Working together with other members of their communities, including children, adults and elders, youth and community development offer ways youth can change the world few other activities can. Community development happens when people take action to solve common problems affecting the places they live, work and play everyday. Community members, neighborhood activities, elected officials, professionals and youth can all work together to build better communities for everyone affected. Increasingly, when foundations, government programs, and innovative community organizations want creative solutions to difficult funding issues, they turn to young people for solutions. Oftentimes, youth are connected to their communities in more authentic and unhindered ways than adults that can help communities by better understood.
Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often the real loser — in fees, and expenses, and waste of time. As a peace-maker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough. — Abraham Lincoln
Ways Youth can Change the World through Community Development
Youth as Community Organizers — When governments won’t engage youth, community groups and nonprofits can step in to engage youth as community organizers. Through training and empowerment, they can develop unique, powerful campaigns that engage many people, including children, youth, adults, families and elders.
Youth and Government — Participating in regular and sustained government positions, roles and activities can allow youth community developers to change the world. Roles should be rull voting and frequent, and focus on engaging diverse young people.
Youth as Planners — Young people can participate as community planners in community development work. Using education and training, they can learn the skills and knowledge they need, and applying their knowledge they can guide their peers, younger people and adults, too.
Things Youth Need to Change the World through Community Development
Opportunities — Local governments, nonprofits and advocates should create substantive, sustainable opportunities for children and youth to contribute to community development. There should be regular, ongoing activities and visual, transparent outcomes.
Training — Training young people about community development can be engaging and empowering in many ways. Children and youth can learn what community is, how communities are built, where community development and planning fails, and what roles they can play throughout the processes.
Stories — Young people can become motivated and inspired to create change through community development with stories. The stories of their friends, families and peers are important, as can be stories from other youth around the world.
- Growing Up in Cities – Growing Up in Cities provides models of interdisciplinary, intersectoral collaboration for listening to the voices of young people and creating more responsive urban policies and practices.
- Kids and Community– A website developed by city planners to encourage kids to learn about cities and get involved in changing them.
- Children, Youth, and Environments Journal – CYE is an international, multidisciplinary network of researchers, policy makers and practitioners working to improve the living conditions of children and youth. CYE supports the sharing of knowledge and experience, while recognizing young people’s capacity for meaningful participation in the processes that shape their lives.
- Project for Public Spaces – A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people of all ages create the kinds of places that build communities. We achieve this through technical assistance, training, research and education – as well as programs in parks, plazas and central squares; transportation; public buildings; and architecture and public markets. Website includes examples, tip sheets, and more.
- California Center Youth Voices – Improves youth awareness of and involvement in community planning and land-use decisions.
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in community development in your community or organization, contact us.