Here are some measures to take when attempting to engage young people and ensuring that the experience is both valuable for the youth and the program.
Consider where your program is now and where you want to be on the continuum of youth engagement. Not every program or activity can or should include Level 5 youth. The capacity of program personnel to spend time and resources on involving adolescents, the aim of expanding youth opportunities, and support within the organization for involving young all influence the level of youth involvement. Organizational infrastructure and support for involving adolescents are critical factors for youth involvement’s long-term viability.
- Examine your organization’s programming to see where kid participation might be most useful and possible. Define why youth should participate in the chosen activity. Determine how to engage adolescents and the right level of involvement based on the purpose.
- Consult with other organizations and agencies that have already partnered with adolescents to discover how they did it and any suggestions they may have. Collaborating with other youth-focused groups may help you avoid the implementation issues that others have encountered.
- Determine how you will recruit young people and keep them involved in the process. How to recruit children who are representative of the population you serve, what skills and talents the young require, and what training should be provided are all things to consider.
- Offer training for organization staff who will be working with the young to ensure that everyone understands the logic and goal of partnering with youth, how it will benefit both the program and the youth, and the skills required to work alongside youth effectively.
Youth can participate in organizational decision-making structures and program creation in a variety of ways. It is best to incorporate adolescents from the start of a project; examples of how and where youth might be involved include the following.
The GIS (geographic information system) initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture is an example of a needs assessment, in which youngsters identified resources in their areas. The materials were then uploaded to a community-wide map, which was then utilized to alert community leaders to any gaps or issues. More information on Youth Tracking can be found here.
Within communities, youth are a great source of the human and social enterprise sector. Their social networks include peers, family members, and adult friends who have access to area resources. Several federally supported programs are enlisting the help of young people to establish local priorities and achieve more meaningful outcomes. These programs rely on young people’s wisdom to help evaluate the needs of their communities.
While efficiently delivering program information, youth can assist in the creation of activities that will be of particular appeal to their peers. Many people are aware of age-appropriate team-building exercises and activities that can be used.
The voices of youth are being taken more seriously by communities. Youth are participating in governing organizations such as library councils, parks, and recreation boards, institute boards, and even city councils in both rural and urban locations. Youth have full voting rights in several of these leadership groupings. Although some organizations may not allow it, youth can nonetheless have their voices heard as representatives of the communities in which they live.