Engaging Youth

The Youth Engagement Spectrum extends from those organizations that generate meaningful input from youth to organizations that are youth led. Outside of the spectrum lies organizations that serve youth but not necessarily engage them.

YOUTH ENGAGEMENT SPECTRUM:


Youth Input
Youth Led
Youth Serving Youth Engagement spectrum
Youth Engagement


Categorization of Youth Programs/Organization

  1. Youth-serving - The program targets youth as consumers of service only
    Example:ABC soccer club offers recreational programming to youth ages 10 - 15. All coaches, staff and board members are adults - mostly parents of current and past players. The feedback form sent out by the club at the end of each season asks parents of the players to comment on the quality of programming and provide suggestions as to how things could be improved.
  2. Youth Input - Youth evaluates or provides feedback on programs and services
    Example:ABC soccer club offers recreational programming to youth ages 10 - 15. All coaches, staff and board members are adults - mostly parents of current and past players. At the end of each season, ABC soccer club invites its players to a wrap up celebration which includes the opportunity for the players to let the organization know what things they liked about their experience with the club and what things they would like to see done differently. The coaches, staff and board take this feedback and incorporate it into next years' planning.
  3. Youth-engaged - Youth are actively involved in program development and/or delivery
    Example:ABC soccer club offers recreational programming to youth ages 10 - 15. Most coaches, staff and board members are adults - mostly parents of current and past players. However, the club has recently implemented a "Coach in Training" (CIT) program geared to its older players. The CIT's participate in skills clinics and a leadership program and receive an honorarium for their time. They are assigned to a team and work with the head coach on game plans and practice exercises. Members of the CIT team have formed an Advisory Committee to work with the club's staff and coaching team to enhance the program and to act as mentors to new CITs.
  4. Youth-led - Program concept and/or organization came from youth
    Example:ABC soccer club offers recreational programming to youth ages 10 - 15. The club was started by a group of senior high school students to increase recreational and leadership opportunities for youth in the community. All of the coaches are young people themselves - head coaches are older youth (18+) and the 15 year olds have the opportunity to become "Coaches in Training" (CIT). The board of directors consists of youth (former players, coaches, community leaders) supported by a group of adult allies (parents of players, local business and community leaders).
    In addition, some youth engagement programs work to advocate for the adoption of youth engagement practices in other organizations and institutions.

The following is a list of questions for you to reflect on in order to assess the level of youth engagement present in your organization.

  1. Youth engagement in the proposed program
    • Were youth involved (or will youth be involved) in the development, implementation and/or evaluation of the program?
    • Are the roles for youth meaningful? For example, will ideas expressed by youth have an influence on the program? Are the responsibilities given to youth important ones? Do the youth themselves perceive their roles as meaningful?
    • Will there be an opportunity to reflect on and learn from youth and adult perspectives on the success of the youth engagement process?
  2. Support for youth engagement
    • Is your organization receptive to youth engagement? Is the Board open to new ideas and prepared for changes to its organizational culture? For example, have adults been prepared for interacting with youth and sharing responsibility with them?
    • Is there at least one adult "mentor" or "ally" with responsibility for the proposed program?
    • Does your budget include specific allocations for expenses related to youth engagement (e.g., honoraria for youth, training for youth and adults, travel and food expenses for youth)?
  3. Recruitment and youth development
    • Is there an on-going plan to recruit youth into your organization or program?
    • Are there opportunities for increasing the roles and responsibilities of youth as they develop, gain skills and accumulate experience?
    • Has your organization considered how to support youth at all stages of the life-cycle of their engagement? For example, are there opportunities for youth who become "too old" to be engaged in a different way? Is there adequate support for new participants?
  4. Organizational youth engagement policy and practices
    • Does your organization have a youth engagement policy?
    • Were youth involved in the development of the policy?
    • Does your organization have a process for assessing and adjusting its youth engagement policy and practices?
    • Will your organization create opportunities for youth to engage at different levels? Are there or will there be youth as staff, as board members, and/or as member of advisory committees with decision-making power? Are there clear expectations and roles for youth in decision-making roles?