Change: Outside→In, or Otherwise?

The ways we decide to try to change systems should reflect the outcomes we’re seeking. This is another way of saying the means are determined by the ends.

When looking at the systems in our society that we can change, it’s relatively easy to see there is an inside/outside situation, no matter what system. Some systems include healthcare, economy, education, law, religion, food, and governments. These are systems because they have a structure, there is a certain way they behave, and they are interconnected both within and outside themselves. I believe they’re changeable because we’re a market-based democratic society with multiple levels of social transformation. 

Some systems can change within themselves. Ones that change continuously and on purpose are called learning organizations. Others require outside motivations, and even learning organizations require that push sometimes.
There are many ways to see this how this change works. Here are three:
  • Inside→Inside: For a brief time in the mid-2000s, I worked with the renowned Peter Senge. His emphasis on systems thinking had waned, but he was definitely known for it, and still is. He was the first person to lay down the notion that a group that continuously supported individual workers’ growth and systems change was by definite a learning organization. In learning organizations, change comes from within. 
  • Outside→Outside: This perspective reflects those working outside a system to affect people outside the system who want to change the inside of the system. In this case, anyone not directly employed or deeply affected by the system is an outsider. People within the system can also be seen this way too, so long as they don’t adapt the system’s predominant characteristics.
  • Outside→Inside: Working outside a system to affect the inside of a system means making the system you’re trying to change the location of your work to change it. This is also directly working to affect system decision-makers, leaders, and advocates, as well as leading programs for workers and other subjects within the systems in order to show them why the system needs to change.

In my work over the last decade, I have ascribed to the latter of these options. However, I have also participated in the first and second options, too. There’s no single right way for all times and all occasions, and depending on your personal perspective, you might adapt any approach at any given time.
 
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

10 Steps To Youth Integration

Challenging youth segregation can be tricky.


Anyone who advocates for youth involvement, youth engagement, youth voice, youth empowerment, or youth rights is ultimately calling for the same this: the integration of young people in our society. As it stands, young people are routinely segregated from a lot of places. This includes the institutions that serve them directly, such as schools, nonprofits, governments, and faith-based communities. It also includes their homes, as well as places where they should be treated without bias but aren’t, including businesses. Ultimately, youth integration has to happen in all relationships between young people and adults.

This work has been underway for more than two decades, and needs to unite now. It starts with re-envisioning the roles of young people throughout society. In the last decade, I’ve worked in more than 200 communities across the US to help them re-envision their work with young people. Its been successful in some ways, challenging in others.

