Essential Questions in Youth Involvement

I’m often asked for answers by folks who want to know exactly what to do. As many of my readers know, I don’t really give answers though. Instead, I’m a critical examiner, constantly asking questions and deconstructing answers that have been given.

Following are some essential questions I ask about youth involvement.

Step 1: Identify Why Youth Involvement
  • Have youth identified if they want to be meaningfully involved? If so, why do youth want to be meaningfully involved? If not, why not?
  • Have adults identified why they want to meaningfully involve youth ? If so, why do adults want youth to be meaningfully involved? If not, why not?
  • Is meaningful youth involvement seen as a learning tool? Is it being utilized as a pathway for youth to successfully meet their goals in life?
Step 2: Identify HOW Youth Will Be Involvement
  • What specific duties/tasks/assignments will youth have?
  • How will adults be involved?
  • How does meaningful youth involvement relate to the community at large?
  • How does meaningful youth involvement relate to formal organization or community activities?

Step 3: Figure out WHO Will Be Involved
  • Is the activity for traditionally or non-traditionally involved youth? If it is for non-traditionally involved youth, how will their involvement be ensured? How will it be sustained?
  • Is there equal representation from across the organization/group/community of youth targeted?

Step 4: Name WHAT Youth Will Be Involved In
  • Have clear goals or a distinct purpose been identified for youth to be meaningfully involved in?
  • Are there parameters for youth? Do they have complete autonomy, or are the roles for youth clearly defined ahead of their involvement?
  • Is there a distinct plan for educating, reflecting and assessing youth involvement?

Step 5: Identify WHEN Youth Involvement Will Happen
  • Is the activity in-class, during a pre-existing program time, during the school day, right after school, in the evening, on the weekends, or during a school break?
  • What accommodations have been made in order to acknowledge the specific nuances of youth schedules, i.e. homework, transportation, lost program time, etc?
  • How often will meaningful involvement occur within the youth’s life as a youth? During one day? Throughout a week? In a quarter or semester? Throughout one school year? Beyond?

Step 6: Say WHERE Youth Will Be Involved
  • Are youth meaningfully involved in their local community in other places?
  • Who controls the environments where meaningful youth involvement will occur? How do they affect meaningful youth involvement?
  • Do youth have opportunities to become meaningfully involved throughout their communities in other ways? Why or why not? How?
These are some of the essential questions. What else would YOU ask?
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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