When they research, plan, write, and evaluate rules, regulations, laws, and other policies, engaging youth as policy-makers can enrich, substantiate, enliven, and impact the outcomes of policies in many ways.
Rather than standing or speaking for children, we need to stand with children speaking for themselves. We don’t need a political movement for children… We need to build environments and policies for our collective future. — Sandra Meucci
Ways Youth are Changing the World through Policy-Making
Youth On Boards — Youth engagement on boards should be identical to adults. There should be equal numbers of youth and adults on every board affecting young people and the larger communities they are part of. They should have full rights, including the abilities to raise issues, to vote, to hire and fire executives, to be responsible for finances, and all other duties of regular board members. Nonprofit organizations, international NGOs, municipal (village/town/city/county) boards, school boards, and other boards should all do this.
Youth Legislative Members — Participating as full members of democratically elected governance bodies, youth engagement should happen through governmental policy-making activities. Developing legislation, participating in relevant blocs, raising votes, voting on all topics, and otherwise fully belonging to any legislative body is what matters. This can include state or provincial bodies, and federal and international bodies.
Youth as Policy Committee Members — Youth should be engaged as full members of every committee that plans, creates, designates, researches, evaluates and otherwise implements policies of any kind in every environment around the world. They should be engaged in fully considering legal, social, economic, educational and every other aspect of policy-making, as well as the regulatory, political and cultural effects.
Things Youth Need to Change the World through Policy-Making
There are many different resources available to engage youth as policy-makers. While many are vital for success, many have not been created yet. Following are different types of tools youth need to become policy-makers.
Education — Youth need to learn what policy is, how it happens, where it occurs, who it affects and who affects it, and most importantly, why policy matters and what difference it can make.
Training — Once they are in a policy-making activity, youth need training about procedures, policies, and other activities that can affect them in these roles.
Credit — All policy-makers receiving credit for their roles, whether its nebulous and loose or identifiable and direct. Credit is a tool to encourage engagement, and is best doled out to everyone involved, including youth.
- “Child and youth participation resource guide: Policy advocacy and budget analysis” by UNICEF
- “How to engage youth in making policies that work for us all” by The Conversation
- Engaging Youth in Community Decision-Making by the Center for the Study of Social Policy
- Preparing Youth to Participate in State Policy Making by the California Research Bureau
- “Youth Participation in Local Government” by MSRC
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 policy-making in your community or organization, contact us.