Through my efforts with The Freechild Project, along with similar programs across the country, a generation of young people and their adult allies have come to believe that our society can do more than simply do things to young people. Instead, we can co-create the world together. This notion reflects the wisdom, “Nothing about me without me is for me.”
Studying my own work and the vast library of literature I’ve collected focusing on this approach, I’ve devised some key points for integrating youth throughout society.
10 Steps to Youth Integration
  1. Think Sustainable—Identify practical ways to ensure youth keep being integrated after an initial planning period. Begin by sitting down with a group of adults young people together and talk about the world today, their specific lives, and what they think needs to change. From the beginning, infuse youth in facilitation, evaluation, research, decision-making, and advocacy right into the culture of your group. If you must involve children and youth in a one-shot activity, let them know of real opportunities for them to be integrated with adults in their lives outside your group.
  2. Clear Purpose—Name a clear purpose for integrating young people in your community. Come up with a mission statement. Let youth and adults, organization leaders, parents, community members, and local schools know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Clarity of purpose is often missing from young people’s lives, as school is done to them, family is done to them, and stores are done to them. Anywhere in society looking to actually integrate young people needs to let young people know the world be done with them, and they should know why that’s important.
  3. Integrate The Non-Traditionally Engaged—Create space and help children and youth who haven’t been especially engaged in your community to become integrated. Actively integrating both traditionally involved young people and non-traditionally involved young people can radically transform your community in all sorts of ways. If you don’t know how to do this, get trained; if you need a reason, read this.
  4. Real Connections—When young people see themselves in your program, real connections are happening. When real connections happen, children and youth become engaged. While they may have obvious expertise or interests in a specific topic, its important for your group to help young people discover what they know right now, and to see what they know inside what you’re doing.
  5. Equity, Not Equality—Develop equitable roles between young people and adults.  This means that groups don’t pretend all things between children, youth, and adults are 50/50 split equally, because in our adult-centered society that is simply never true. Equity allows young people and adults to enter into responsible relationships that acknowledge what each other knows and doesn’t know, and to work from that place instead of assuming everyone has equal ability and capacity. We’re all different; let’s not pretend otherwise.
  6. Grow Their Capacity—Grow the existing capacity of children and youth to become involved in planning. Both young people and adults can learn from training about work styles, assumptions, skills, and more. 
  7. Make A Clear Plan—Having a specific pathway for young people to see how their integration will change their community. Are they contributing to an existing program? Opening a brand-new course of action and learning? Working with the same adults in new ways, or partnering with new adults? Its important to remember that creating a youth integration plan is not the culmination of work, but the starting point of a group’s efforts to create a more democratic society. A clear plan should include: 1) Practical next steps; 2) Roles and responsibilities for youth and adults; 3) an integration structure for your community; 4) group member evaluation opportunities. Setting priorities, using timelines with dates, and developing clear benchmarks for measuring success in each area can also enhance your community.
  8. Get SystemicEncourage youth integration beyond your group. Young people can be engaged in researching their community, school, nonprofit program, or anything through PAR. They can facilitate, teach, and mentor peers, younger people, and adult. They can evaluate themselves, their organizations and communities, workplaces and businesses, and other places. They can participate in organizational, family, community, or other decision-making. They can advocate for what they care about. Ultimately, they can be engaged throughout society in every way you can imagine.
  9. Connect The DotsEstablish deep youth/adult partnerships wherever possible. Collaborations that reinforce learning will deepen any effort to integrate youth. The partnerships established in this process can deepen efforts through the future, and mutually support youth and adults throughout your community.
  10. Eyes Wide OpenOpen the doors to critical examination. Use critical lenses to examine your assumptions and effects in your group. Identifying strengths and weaknesses allow groups and communities to improve the overall integration of youth, especially through your particular effort. Make space by giving young people permission and skills they need to be partners in mutual accountability with adults. In your group, set clear benchmarks and agree on celebrations when they’re met and consequences that young people can see for when those benchmarks are not met.

Aside from ethical considerations for youth integration, there is a practical basis to integrate youth throughout society. A variety of recent research demonstrates that there may be no parallel to making schools, youth programs, government agencies, and even families more effective. The most intuitive outcome is true: Integrating young people throughout society changes young people who experience integration. 


Less obvious are the effects that youth integration has on adults throughout our communities. When they’re actively infused throughout the broader community, young people can actually affect the broad community beyond your group in a variety of ways over the short and long term. The effects include lifelong civic engagement, and developing strong and sustained connections to the educational, economic, and cultural values of their neighborhoods and cities. Youth integration can dream no higher goals. (See here, here, and here for some studies.)


More importantly though, this pathway shows that youth integration is feasible. What are you doing to get it going in your community?
 

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

3 Routes for People-to-People Partnerships—A Tip Sheet by Adam Fletcher

Personal Engagement is the sustained connection a person has to the world within themselves.

—Adam F. C. Fletcher

When we interact as neighbors, parents, coworkers, children, students, lovers, customers, or supervisors, we’re engaging with others, person-to-person.

People-to-people partnerships are ways that we experience Personal Engagement in intimate, intentional connection with others. Intentionally formed, they can enhance, stabilize and deepen relations between people of all ages, in many different kinds of situations, from every background.

Beginning with a commitment to co-developing a people-to-people partnership, two or more people can identify common ground between themselves, throughout their lives, and within their currently existent Personal Engagement.

