The term youth infusion was coined by expert and Freechild Project advisor Wendy Lesko, who says the term summarizes “where young people are involved in every conceivable way — as volunteers and paid community organizers, as facilitators and trainers, as conference planners, and as full-fledged members on a board of directors.”
The Freechild Project expands on Wendy’s idea and suggests youth infusion means the absolute and complete integration of youth throughout all of society. It encapsulates the total end of all age-based restrictions against children and youth, instead acknowledging their vast and under-acknowledged contributions and energies as they apply throughout homes, schools, organizations, communities, nations and the world. As youth infusion becomes apparent throughout a society, young people gain the rights to vote, move freely, and partake in the economy. They also gain the responsibilities of paying taxes, engaging civically and building community.
Ways Youth can Change the World through Youth Infusion
Youth Mainstreaming — Transforming institutions by engaging young people throughout their functions is a key step towards youth infusion, and is embodied by youth mainstreaming. Professional development, training and programs should reflect this commitment.
Policy-Ins — Changing organizational policies can be harrowing, especially when nonprofits, government agencies and legislative bodies have dozens and hundreds of pages. Policy-ins give youth and adults opportunities to work together to study existing policies, propose changes and work together to infuse youth throughout policies.
Mutual Mentoring — Working together with adults as allies, youth can teach adults and be taught by adults in a mutually-beneficial way. Eliminating the barriers of adultism, youth infusion can be fostered
Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Infusion
Education — Before young people can effectively become infused throughout the organizations and communities they spend their lives in, they can learn about the vision, mission, goals, functions and outcomes of the places they are at. They can learn about the issues they’re addressing and the most effective actions to take. Perhaps most importantly, they can become more effectively involved throughout the organizations and communities where youth infusion is the goal.
Opportunities — Youth infusion can happen in organizations and communities that create deliberate, intentional and accountable opportunities. Youth/adult partnerships become apparent throughout every step, including transparency, mutual accountability and each of the principles involved. There are also structural and systemic actions taken that foster youth infusion, too.
Champions — Whether they are youth or adults, every organization and community needs a champion for youth infusion. These champions can be the people served, staff, managers, or board directors. Oftentimes, the most effective champions are leaders who believe in youth infusion.
- Youth/Adult Partnerships
- Youth and Intergenerational Partnerships
- Youth/Adult Relationships Spectrum
- “Youth as Equal Partners” by Adam Kendall, Wendy Schaetzel Lesko and Michael Radmer for United Way of America
- “At This Library, Youth Involvement Gets Real” by Wendy Schaetzel Lesko for Youth Today
- “New Efforts to Engage Youth in Legislative Advocacy” by Wendy Schaetzel Lesko for Civic Engagement
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth infusion in your community or organization, contact us.