Effective youth programming involves a supportive environment; an orientation toward positive outcomes; and program activities that involve multiple learning styles and are hands-on, experiential, relevant, and challenging. There are several core strategies to enhance young people's meaningful engagement in programming. Whether it is a sports, after-school, or prevention program, young people can make authentic contributions by being involved in program planning, implementation, and evaluation/reflection.
Invite young people to provide ideas for program activities and events, offer suggestions for recruitment and outreach, or map out new topic areas.
Interactive Planning Activity: Backwards Planning
Young people define the desired outcome of the project and start planning all the necessary steps by working backwards from the goal or outcome. They can use sticky notes or other colored paper, or they can use a sticky wall and paper. As they generate action steps, they can discuss the order and rearrange steps if necessary.
Give young people concrete roles and responsibilities during programming, such as group leader, facilitator or co-facilitator of a program activity, manager of logistics (prepare material, set up, refreshments, etc.), or project leader and organizer.
Program responsibilities and roles that a young person could carry out include these examples:
- Community/neighborhood events
- Mentoring of younger youth
- Peer education
- Manager of a youth-run café or teen center
- Leader/captain of a sports team
Engage young people in reflecting on the program or program activities through focus groups, surveys, interviews, or speak-outs. To ensure that input from young people is solicited regularly, institutionalize the practice by forming youth advisory groups or developing youth as evaluators
Interactive Evaluation or Reflection Activity: Interviews
Young people can interview each other about a group experience or a completed project. It is best to start this activity by brainstorming the interview questions as a group. Put young people into teams and have them interview each other. After a few minutes they can report back to the larger group about their findings. To make it more interesting, they can use cell phones or flip cameras to record the interview.