Fostering these partnerships throughout our lives helps us trust others and ourselves more. They also build self-respect, personal communication, and self-sustainability. You are the powerfully creative force behind your own life, and developing people-to-people partnerships can help show you that reality.

As the real catalyst for change in your own world, sometimes having conscientious, deliberate partner to understand that can allow you to live remarkably engaged within yourself. You know your life better than anyone else; people-to-people partnerships can help you turn your passion for living into a strategy for engagement.


3 Routes for People-to-People Partnerships

OPEC Youth Engagement Seminar 2018 Adam Fletcher
OPEC Youth Engagement Seminar 2018 Adam Fletcher

Building meaningful people-to-people partnerships requires intention and action. Here are three critical points:

  1. Acknowledge Personal Engagement. Nobody is alive without having sustainable connections within themselves and throughout the world around them. Create a definition or share the Heartspace Teachings definition of Personal Engagement. After you have a shared platform to work from, acknowledge the Personal Engagements your partners have and share what you experience with them.
  2. Examine Commonalities and Differences. Your People-to-People Partnerships don’t have to be based on similarities alone. Difference is good, despite the people who preach sameness when it’s obviously not true. The question is really about how we behave towards and treat differences, and People-to-People Partnerships show how to embrace those differences.
  3. Embrace New Engagement. Embracing new engagement means that you understand your own and others’ Personal Engagement and holds engagement as valuable. Create an inclusive space for your People-to-People Partnerships so everyone feels valued for their skills, and emphasize the differences that our individual diversity brings to the partnership. Finally, recognize things that happen that are a result of differences. By seeing the tension within ourselves and our partnerships instead of trying to get rid of it, your People-to-People Engagement will be able to produce more imaginative and creative Personal Engagement.

These tips are meant to build our Personal Engagement within intentionally formed people-to-people partnerships. We can have these types of relationships throughout our lives, using these tips as a starting point.

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Adam Fletcher is available to train, coach, speak, and write about Personal Engagement across the US and Canada. Contact him to learn about the possibilities!

5 Steps to Integrate Youth

Nike, Levi’s, and a lot of other brands that sell things to youth have realized that the secret to marketing to youth is personalization: Let them help design it, and young people will spend a lot for it. At the same time, many websites allow young users to develop sophisticated personal profiles, letting them connect their friends, identify with organizations and causes they want to be affiliated with, and personalize the look and operation of the website to suit their personal tastes. According to a recent expose by CBS News, “In 1983, companies spent $100 million marketing to kids. Today, they’re spending nearly $17 billion annually. That’s more than double what it was in 1992.”

In the face of this, young people routinely experience the rest of society being done to them and for them, instead of with them or by themselves.


I believe children and youth are not the consumers of their lives. However, it is clear to me that marketers (again) have one up on all adults who work with young people. Rather than following their direct lead, I think there are lessons we can learn from them. Here are 5 steps to integrate youth.
5 Steps to Integrate Youth

1) Educate yourself first. Recognize that all young people are segregated everywhere, all the time. I wrote a series of articles for The Freechild Project Youth Voice Toolkit such as “Guidelines for Youth Voice” and “Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment for Youth Voice” that can teach you before you work to build youth integration in your community.

2) See all young people. Read a piece about youth voice and young children and the role of youth engagement for infants and children I wrote on the CommonAction blog. In the history of children in the US, a lot of it focuses on the suffering of young children. But a few historians actually acknowledge that even young children have always been important to the well-being of the United States. That’s even more true today than ever before.

3) Invest in your own development. You don’t have to spend money on advertisements or developing apps. Instead, invest in time by attending trainings, conducting social media activities, and taking deliberate actions to integrate young people throughout your community. Find out what CommonAction Consulting can do with your organization or community.4) Strengthen youth involvement. If you want young people to be integrated, you have to involve them throughout every part of your community. That includes planning, research, facilitation, training, evaluation, decision-making, and advocacy. Learn how to do all this and more from the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum.

