Quotes about Ending Discrimination Against Young People:
“I’ve been re-reading this lately to help form a proposal essay for a class and it is the ONLY well-rounded and researched source I have found. Adam did a great job of making me see how youth discrimination is affecting our society negatively and provided plenty of ideas to get us on the right path of increased equality among adults/young adults/adolescents.” – Emily Richardson, Omaha, Nebraska
“I have been a youth worker for over 45 years and seen many changes, but it has not stopped my enthusiasm for learning, This book has challenged me to think in the way I work with young people, to understand the challenges and pressure on young people to succeed, with no time and space to be a human being & a young person. This book makes you reflect on your practice and experience of working with children and young people in reality. I would recommend the book for youth workers, teachers, social workers and anyone who works with children and young people, good reading for anyone training has a youth, school or community worker.” – Terry Mattinson, Preston, UK
“Fletcher provides an expert look at the revolutionary idea that youth endure, and are harmed by, pervasive age discrimination and supplies supportive advice on how young people and adults can work against it in their daily lives.” – Alex Koroknay-Palicz
There are a lot of people who want to change the world. However, many get frustrated because they don’t know what it takes.
After more than a decade of teaching people around the world how to do it, I’ve decided to share this list of key skills, abilities, knowledge, and dispositions. They’re based off my life as I’ve worked for social justice, and they are what I’ve seen consistently in my mentors, heros, and students. These capacities make the difference between people who talk about changing the world and people who actually change the world.
14 Capacities to Change the World
Change Management—Successfully move people, leadership, and constituents through transitions and times of change.
Humility—Develop and maintain a modest view of your own importance in public and personal perspectives regarding your efforts.
Collaboration & Teamwork—Build and sustain the necessary group and cross-group cohesion and operations needed to maintain success.
Conflict Management—Identify and successfully navigate conflicts and problems from an operational, day-to-day perspective.
Decision-Making—Discern how, when, where, and why to make decisions, and how to help others make decisions, both on a micro- and meta-level scale.
Diversity & Cultural Competency—Acknowledge, embrace, and enable all sorts of differences as powerful motivators and assets.
Coaching—Guide, transition, and mentor others through their daily professional and personal challenges without attempting to teach or lead them.
Motivating & Empowering—Meaningfully engage others in consistent, substantive, and sustainable ways?
Personal & Professional Goal Development—Recognize your own goals and their relevance to your position, as well as help others do the same.
Knowledge Management—Using diverse ways of identifying, developing, sharing, and effectively using the knowledge of communities, individuals, and organizations to change the world.
Problem-Solving—Effectively, consistently, and realistically identify, address, critique, and re-imagine challenges.
Training & Facilitation—Successfully identify and meet the needs of people through group training and individual learning.
Verbal & Written Communication/Public Presentation—Engage the public through customer service and imaging.
Personal Engagement—Foster your own connection to the work you’re doing, maintain that connection, and sustain the relevance of the work you’re doing throughout your own life, as well as help others do the same.
Compassion—The ability to establish and foster empathy with people and places outside of your own personal or professional sphere.
Systems Thinking—Seeing how small things that seem separated can create big things through complicated interactions.
If you’re really interested in these capacities, send me a message for my free self-assessment tool. I also provide training and coaching in each of these capacities for groups and individuals.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below!
Talk with your supervisor, Executive Director, board members, and other decision-makers.
Build support by talking to staff members about youth engagement.
Train young people about youth engagement, why it matters, and how they can experience it more.
Research resources that might help different people in different roles throughout your organization understand youth engagement more.
Pass along useful websites, materials, and other info with people who care or need to know.
2) Advocate Action.
Explore policy-making in your organization, and advocate for changes that reflect a commitment to sustained youth engagement through programs and throughout the organization.
Create an action plan that focuses on sustained programs and projects.
Be a constant and strong champion for youth engagement throughout your program or organization.
3) Facilitate Approaches.
Remember Gandhi’s idiom, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If you want youth engagement in your program or organization, start engaging youth personally right now.
Start leading activities and programs that foster youth engagement right now. Build youth engagement on the personal level for young people, then solidify it throughout your organization.
