Youth activism expert Yve Susskind taught The Freechild Project that youth participation was something young people can do on their own. Adults can involve youth, they can engage youth, but they cannot participate youth. Youth participation can happen through sports, schools, faith communities, and throughout communities. It can also happen in homes and among friends. Youth participation can be formal or informal; when its formal, youth may not choose to attend something, but they choose whether to participate. When its informal, youth choose to join in on something.
Ways Youth Can Change the World through Youth Participation
Youth as Recruiters — Young people can be the greatest peer advocates and community builders. Choosing activities and issues they are passionate about gives children and youth immediate investment in a program; allowing them to connect with people they want on board gives them the opportunities they need to influence people. Youth participation in recruiting can lead to the greatest outcomes for every project or program.
Social Media — Using technology they are comfortable with allows children and youth to assume influence, motivate others and propel social movements forward. Social media in all its forms answers this call, giving young people a doorway into participating in vast global conversations, and opening doorways to action offline, too.
Youth Authors — Young people can participate in social change through writing. Whether they are developing ebooks for young audiences online, writing articles in the local newspaper, or using texts to blast out messages to their friends and families, young authors can participate in social change in active, meaningful ways.
Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Participation
Opportunities — Often denied access to become meaningful participants in their own lives, children and youth need opportunities to participate. Whether happening at home, in nonprofits or local government, through school or in national organizations, youth participation can require door openings.
Inspiration — The inspiration to become active in their own lives escapes many young people who have been historically denied that right. Inspiring these children and youth can lead to substantive, impacting youth participation throughout communities.
Education — Once youth participation happens, its important to introduce and expand the knowledge, power and abilities of young people. Providing skill-building training and facilitating knowledge-sharing activities are key to improving youth participation.
- Youth Participation in Community Planning by Ramona Mullahey, Yve Susskind and Barry Checkoway for the American Planning Association
- “Youth participation” by United Nations Youth
- “Youth Participation Guide: Assessment, Planning, and Implementation” by YouthNet and Family Health International for Advocates for Youth
- Community Club Toolkit – Designed for sports clubs, community groups, youth centres or anyone trying to organise community events, sports activities or structured programs for informal groups and young people. A free resource with lots of ‘how to’ hints and useful templates to save your club time when: running meetings; helping club volunteers and members; engaging youth in decision making; membership (succession) planning; and running the day to day jobs within a community committee.
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth participation in your community or organization, contact us.