5) Everywhere, all the time. When businesses want to sell things to young people, they ingratiate themselves throughout the lives of children and youth, in their clothing, video games, and other places. We must take according steps without overspending on technology or t-shirts by taking steps to integrate young people throughout their communities. Learn about Hampton, Virginia for a great example of what this looks like.

There are many other steps to take, but integrating youth is an essential responsibility we should all take on. These are some ways to do that.

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Safe Spaces for Young People

When adults speak about safety, we’re often referring to the scourge of physical violence that is redefining the lives of all children and youth across the United States today. With the horrors of school shootings, the terror of gang violence, and the rage of bullying tearing apart families and communities everyday, the presence of physical danger seems more real than ever before (and not without consequences, either.)
Unfortunately, adults often neglect to understand the real need to safety in the lives of young people today: Psychological well-being, or the very thought of being safe. Without this reality, young people often revert to simply surviving, and cannot thrive in any respect. 

Walking into an youth program environment, young people feel safe because of a variety of factors. In more than two decades experience working in a variety of youth spaces, I found that these factors include:
  • Trusting relationships between adults and young people.
  • A strong bond between young people and the purpose of the program.
  • Opportunities for young people to share their honest feelings and participate in making a difference in the program.
  • Facilitating regular small group activities. Removing economic barriers to participation.
  • Engaging parents, families, and schools opportunities to connect with our program.
  • Build trust with parents, families, and communities.
  • Ensuring effective communication between the program and home.
  • Conducting home visits on a regular basis.
  • Acting as a connector between young people, families, and social services when necessary.
  • Frequently making the afterschool program available as a community building opportunity.
None of this is to diminish the resiliency and survival instinct that all young people need in order to succeed as adults. I believe these factors and this concentration on safety in youth spaces builds that resilience.
Here are some resources I’ve found to support making youth spaces safe:
Let me know if you have anything you’d add to the mix.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

The Time for Youth Engagement is NOW

Its time to get real about youth engagement. Faced with hard times, we need to speak truth to power. This post is my attempt to acknowledge the obvious.

Reading the news lately, its easy to get hopeless if you’re not careful. Federal and state budgets for essential services affecting children and youth are getting slashed, youth violence seems like its soaring across the nation, and local governments having to tighten their belts at every corner. Times continue to be tough for a lot of people.

As my mentor Henry Giroux is so deft at demonstrating, young people are especially targeted right now. In communities all over, children and youth are losing essential services built up over the last quarter century and more. Nonprofits, government agencies, and schools are cutting programs focused on every area effecting young people, including education, cultural programs, health education, recreation, and so many other issues. As you already know, they’re getting slashed all over the place.
Along with that, young people are being targeted as criminals, consumers, and incapable as never before- and especially youth of color and low-income youth. Put on tracks that send them to prison, treated like threats to adults’ way of life, and unable to find jobs after graduating from school, young people are tracked to hopelessness and inability more than ever before.

In my work, I have traveled the country consulting different organizations to encourage best practices focused on youth engagement. We have to engage and re-engage young people in democracy. This must be central to the purpose of ALL nonprofits, schools, foundations, and government agencies, and if its not, then these organizations are NOT on the side of young people or democracy.

Like never before, I’m seeing the outcomes of the economic realities facing nonprofits. Programs that powerfully transformed entire communities are gone, while others have been radically transformed to ensure their funding continues. In other cases, whole organizations have ceased to exist entirely. I have personally known these organizations to powerfully impact people, places, and the cultures they operated within. However, that’s no excuse for them backing out of democracy.
Research is showing that these cuts are disproportionately affecting young people from communities of color and low-income children and youth the most. In neighborhoods that were already depressed and within families that were already struggling, African-American, Latino/Hispanic, and other non-white young people are facing fewer prospects for a hopeful future than ever before. The same goes for poor and working class families too.

