming pronouncements we decide learners aren’t learning, leaders aren’t leading and youth are going to hell in a handbasket whether they’re playing video games, chatting with friends or otherwise not doing what adults want them to, where they want it done, in ways they can predict.

In order to defeat these worst projections, we have to understand the value of youth voice on the internet.


Four Factors

The graphic above includes four different factors I believe are important when we examine youth voice on the internet. These factors are:

  1. Expressions of Youth Voice on the Internet
  2. Aspects of Youth Voice Online
  3. Types of Youth Voice on the Internet
  4. A Continuum of Youth Voice Online

The following sections explore these four factors.

1. Expressions of Youth Voice on the Internet

Expressions of Youth Voice on the Internet
This graphic illustrates expressions of youth voice online.

In my early writing, I explored how youth voice is best defined as any expression of any young person anywhere, about anything, any time, in any way for any reason at all. This definition reflects the wide-ranging intentions, forms and outcomes of youth voice. It is meant to deny the necessity of adults in youth voice, and instead affirms the most authentic forms of youth voice. Young people do not need adult permission, activities or acceptance to share youth voice; it is already shared wherever youth are all of the time. The question isn’t whether youth are sharing their voices; its whether adults are willing and able to hear what is being said.

All of that said, it is important to expand on what and how adults think youth voice is shared. When I listen to youth voice in my projects, research and home, I look for the following directly from youth themselves:

  • Thoughts
  • Ideas
  • Attitudes
  • Knowledge
  • Tone
  • Feelings
  • Beliefs
  • Opinions
  • Ideas
  • Wisdom
  • Moods

That’s not a complete list of different expressions of youth voice, either. However, it can begin to alert adults to the various ways young people make themselves hear on the internet already. Learn more ways youth voice is expressed elsewhere here »

2. Aspects of Youth Voice Online

Online Youth Voice Aspects
This graphic illustrates two aspects of youth voice on the Internet.

Since youth voice can be expressed in virtually countless ways online, I believe it is vital to examine different aspects of these expressions. One way is by observing the ways youth voice online is private, and the ways youth voice online is public. The difference between these two can be seen like this:

Private Youth Voice can be transient, fluctuating, isolated, direct and immediate. In different types of private youth voice, the expressions of young people can appear and disappear quickly; they are targeted towards certain people, frequently their peers; and they are often intimate, personal and emotional, whether funny, depressing, angry or just blah. It is most often shared alone, between just two people, or within a small group of people. Private youth voice fluctuates and reveals the differentiating nature of young people, changing according to their increasing knowledge, skills and abilities. Finally, its immediate and sudden, often reflecting reflective thinking and critical analysis, but also showing whit, style and perception at the same time.

Public Youth Voice can be more permanent, steady, expansive, indirect and gradual. When young people are talking with adults in large group settings, working together with their peers to lead movements or make large-scale statements, building online strategies and creating massive social change, they are sharing public youth voice. Public youth voice typifies young people because it can seem like these expressions freeze young peoples’s voices in a single place and time, making it appear as a steady, regular phenomenon. With countless issues it can be expressed towards, public youth voice can seem very broad too, and with its apparent permanency public youth voice can seem to make a gradual appearance, as if it comes from a logical, intentional and strategic place.

3. Types of Youth Voice on the Internet

Youth voice activities on the Internet
This graphic illustrates different youth voice activities on the Internet.

The Internet provides a unique avenue for youth voice because it is public and private at the same time.

When youth share different types of youth voice online, they are often hyper-conscious of these different aspects. For instance, in the traditional types of youth voice on the internet, young people create public artifacts for the masses to consume on the web. This includes commenting, web design, blogging, video-making, and conference calls. These are all static ways the Internet has been used for a long time, if not throughout its entire existence.

In current types of youth voice, the internet is used in private ways, including emails, private chat, texting and messaging. These are all transient ways that can and often do completely disappear after they are consumed. Examples of this technology include TikTok, Snapchat, iMessages, Discord and much, much more.

Along with several other ways, social media, gaming and hashtags can represent both private (transient) and public (static) types of youth voice online.

Learn about different ways youth voice is shared »

4. A Continuum of Youth Voice Online

Continuum of Youth Voice Online
This graphic illustrates a continuum of youth voice online.

Understanding why youth express themselves online isn’t rocket science, but isn’t always clear, either. It can be useful to understand all youth voice online through the lenses of the “3 C” continuum: Creation, Consumption and Criticism. These three C’s can help us listen to youth voice on the Internet more effectively:

  • Are youth creating the Internet by producing content and communicating, including chatting, blogging, creating websites, PDFs, infographics, photos, videos, etc.?
  • Are youth consuming the Internet by reading, buying, watching, listening, playing, and otherwise intaking different content already produced on the Internet?
  • Are youth criticizing the Internet and its content with critical thinking and interacting with other web users through conversation, commenting, recreating and remixing the Internet and its content?

