Case Study on The Freechild Project

The Freechild Project promotes new roles for young people throughout society. We do this through:

  • Operating programs in a number of communities;
  • Providing technical assistance;
  • Facilitating training and speaking, and; 
  • Managing a massive online database.

The impact of our overall work has never been formally assessed. However, here I’m going to compile some measures of impact that I find interesting.

Knowing what you do about Freechild, how would you assess the impact of our work?

About Freechild 

The mission of The Freechild Project is to advocate, inform, and celebrate social change led by and with young people around the world, especially those who have been historically denied the right to participate. We do this through programs, facilitating training and workshops, and through our website. We provide training, technical assistance and tools to community groups, nonprofit orgs, schools, and government agencies focused on the most diverse meaning of youth engagement.

Today, The Freechild Project operates as a community outreach effort of CommonAction Consulting, a socially-minded boutique consulting firm in Olympia, Washington. Our staff includes myself as the founding director, and eight other trainers. They are Teddy Wright, Scott Le Duc, Paula Kadanoff, Mike Beebe, Emma Margraf, Alan Wong, Barbara Jefferson, and Mackenzie Amara. Past staff have included Doug Smith, Kari Kunst, and Joseph Vavrus. Our advisors have included Dana Bennis, Mishaela Durán, Andrea Felix, Henry Giroux, Alex Koroknay-Palicz, Wendy Lesko, Heather Manchester, Joe Vavrus, Adrienne Wiley-Thomas, Jeff Conor, Dennis Harper, Scott Le Duc, Michele Levine, Adam King, Kate McPherson, Robert Miller, Sue Paro, Aaron Tang, Michael Vavrus, Patricia Wasley, Greg Williamson, and Karen Young.

Freechild Programs

Since 2001, I have launched 18 programs under the banner of Freechild. Some of these programs have included:

  • Firestarter Youth Empowerment Curriculum (Partnered with the Village of Caroline, Alberta)
  • The Survey of International Youth Involvement 
  • The Survey of North American Youth Rights (Partnered with the National Youth Rights Association)
  • The Campaign for Meaningful Student Involvement (Evolved into SoundOut)
  • The Open Letters Campaign
  • Washington Youth Voice Institute (Partnered with the City of Everett, Washington and Service Learning Seattle)
  • Freechild’s Games for Social Change
  • Adultism Institute (Partnered with the Olympia Free School)
  • Seattle Youth Engagement Zone (Partnered with Seattle Public Schools)
  • King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre (Partnered with Seattle Public Schools and SOAR)
  • Seattle Youth Media Camp (Partnered with Seattle Public Schools and Social Moguls)

Between all of our programs, The Freechild Project directly reached 50,000 youth and adults through direct interaction and action.

Freechild Facilitation

Another activity of Freechild is to facilitate professional development and training opportunities for children, youth, and adults. More than 100,000 young people and adults have attended our trainings, workshops, and speeches since 2001. We train on every topic related to The Freechild Project, including adultism, youth/adult partnerships, engaging youth in social change, youth leadership, and more.

Freechild actively works with young people ages 8-18, youth workers, community organizers, educators, government officials, parents, and others interested in engaging youth throughout communities. We have provided training, workshops, and keynote speeches at more than 200 conferences, summits, and events.

Some of the largest events we’ve trained at include national and international conferences and local summits. Some of our facilitation clients have included the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services Foster Youth Program; America’s Promise; Children’s Defense Fund Youth Leadership Program; National Network for Youth; PeaceJam Northwest; National Service Learning Conference; National Community Service and Volunteerism Conference; Grantmaker’s Forum on Community and National Service Conference; and Projeto Juventude Seminario Internacional in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

After launching Freechild on September 18, 2001, I registered to host our website. Since then, the website has garnered more than 8,500,000 direct views. Between reflecting on my own experience up to that point as a line-level youth worker and talking with friends and allies in youth-serving organizations across the country, I quickly created a database of examples of radical youth-driven social change around the world.

Wanting to incentivize more action and share what already existed, I expanded that database to include free and low-cost tools for youth and their adult allies to take action. Today the website has more than 500 pages of unique content, much of it unavailable elsewhere on the Internet or in print. has received numerous awards and recognition. They include being named a, “Leading Site for Social Entreprenuers” by and being given a “Cool Site Award” by the Open Directory Project. Several notable organizations, publications, and authors have endorsed Freechild’s website. They include:

“By far the largest repository of projects, ideas, and organizational links, [Freechild] provides more than adequate information to help students brainstorm ideas in order to start their own initiatives.” – School Library Journal.

“[Freechild] is especially relevant in getting young people to participate in the realms of politics and critical education.” – Henry Giroux and Susan Searls Giroux in Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Era. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. 

“This is a site well worth viewing. Information is critical to understanding as well as galvanizing youth programming and participation.” – Ramona Mullahey in the American Planning Association ResourceZine.

Our web-based outreach has grown throughout the years, including embracing social media and encouraging usage of Wikipedia. I have written more than 200 articles related to youth there, and currently our Facebook page has almost 2,000 fans, and our Twitter feed has 263 followers.

Freechild Publications

There are more than 50 unique publications and articles on The Freechild Project website. This includes six books published as .pdfs that are free to download which have been downloaded more than 50,000 times, as well as dozens of articles, tip sheets, and other short entries. Cited more than 1,000 times across the Internet, Freechild’s most popular publications include The Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People, Washington Youth Voice Handbook, and The Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change. Google Scholar shows that more than 70 scholarly citations for Freechild’s materials.


In the last year starting August 2011, The Freechild Project has reached 1,800 through direct services, including our training and technical assistance activities. Our website has reached just over 1,000,000 viewers for the year, while our blog has had 100,000 readers since its re-invigoration in 2010.

Our goals for the future include a regular institute to facilitate training related to The Freechild Project. I want to redesign the website to become more robust as well. There are several publications prepared for Freechild to distribute, including The Freechild Project Complete Guide to Adultism and Adam Fletcher Writes on Youth in Society. Finally, we’re hoping to expand to new partners and reach new communities, both in North America and around the world.

Stay with us as we reach further than ever before…

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