It’s an understatement to say that these are tough times! More than ever before, our young people need us and the work we do. Youth engagement activities are facing increased scrutiny to do complex work with meager budgets; providers are expected to live on less money while taking on increased responsibilities for other peoples’ children; communities are being abandoned when they need us the most.

HOWEVER, we can rise to the challenge! WE MUST. These are the days when we need to get real about youth engagement programs and the effects they have on our communities. Simply put, when they’re focused on democracy-building, youth engagement activities are essential for the health and well-being for all communities today. Whether in high income or low-income neighborhoods, nonprofit or government agencies, or on the weekends or in the summer, all youth engagement activities are an absolute necessity for the success of any community.

Youth engagement advocates must work together as never before to create community-wide networks to promote this reality. By joining, fostering, and sustaining robust, responsive coalitions like the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre, organizations and programs across the country can contribute and ensure not only their own existence, but support others’ too. I work with a number of these types of coalitions across the country, including those through the spectacular SOAR in Seattle and awesome Catalyst Miami in Florida.

Just like the Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre, both of these organizations include an emphasis on youth engagement within their coalitions, and many other powerful strategies too. That’s the reason why they matter: Despite the times, you all are committed to sincerely, realistically, and deeply move youth engagement activities and programs that transform communities into the 21st century, despite the trends and counter to the critics.

Our world needs youth engagement like never before. Let’s see that, and get to work!

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Changing Roles of Young People

Why should only affable white boys get to be seen as the
young captains of industry?

It seems that the story of human existence is one of innovation and transformation. Through epochs everything changes, from the earliest homo erectus though to today, and onward into tomorrow. Despite concentrating on industry, art, technology, and culture as the modicum through which that change happens, society is missing the mark when it comes to identifying the major indicator of innovation and transformation: Young people. 

For more than 2,000 years, children and youth have been the most obvious markers for all things transformative. Children in ancient Greece were seen as the bearers of civilization, and were prepared for their duties until they were seen as adults. In ancient China, children of many social classes were seen and treated as important for their nation’s future, as well as their own family’s future. At the time when North America was stolen from American Indian tribes, the children of Europeans here were treated harshly and largely seen as sub-human. 
So the historic trends show us back-and-forth treatment. Modern times have been no different. In my Short History of Youth Voice in the United States, I suggested that this treatment is a sign of the times. Today, I’m going to build on that premise and suggest that we must consciously, positively transform the roles of young people throughout society or risk having society dictate terrible, meaningless roles for them.
For too long, young people have been seen as the passive recipients of adult-driven culture handed to them. As an inheritance, this has been a sham. Children and youth are active creators of their private worlds as well as the larger families, communities, and cultures in which they live. In the West today, young people are living in a dichotomous world, on one side alienated and isolated because they aren’t adults, and on the other fetishized and infantalized because they represent the wellspring of eternal youth which adults apparently should feign for.
In reality, young people are neither wholly infants or wholly adult, but instead should be seen specifically for what they are: Children and youth. These are their unique, important positions. They matter not because of their transitory nature, but because of the substantive and unique placements they occupy throughout society. Because of these placements, we need to re-envision the roles of young people to be seen as active partners throughout our culture. 
These active partnerships extend from early childhood in the home into young adulthood living independently from families. Throughout the journey, locations for these partnerships to exist range from home to community center, school to faith community, government to playground, and everywhere in between and beyond. The roles themselves, while highly relevant, are strangely familiar: Children and youth as planners, advisors, designers, teachers, lobbyists, trainers, philanthropists, politicians, recruiters, social entrepreneurs, paid staff, mentors, decision makers, activity leaders, policy makers, and so much more.
These positions are already being occupied by young people right now. In some cases, they’re reserved for middle and upper class white kids; in some others, they’re specifically for young people of color and young people in low-income communities, or runaway and homeless youth. They’re happening right now; why should they be the exclusive purview of young people who are fortunate enough to stumble upon them? Why aren’t these changing roles for all young people everywhere all the time?
At the same time those roles seem important, upon further examination we discover they aren’t. It’s not really what young people do, it’s about how it is done. Anyone can be the happiest janitor in the world, if they know that position is important, empowered, and valued by everyone else.
We need engaging cultures where the roles of young people are seen as fluid and transitional, yet secure and relevant. Acknowledging what children and youth already know, and expanding their exposure to, knowledge of, and opportunities to generate new thinking about these roles is what is key. That is what full, active partnerships with young people look like, and that is why we need to change the roles of young people today.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