Summary

When considering these factors, it’s important to understand that youth voice is never simply one thing for all youth, everywhere, all the time—not simply online, but also at home, throughout the community, and far beyond!

Instead, this article is meant to show youth voice on the internet as a broad, dynamic and constantly shifting reality. It can be an avenue for democratic engagement and culture building, as well as critical pedagogy and social justice. However, it can just as easily be weaponized to implement fascism and enforce the will of tyrants.

Do you have a favorite type of youth voice online? What are your questions, comments or concerns about this article? Please share your thoughts, ideas and responses in the comments!


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Workshops

Freechild provides workshops across the United States, Canada and internationally in four main areas:

VOICE—Freechild teaches that youth voice is any expression of any young person anywhere, at any time for any reason. We facilitate workshops that help people learn how, when, where and why youth voice matters!

ENGAGEMENT—Choosing the same thing over and over allows young people to establish their purpose, power and possibilities in life. Freechild’s learning activities show that when those choices are intentional, positive and motivated, they can connect youth with what matters for their entire lifetimes.

INVOLVEMENT—Fostering systemic opportunities for youth in activities, programs, organizations and communities requires planning, learning, action and reflection. Participants in Freechild workshops find out how youth engagement happens and where it matters most.

ACTION—You wouldn’t give the keys to a 16-year-old and tell them to figure out how to drive, but you would turn them loose with a budget and no learning about planning, facilitating and improving youth action? Freechild facilitates learning about youth action in positive, powerful ways! This includes our new Social Action Recharge for Youth & Adults workshop (see bottom!)

GET TRAINED: Voice, Involvement, Engagement, Action by Freechild Institute, https://freechild.org

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Social Action Recharge Workshop for Youth & Adults by Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement
Social Action Recharge Workshop for Youth & Adults by Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement
Freechild training for youth and adults
Freechild Institute training for youth and adults with topics and audiences

The Voices We Don’t Hear

  • Who talks that we don’t listen to?
  • What’s said that isn’t heard?
  • Why do we say that all youth voice matters, but then only listen to the voices that sound like our own?

With the visible outpouring of support for youth voice across the US in the last month, it can be easy to feel like youth voice is finally being heard. Years of standing up to shout and being ignored are finally being leveraged against the power of the internet and the will of a generation that’s been denied, ignored and otherwise rejected from joining the public dialogues that affect them most.

But while that’s happening, there’s another group of youth who feel even more repressed and oppressed in their attempts to express their voices. These young people live in areas where pain and trauma are almost as constant as the denial of their place, space and race at the table.

These youth aren’t courted by major national nonprofits and foundations who are handing out resources and money to support youth voice while its trending. They aren’t given passes from school to attend rallies and they don’t have parental permission slips to get on buses going to capitals for protests.

Instead, the youth I’m talking about are going to their evening jobs, or going home to watch their brothers and sisters after school and can take a day off. They’re literally in juvenile detention and in school suspension, waiting as prisoners at the whim of adults to set them free. They’re struggling to get passing grades in school, struggling to make and keep good friends, and struggling to stay safe tonight when they’re walking from the bus stop to their homes.

This is the reality: There are many youth voices that aren’t being heard right now. This moment isn’t being shared by all youth everywhere, even if we’re pretending and being told it is. Some young people are actually being suffocated by this particular pop culture moment that’s supposedly uplifting youth voice because their voices are being stifled in the midst of it all.

So, adults: Do youth have things to say that we don’t want to hear, but should regardless. Yes is the answer. Here’s a space where you can share those things, in the comments below.


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Youth and Gun Control

Guns are everywhere across the United States. After being massacred in schools and neighborhoods throughout the nation’s cities, suburbs and rural places, youth are upset about the absence of gun control. Luckily, today young people are taking action to make a difference. They are working with adults and on their own to change laws, change hearts and minds, and make a difference throughout the country. Here is some information the Freechild Institute has collected regarding youth and gun control.

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Gun Control

Youth-Led Activism — Taking direct action to raise awareness, challenge assumptions and change the country’s opinions about gun control can allow young people to change the world. Youth activism allows children and youth to be democratically represented in the media, at home, in legislatures and throughout every discussion across the country, even in places that would deny them.

Running for Office — Whatever age they are, young people can run for office; making a stand and drawing attention to gun control is the point, always. Building momentum requires young people stay committed to gun control throughout their campaigns and if they are elected. Staunch adult champions for engaging youth in politics to build support for gun control is necessary too, whether they are young people or adults.

Youth as Voters — Demanding youth rights and fighting for youth suffrage can transform gun control. Whether using a protest vote by going to a voting place and casting a blank ballot to show youth dissatisfaction with the current gun laws, practices and attitudes across the country. Youth as voters can also vote for a youth candidate who is capable of sharing youth voice.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Gun Control

Learning — In order to become engaged in changing the world through gun control, young people can learn about political systems, political actions, political issues and other realities within and around the political system. They can also conduct learning activities to leverage social change beyond laws.

