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Youth Engagement

 
Tools for Youth Engagement

Assessing Your Organization's Readiness for Youth Development

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YALPE Workbook

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Being Y-AP Savvy

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ACT for Youth Highlight
Involving Youth in Evaluation
Youth participatory evaluation (YPE) engages young people in evaluating the programs, organizations, and systems designed to serve them. There are different models of YPE: some are completely driven by youth; others are conducted in partnership with adults. For information and resources, visit these ACT for Youth pages:

Youth Participatory Evaluation
Principles of YPE
Benefits of YPE
Resources for YPE

Youth Engagement in Organizations

Youth Engagement in OrganizationsCreating meaningful roles for young people in youth development organizations supports and sustains youth engagement. Staff turnover, program redesign due to funding changes, youth aging out of the program, and adultism (stereotypes and attitudes about youth) constitute some of the ongoing threats to youth engagement. A supportive infrastructure (policies and practices) that integrates youth development into organizations provides the strong and lasting foundation that is required for success.

Creating and supporting an organizational infrastructure for youth engagement takes effort and commitment. To stay motivated and on task, keep in mind that organizations greatly benefit from youth engagement. Through youth engagement, organizations have improved their youth programs and community outreach, have received greater community recognition, and have been able to attract new funders.

Youth Engagement Model

Drawing from many years of experience, the Coalition for Youth in Hampton, Virginia developed a youth engagement model that distinguishes three levels of influence for young people within organizations:
  • Project Level: At this level, young people make decisions and carry out responsibilities related to a range of projects and activities. Youth can be peer educators or mentors to young children, develop a community service project, or give a community presentation. These opportunities allow them to develop skills, learn more about the community and agency, and develop a sense of competency. Guided and supervised by adults, these projects are action-oriented and show results quickly.
     
  • Input and Consultation Level: At this level, young people are given opportunities to give their perspective and opinion on an issue, be an advocate or advisor, or express their view to the media on issues affecting youth. They can be part of an advisory group that meets regularly and provides ongoing input to the organization and/or Board of Directors.
     
  • Shared Leadership Level: At this level, young people are given roles that are more influential. Together with adults, they make decisions about policy, hiring staff, or raising and spending money. The young people involved need to make a bigger commitment of time and regular attendance. This level also requires certain skill sets and a more comprehensive understanding of the organization and its mission and goals.
Meaningful Roles for Young People This model or framework demonstrates important issues:
  • First, there are more opportunities for engagement at the project level; this is a good entry level for young people to develop skills, competence, interest, and commitment to the agency. Younger adolescents (middle school age) are able to engage and be very effective in these roles. Examples of roles and opportunities for participation at the project level include facilitator, trainer, fundraiser, peer educator, mentor, youth theater, and community service.
     
  • Secondly, all levels provide opportunities for input and leadership. This framework allows young people to find and build on their strengths and interests, and advance to other opportunities over time. Furthermore, this flexibility ensures early and ongoing recruitment of young people. Examples of opportunities for participation at this level include youth forums, advocacy, youth advisory groups, focus groups and surveys, evaluation, consulting, and media.
     
  • Finally, this model provides organizations with the opportunity to infuse youth engagement into their structure, practice, and policy. Young people can be involved on many different levels and be visible in many different roles, creating an environment for authentic youth engagement. Examples include leadership positions, voting members on boards, and serving on hiring, program, or development committees.
Naturally, adults in the organization have to be open to including young people in organizational processes. Overcoming adult attitudes by forming youth-adult partnerships is a key strategy. To do this successfully, adults, organizations, and young people all need to be prepared for youth-adult partnerships.

Resources

Youth-Adult Partnerships in Public Action (PDF), written by Shepherd Zeldin, Julie Petrokubi, and Linda Camino for the Forum for Youth Investment, examines how organizations create a culture of youth-adult partnership.

Washington Youth Voice Handbook (PDF), written by Adam Fletcher and published by CommonAction, offers perspective on youth voice as well as over 20 workshop outlines.

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