33 Steps to Youth Voice

Creativity, government, schools, empowerment, community development… As the banner of youth voice is unfurled around the world, we see more young people standing up in unprecedented numbers than ever before. They’re demanding what is rightfully theirs: High-quality living, hopeful lives, and democratic realities. We’re just see this movement emerge like never before, and must keep pushing for it to grow.

Youth voice is any expression of any young person, anywhere, about anything. For a long time, people got that wrong by defining it only as things adults wanted to hear from young people. Youth were wrangled into adult-driven, adult-centered communities and were only asked about things that adults are concerned with. We heard youth opinions about topics like philanthropy, youth service, volunteering, and youth services in the name of youth voice for a long time.

However, a lot of my writing, research, and training has focused on listening to youth voice that didn’t fit that description. I’ve found the most vibrant action is happening outside that old spectrum. So I redefined youth voice, expanded it, and showed how we’re seeing the breadth and depth of youth voice that is happening specifically from youth perspectives, in a wide-open, all views welcome way.

All this voice shows how youth need new roles throughout our communities. Instead of being passive recipients of adult-driven community programs, all young people need to be active partners in our homes, nonprofits, faith places, parks, government agencies, and all places throughout our communities. This can happen in a lot of ways, and here are a few!

33 Steps to Youth Voice

  1. BE—Go to where youth are, and stop insisting they come to where you’re at.
  2. TEACH—Teach youth about your community in the broadest ways, including culture, geography, economics, history, and more.
  3. BUILD—Help youth understand different ways of seeing community issues.
  4. TRAIN—Train adult providers about the difference between Youth as Recipients and Youth as Partners, and why that’s an important distinction.
  5. EDUCATE—Increase the understanding youth have of democracy and government, including what it is, how it operates, who is in it, where it fails and when it succeeds.
  6. LISTEN—Develop opportunities for youth to share their unfettered concerns about their communities with adults.
  7. POSITION—Create formal positions for youth to occupy throughout your community.
  8. CREATE—Create programs with youth as partners in identifying, planning, facilitating, evaluating, and critiquing throughout.
  9. PARTNER—Co-design community engagement plans with every youth in your program.
  10. MENTOR—Assign all youth a youth mentor to introduce them to the culture and traditions of your community; mutual mentoring matters.
  11. PLAN—Help youth plan, advocate, and enact yearlong program calendars for organizations that affect them and others.
  12. DESIGN—Engage youth in designing and redesigning programs that serve them and their communities.
  13. STEP ASIDE—Encourage nontraditional youth leaders to co-facilitate regular programs with adults.
  14. SPEND—Invest fully in youth programming and allow youth to become active partners in organizational budgeting.
  15. HIRE—Give youth positions to become regular, paid youth program assistants and leaders.
  16. FACILITATE—Partner together youth to form facilitation teams that lead programs.
  17. SEE—Acknowledge youth teaching younger youth in lower age groups with program credit and other acknowledgment.
  18. SUBSTANTIATE—Co-create professional development with youth for adult staff about issues that matter to them.
  19. EVALUATE—Assign youth to create meaningful program evaluations of themselves.
  20. SYSTEMITIZE—Partner with youth to create evaluations of programs, curriculum, facilitation styles, organizations, and communities.
  21. EMPOWER—Train youth how to evaluate adult facilitator performance.
  22. LEAD—Create opportunities for youth to lead community events.
  23. GUIDE—Create positions for youth to participate in nonprofit boards, neighborhood communities, and other systemic activities.
  24. AUTHORIZE—Give youth on nonprofit boards full-voting positions and equal numbers of positions with adults.
  25. EQUATE—Create enough positions for youth to be equally represented in every neighborhood committee and meeting.
  26. MEET—Facilitate all neighborhood activities in ways that are engaging for all participants, including youth.
  27. RULE—Help youth create and enforce activity policies throughout the community.
  28. DECIDE—Partner with youth in nonprofit personnel decisions.
  29. ORGANIZE—Work with youth to organize public campaigns for neighborhood improvement.
  30. INTEGRATE—Create opportunities for youth to join all existing neighborhood committees as equal members.
  31. DETERMINE—Present youth data and information so they understand why and how neighborhoods can and should change.
  32. EQUIP—Position youth to educate adults throughout your community, including parents, leaders, policymakers and others, about challenges that matter to them.
  33. INFUSE—Encourage youth with formal and informal opportunities to present their concerns.

The very best thing about all this? Its all backed up by research and practice from across the United States and around the world! For more than a decade I’ve been finding examples, collecting tools, and sharing best practices and findings from researchers, teachers, and students. I share it all free on this blog and in The Freechild Project Youth Voice Toolbox, free.

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!

CommonAction at 2012 Bridge Conference

Next Monday and Tuesday, October 8-9, I will be in Seattle to facilitate at School Out Washington’s 2012 Bridge Conference. This year’s theme is “Empower Youth Voices”, and will be attended by 500 people. I’m excited! This is my first time presenting there, and I look forward to a great time. I am presenting sessions on my own, and with a few great friends and colleagues. 

Let me know if you’ll be there and we can connect! Following are the descriptions for what I’m involved in.

  • More than Voice: The Cycle of Engagement – FAIL!?! Why don’t our youth voice programs work? This session will answer that question by examining a research-driven process that lets youth voice advocates WIN every time! Participants will learn how to move youth voice towards passion, purpose, and power. Participants can learn how to engage the disengaged through a more effective approach to working with all young people everywhere all the time. This session focuses on a pattern from Adam Fletcher’s research which he calls the Cycle of Engagement. The Cycle has been used in K-12 schools and youth-serving organizations around the world for programming, planning and evaluation, and as a staff and youth skill-building tool. Discover what its for, how its used, and the impact it can have.
  • How to Engage: Learning from local youth engagement practitioners – (with Kyla Lackie) Participants in this session will explore the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre, and the role of establishing professional learning communities among youth development workers. Launched during the 2011-12 school year, the first cohort of the Cadre was a collaboration between SOAR, Seattle Public Schools’ Service Learning Seattle, and CommonAction Consulting with funding from the National Corporation for Community Service Youth Engagement Zone program. This session will focus on the new King County Youth Engagement Handbook, a compilation of tools, lessons, and cutting edge writing by Cadre members.
I’m also going to be leading a table in Jessica Werner’s session on Tuesday afternoon. My table will be focused on Meaningful Student Involvement.
Learn more about what CommonAction is available to do at your conference or event by looking at our catalog! You can also contact us anytime…
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Small Schools Project

Adam contracted with the Small Schools Project in Seattle in 2004-07. He provided introductory training in meaningful student involvement for 25+ small schools coaches, as well as an intensive training in meaningful student involvement for 50+ students and adults focused on planning for meaningful student involvement in their local small school projects. Included the creation of a chapter for “School Culture: An Introduction” published by Small Schools Project. 

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