Strengthen your knowledge about youth engagement and then facilitate opportunities for others to learn about it.
4) Critique and Examine Outcomes.
Create safe space to engage diverse youth and adults in critical thinking and cultural examinations.
Actively engage young people and adults in frank, open conversations about the activity, program, or organization.
Ask questions that inquire further into peoples’ assumptions or beliefs, and foster new understanding through having everyone share their experiences and opinions as applicable.
Ask hard questions about beliefs, understanding, and outcomes.
Examine new opportunities to talk change.
5) DO IT AGAIN!
When you travel through each of these steps, you’ll find a variety of awards for your hard work, including youth retention, re-engagement, and much more.
Where These Came From
Recently, I’ve been working with a group of traditional, mainline youth-serving organizations. They offer services to young people living in adverse situations, including homelessness, family disruptions, addiction, and other circumstances. The activities generally fall into the realms of intervention, education, and employment.
Working with them to establish new approaches to their work, I have been slowly introduce my conceptual frameworks focused on youth engagement, especially how I wrote about the subject in my publication, A Short Introduction to Youth Engagement. When I wrote the Short Intro…, I intentionally didn’t cover many important aspects of moving forward with the concept. Here’s one area that wasn’t addressed.
These are steps that I’ve followed for more than a decade as I’ve taught, trained, advocated for, and lived through many, many youth engagement programs and projects. They’re also what I’m using right now to help others promote this vital concept, too.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you would add, take out, or challenge in the comments section below.More Resources
Youth Voice is any expression of any young person anywhere, all the time, about anything. It doesn’t depend on adult approval, it doesn’t need specific spaces or energies, and is always present wherever young people are. The question generally is whether adults want to hear what’s being said.
If a young person is talking in front of a group sharing their beliefs or experience, ideas or knowledge, they’re sharing youth voice. The same can be true of leadership, community service, and teambuilding activities. However, young people who cut themselves are sharing youth voice, just like youth graffiti artists, students who text answers during tests, and gang members. The question isn’t whether they’re sharing youth voice, because they always are – the question is whether adults want to hear what’s being said.
This leads to the phenomenon of adult-driven youth voice.
Characteristics of Adult-Driven Youth Voice
Adult-Driven Youth Voice is when adults motivate, inspire, inform, encapsulate, and generally make youth voice become convenient for adults. Adult-Driven Youth Voice is Convenient Youth Voice. Here are five characteristics of adult-driven youth voice.
WHO: Youth who adults want to hear from are selected to share their voices. All young people are members of all the communities they occupy, both in a literal and metaphorical sense. However, adult-driven youth voice selects specific young people who may not jostle adults’ opinions or ideas to share youth voice.
WHAT: Young people say what adults want. They usually echoing or parroting adult beliefs, ideas, knowledge, and/or experience. If they share their own, adults largely agree with what young people have said.
WHEN: The calendar is determined by adults for youth. Young people are listened to when adults have the interest or ability to hear them, and not necessarily when children or youth want to be heard.
WHERE: Youth voice happens in places adults want it to be shared. Whether on a graffiti wall in a forgotten alley downtown, in a boxing gym for teenagers, in debate class, or at a city-run forum for youth to share their opinions about something, youth voice happens where adults approve of.
WHY: Adults solicit youth voice about specific issues. Young people have a variety of perspectives about all kinds of subjects. However, adult-driven youth voice allows only perspectives on issues that are important to adults or that adults pick for young people. If young people move outside adult-driven boundaries, they are either re-directed or expected to stop sharing their voices.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the above characteristics. However, this article isn’t meant to share those judgments; instead, I want to encourage you to think for yourself about what matters and why it matters. After you’ve done that, visit The Freechild Project Youth Voice Toolkit to find tools, examples, and other resources to help you with youth voice.
Special thanks to my spectacular friend and longtime comrade Heather Manchester. Her critical thinking and willingness to kick my butt inspired this post (and many others!) and I stand indebted to her genius, patience, and energy she shares with me.
Youth engagement happens in a variety of places. Each place where youth engagement happens isn’t necessarily a physical place or a set of activities. Because of this, I call these “Spheres of Youth Engagement.”
