Dozens of decisions are made about the lives of young people everyday. Families, schools, youth programs, city councils, foundations, government agencies, employers, lawmakers… the list is virtually endless. There is an equally endless list of reasons why children and youth need to be meaningfully involved in activities that affect them personally and their communities as a whole. Youth involvement provides opportunities for young people to participate in the activities, projects, programs, organizations, strategies and initiatives throughout society.
“It starts innocently. Casually. You turn up at the annual spring fair full of beans, help with the raffle tickets (because the pretty red-haired music teacher asks you to) and win a bottle of whiskey (all school raffles are fixed), and, before you know where you are, you’re turning up at the weekly school council meetings, organizing concerts, discussing plans for a new music department, donating funds for the rejuvenation of the water fountains—you’re implicated in the school, you’re involved in it. Sooner or later you stop dropping your children at the school gates. You start following them in.” ― Zadie Smith
Ways Youth are Changing the World through Youth Involvement
Youth as Decision-Makers — Youth involvement in personal decision-making is an essential skill all young people should learn about and hone throughout their lives. Youth involvement in organizational decision-making and community decision-making is equally important.
Youth/Adult Partnerships — Becoming active, engaged and substantive partners with adults can empower and engage young people like few other activities. Youth/adult partnerships are intentional, responsive and appropriate in every setting.
Youth Mainstreaming — Taking youth involvement to the next level means setting higher expectations, securing deeper commitments and establishing new ground for transformation. This can happen through youth mainstreaming.
Tools Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Involvement
Education — Teaching young people about the structures, activities and actions that make youth involvement effective is important; however, facilitating their understanding about the assumptions, attitudes, beliefs and opinions behind youth involvement matters more.
Opportunities — Young people need authentic, substantive and meaningful opportunities to become involved throughout their lives, communities and the world. Creating these opportunities isn’t rocket science, but isn’t completely obvious, either.
Technology — Youth involvement can be established, promoted, substantiated and transformative through technology. Social media, the Internet, texting and other devices can empower young people to become involved and push for more.
- Maximum Youth Involvement: The complete gameplan for community action by Wendy Schaetzel Lesko for the Youth Activism Project
- “Youth Involvement in Community Development: Implications and Possibilities for Extension” by M.A. Brennan, Rosemary V. Barnett and Eboni Baugh for the Journal of Extension
- “Youth Involvement in Prevention Programming” by Kent Klindera and Jennifer Menderwald for Advocates for Youth
- “Assessing Youth Involvement & Engagement” by the Unites States government
- Youth Involvement in Systems of Care: A guide to empowerment by Marlene Matarese, Lorrin McGinnis and Martha Mora for the Technical Assistance Partnership of the American Institutes of Research
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth involvement in your community or organization, contact us.