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.
Before you launch a Youth Forum, there are many roles to understand.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- How To Organize a Youth Forum by Jutta Dotterweich for ACT for Youth
- “Youth Hosted Forum Playbook” by Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support Youth Forums in your community or organization, contact us.