Training — Training young people to change the world through politics means teaching them the skills they need to become involved in gun control. These skills can include communication, problem-solving, change management and conflict resolution skills. It also means participating in knowledge-sharing activities designed to build their capacity to take powerful action for gun control.

Inspiration — After 12, 14, 17 or 21 years of being told their voices don’t matter in gun control, young people may need inspiration to become engaged. Never in history have children and youth been seen or treated as serious political actors; given the opportunity, they will be. Inspiration from stories, parables, biographies and other sources can help prepare and sustain youth in gun control and beyond.

 


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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.

 

Related Articles

 

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.

 

Publications

 

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Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support eliminating classroom grades in your school or community, contact us.

 

Freechild Youth Handbook

Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute

“Free children are not easily influenced; the absence of fear accounts for this phenomenon. Indeed, the absence of fear is the finest thing that can happen to a child.” — A.S. Neill

The Freechild Institute wants YOU —young people right now—to have the tools and examples you need to get engaged and change the world! This section of our website is The Freechild Project Youth Handbook, and it’s for YOU.

Table of Contents

  1. Inspire: Who inspires you? Read these stories to light the fire inside you »
  2. Knowledge: What do you know? What do you want to know? Click here to learn more »
  3. People: Who are the youth who can change the world? Click here to find details »
  4. Issues: Which issues do youth take action to change? Click here to get ideas »
  5. Places: Where are young people fighting for change? Click here to get ideas »
  6. Actions: What do youth do to change the world? Click here to explore »
  7. Strategies: What are the best ways for action to happen? Click here for examples »
  8. Systems: What are the levers to change organizations, governments and society? Click here to discover them »
  9. Scale: Do you think global and act local? Click here to learn how! »
  10. Planning: Make real change with purpose and create real change. Click here for tools »
  11. Celebrating: Look back, lift up, and make a difference. Click here for ideas »
IMG_0358

As you use our online Handbook, keep in mind this is supposed to help you change the world. If it doesn’t work, tell us! If you want to thank us, do that. If you’re inspired, share it with your friends!

The World Needs YOU To Change It Right Now!

Please Don’t Wait Any Longer.


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Stories of Youth Changing the World

Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute

The following stories are about young people who decided there was a need in their community, and then took action to meet that need.  Some projects were one-time, and some are on going.  These stories can inspire, infuriate, and empower youth to change the world, and adults to be partners.

1. Cleanin’ It Up and Changing Our Neighborhoods

Katie, 15, from Kansas City, Missouri, decided that her community’s streets were an eye sore and it was time to do something about it. “Cleaning up the streets is needed in my community because it looks trashy and I thought if we could clean it up, we could make a difference not only in my eyes, but other people’s eyes too.  I would like to see a nice clean community that people care what it looks like.”

2. Takin’ Care of Kids: Teens Helping Kids

Rachel, 13, from Nashville, Tennessee, and her friends are concerned about children who have serious emotional disturbance (SED) so they created a hotline for kids to call, get advice or just talk.  They also created a public service announcement about SED.  “The ‘Kid Counselors’ give information and resources to the callers.  We want to help bring awareness to the issues surrounding mental illness and help kids with SED to be accepted as an important part of our community.”

3. Voices of the Past: Recording the History to Affect the Future

Kristen, 14, from Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, records the thoughts and stories of World War II and Korean War veterans.  “I think it will give the youth of my community a better understanding of what happened during the war.  Hopefully, it will also give us a greater respect to the men and women who sacrificed their time, effort, support and sometimes lives so we can be free today.”

4. WE Own Our Communities: Knowledge is Power

Blair, 15, from Moorestown, New Jersey, has joined forces with community leaders to reclaim a neglected community center and continue to transform it into a library with computers for inner city kids.  “Volunteerism opens a myriad of different culture and races, we have a unique opportunity to look at the work through their eyes and ‘walk in their shoes.’”

5. Taking Care of Ourselves: Bringing Youth Towards Economic Independence

Shawneequa, 17, from Norfolk, Virginia, started Youth Empowerment Virginia.  The project is committed to assisting youth in reaching their academic, social and economic potential.  The program fosters independence and responsibility, empowering more youth with their own desires to become active, constructive caring members of the community through better leadership skills, social skills and educational services.

6. Project Unity: Getting Students Voice Heard Through Technology

Project Unity was founded in November of 1999 by a group of students from schools across Washington County, Pennsylvania. Project Unity’s goals are to allow students to discuss school, community, or family problems with each other and to find a solution that will benefit all involved. Using today’s technology, they wish to unite a county and the people within that county to save time, money, and lives. This group feels that they can make a difference by relying on the principles of honesty, hard work, leadership, and perseverance. These students are the leaders of tomorrow, and they’re starting 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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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!