5 Ways To Stop School Shootings

Change begins with each of us individually. Here are 5 things you can do to stop the next school shooting:

  1. Know a Young Person. They’re all around you, whether or not you care. Well, start caring. It may be hard because you might need to learn new behaviors and they might challenges your assumptions. But you can do it: Just know a young person.
  2. Get Active in Their Lives. If you want to stop the next school shooting, get active in the lives of children and youth. If you’re a parent, get to know your kids right now in the ways they’d have you know them and not just on your terms. If you’re not a parent, volunteer to a neighbor, friends, a community agency, schools, or somewhere else.
  3. Learn New Ways of Being. There are reasons why young people disconnect from the adults in their lives. With conservative media portraying youth as always apathetic or always violent, and so-called liberal media infantalizing and incapacitating children and youth, its no wonder why young people withdraw. Learn new ways of being around young people through good books, training, and more.
  4. Challenge Adults With Bad Attitudes. If you are or want to be an ally to young people, you must must must learn to challenge adults who talk about, treat, or see young people poorly. We have to challenge discrimination against children and youth because it drives them to disconnect. Forced to be on their own in an indifferent world, we encourage young people in the worst ways. Stand up to adults bullying young people.
  5. Be Hopeful. There is a lot of discouraging news in the world. With more people living on the planet, more crime happening among children and youth, and more apparent pain than we’ve ever known, its hard not be hurt, and for some people, hateful. We must challenge hopeless in others, but most importantly within ourselves. We have to be true to what we know is reality: Young people are the brightest lights of the present and the future, and we shouldn’t surround them with darkness just to let them shine brighter.

Name Your Motivation

Every one of us can stop being strangers. Every one of us can start being friends. If being around young people is too hard for you, then reach out to an adult neighbor or a senior housing resident. Build community however you can. But for goodness sake, please do not pretend that we don’t know what to do next.

Its been two days now, and like many parents and people around the world, I’m sitting with my grief. Early this year, 20 kids and eight adults were murdered by a 20-year-old gunman at an elementary school in Connecticut. Watching it unfold changed my life.

Growing up surrounded by violence and neglect, my childhood was never easy. Of the drive-bys, gang fights, random beatings, and domestic violence that ravaged the neighborhood I grew up in, few were ever featured on the nightly news. When they were, newscasters made sure viewers knew how angry, painful, and mean the primarily African American, low-income neighborhood I lived in was. Friends didn’t come to visit. Cops didn’t stop when we were fighting. Drugs were all around. There were no public vigils for the suffering our families, friends, enemies, and neighbors knew.

So when I saw the horror of a parent unfold in front of me, I was surprised by my own response. Instead of my typical shrug and rather than the apathy of my young years, I was moved to mourn, not through prompting on t.v., but through my empathy while reading the story that emerged. My heart was ripped open and poured onto the floor, when in the past it would’ve buttoned up and become indifferent. The anesthetizing truth of growing up in an urban battle front in America is finally starting to wear off, and my view of this tragedy had changed from in the past.

The ways people relate to each other in the U.S. constantly change. From being strangers who stole lands from strangers, some of whom stole other strangers from their lands, to becoming strangers who live next door and with other strangers and have intimate relationships with strangers on video games and social media, we are strange people. We choose relationships based on what we can get out of them instead of ones we can put something into. We are strange people.

