Through formal and informal decision-making, youth as decision-makers are engaged in making powerful, meaningful and substantive choices, decisions and determinations that affect themselves, their peers, their communities, and the world. A lot of youth-focused activities, organizations, and programs are run by adults. However, anytime adults are charged with managing programs for children or youth they must take steps to engage children and youth in organizational decision-making in new and different ways. Every time a program or the young participants change these ways must change, too. This is true in community organizations, schools, foundations, government agencies and religious organizations, as well as at home and throughout communities.
Too often we give young people answers to remember rather than problems to solve. — Roger Lewin
Ways Youth can Change the World through Decision-Making
Personal Decision-Making — No matter who they are, where they are or what they are doing, everyday everyone has decisions they can make for themselves. Youth engagement in personal decision-making happens all the time, choosing how to act, who to be around, and what to do. The question becomes whether young people are making decisions intentionally or by accident, coincidence, or otherwise.
Youth as Movement Leaders — Making decisions that create social change around the world, youth engagement is happening through movements for the environment, education, political reform, and many other issues. Engaging youth as movement leaders means positioning them with authority, purpose and ability.
Community Decision-Making — Youth can be engaged acting on behalf of their neighborhoods, cultural groups, friends, and others. Community decision-making opportunities can include engaging young people in neighborhood associations, on community boards, or through community building activities like graffiti art campaigns, service learning, or other opportunities.
Things Youth Need to Change the World through Decision-Making
Advocacy Opportunities — Purposefully engaging youth in advocacy opportunities is a tool for developing their decision-making skills and abilities because this gives them practical, applicable ways to see what their choices can lead towards and away from.
Training — Creating co-learning opportunities for youth and adults to work together and facilitating these with intention can lead to stronger knowledge and skills sets among everyone involved.
Stories — The inspiration to get engaged in making powerful, positive decisions can come to youth by reading, hearing and interacting with others’ stories. These stories can cross cultural, gender, socio-economic, identity and other boundaries and provide new insight to transform their own lives and the lives of people around them.
- “Youth as Decision Makers: Summary” by Canadian After School Partnership
- “Youth participation in decision-making” by the New Zealand Ministry of Youth Development
- “Students as decision-makers” by Adam Fletcher for SoundOut
- Youth Participation in Decision-Making in Sub-Saharan Africa by Christiana E.E. Okojie for the United Nations pdf
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 decision-making in your community or organization, contact us.