Take Action

I am a strange person. Instead of retreating from this human catastrophe, I wrapped my arms tightly around my own daughter and held her closer. Yesterday we reveled in her childhood together for the whole day, and today I continue to enjoy her life together with her. The moms and dads in Connecticut who won’t get to do that suffer because of our strangeness. We are strange because we pretend we don’t know.

We pretend we don’t know young people like the young man who shot up the classroom. We pretend we don’t understand the dynamics that would lead a person to do such a horrific thing. Worst of all, we pretend like we don’t need to do next.

I don’t want to oversimplify the problem, but WE DO KNOW WHAT TO DO. Every single one of us, right now, can take steps to prevent another school shooting. Starting right now, each one of us can stop being a stranger. We can reach out to our neighbors, to the children within our homes and throughout our neighborhoods, and across our society. Each of us, right now, can engage a young person. If we do not do that, we’re not doing enough, and worse yet, more tragedies are headed our way.

Surely, lawmakers need to limit access to the murderous weapons, schools need more practical security precautions, and young people need to be empowered to know what they can do to prevent horrors like this, because there are things they can practically do. But we can all do something right now. Stop talking, start doing. I hope these five ways were useful.

Call or email me if you want to talk about any of this. We’re not strangers anymore.

 


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  • Youth Engagement: Support People or Change Systems?
  • Safe Spaces for Young People
  • Ending Youth Violence

10 Ways To Promote Youth Engagement

Here’s 10 things you can do to promote youth engagement right now. These don’t require you to graduate high school, get a college degree, or change the whole entire world right now. Instead they are things you can do right now! 

  1. Learn about Youth Engagement. Did you know that Youth Engagement – or Youth Engagement – is more than classes voting or school-wide meetings? Learn about Youth Engagement on The Freechild Project website, through Wikipedia, or through a number of books.
  2. Brainstorm what your organization and community can do to change. The power of your imagination is an incredible tool to use! Brainstorm different ways your organization or school could be more engaging, and make a list or mind map.
  3. Talk to other youth about Youth Engagement. Ask your friends if they know about Youth Engagement. Share your ideas about which changes your community can make, and ask if they have any ideas themselves. Challenge them to ask you hard questions, and see if you can answer them, or tell them you’ll get back to them after your learn more.
  4. Find an adult ally. Create a real youth/adult partnership with an adult to help your efforts. Engaging an adult ally can make planning more effective and connections with other adults easier.
  5. Create a Youth Engagement plan for your organization or community. Maybe your school or the neighborhood nonprofit needs more Youth Engagement. Work with your friends to make a plan for who, what, when, where and how Youth Engagement can be used.
  6. Host a Youth Engagement workshop. Invite other youth and adults in your community to learn about Youth Engagement by facilitating a hands-on workshop. Research Youth Engagement learning activities and use them to help participants learn by experiencing democracy in education. Bring The Freechild Project to your community to train youth and adults.
  7. Present your plan to community decision-makers. Who makes decisions about how adults should treat youth in your community or in schools? Teachers, youth workers, government workers, politicians, and school board members can all effect Youth Engagement. Share your plan to them one-on-one or make a presentation to local organizations, committees, and others.
  8. Present your plan to community decision-makers. Who chooses which nonprofit organizations get government funding or philanthropic donations? Present your plan to them, as well as neighborhood association presidents, local businesspeople and youth organization leaders.
  9. Organize! If your efforts to work with the community aren’t working, organize. Find other people who care about Youth Engagement by sharing the idea every chance you get, and ask them to join you in promoting the concept in your community. Then determine a goal and take action to put Youth Engagement into action for everyone!
  10. Find allies online. Having a hard time finding other youth and adults who care? Look on The Freechild Project’s Facebook page or start your own group. People you can partner with are everywhere, and sometimes it’s just a matter of asking!

Good luck – and remember to share your story with me!

CommonAction staff are available to train on Youth Engagement and much more. Learn what we can do for you by and call Adam at (360)489-9680.

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