Youth Engagement can happen within a person, including their emotional, psychological, or physical well-being. In other cases, young people are seen as disengaged when they aren’t sustainably connected to their family, peers, faith communities, school, and other community settings. There is generally little concern when young people aren’t seen as connected to society, as these areas are generally seen as places for adults to be engaged. These locations including mass media, industry and the economy, social services, their neighbors, and local politics.
Self: emotional, psychological, or physical well-being
Families: home, recreation, decision-making, food and nutrition, culture
Community: peers, faith communities, school, and other community settings
Society: mass media, industry and the economy, social services, their neighbors, and politics
Following are different strategies I have identified for social change led by and with young people. These strategies can be approached individually, but are often entwined as they show different aspects of social change. Note that these are broad strategic frameworks for understanding social change; they aren’t necessarily specific activities or methodologies. I might explore those in another post.Most of these strategies reply on youth acting on issues defined by and affecting young people and their communities by meaningfully involving them in the design, implementation, and evaluation of social change.
15 Strategies for Social Change Led By and With Young People
Youth Voice is any expression of any young person anywhere, at any time. This can include expressions that are verbal, written, visual, body language, or actions; expressions that are convenient and inconvenient for adults to listen to; and intentional as well as unintentional expressions. Youth Voice does not require adult approval or acceptance. [Learn more]
Youth Participation is the active attendance of young people in any mode throughout their lives or communities. Youth participation can happen through active decision-making, sports, schools, or faith communities. It can also happen in homes and among friends. Youth participation can be formal or informal; when its formal, youth may not choose to attend something, but they choose whether to participate. When its informal, youth choose to join in on something.
Youth Involvement is any deliberate effort that centers on young peoples’ ongoing attendance in personal, social, institutional, cultural, and other forms of structural action throughout society. Youth involvement is generally formal, often including specific roles, education, and outcomes. [Learn more]
Youth Engagement is the sustained connection young people hold towards a particular thing, whether an idea, person, activity, place or outcome. That sustained connection can be social, emotional, educational, spiritual, sentimental, or otherwise as long as its sustained. [Learn more]
Youth Empowerment is the attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people, including youth and adults. [Learn more]
Youth Leadership is the practice of young people exercising authority over themselves or others, both in informal and formal ways. There is youth leadership beyond the scope of what adults recognize, appreciate, or foster; there is also youth leadership which is guided by adults.
Youth/Adult Partnerships happen when young people are fully equal with adults while they’re involved in a given activity. This is a 50/50 split of authority, obligation, and commitment. One of the realities of this is that there isn’t recognition for the specific developmental needs or representation opportunities for children and youth. [Learn more]
Youth Equity is the pro-active rebalancing of relationships between youth and adults to allow for appropriately empowered roles between youth and adults. It allows for a 40/60 split of authority, while everyone involved- young people and adults- are recognized for their impact in the activity, and each has ownership of the outcomes. [Learn more]
Youth Mainstreaming is a public policy strategy that acknowledges the roles youth can play and the issues affecting them across various sectors such as health, finance, economic development, housing, justice, foreign affairs, education, and agriculture. [Learn more]
Youth Infusion is the active, deep, and sustained integration of youth throughout an organization or community’s structure and culture.
Youth Organizing is an approach that trains young people in community organizing and advocacy, and assists them in employing these skills to alter power relations and create meaningful institutional change in their communities by employing activities such as political education and analysis, community research, campaign development, direct action and membership recruitment. [Learn more]
Service Learning uses meaningful service throughout the community to help youth achieve clearly stated learning goals. [Learn more]
Project-Based Learning infuses deliberately planned hands-on activities focused on teaching and learning to foster youth success. [Learn more]
Experiential Learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience, which may or may not be planned and does or does not have specific learning goals. [Learn more]
Community Youth Development combines the developmental instincts of young people as they naturally desire to create change in their surrounding environments by partnering youth and adults to create new opportunities for youth to serve their communities while developing their personal abilities.
In understanding social change, its important to recognize that none of these are competing approaches. I have also learned that they aren’t necessarily better or worse than each other. Instead, they’re appropriate terms that acknowledge different times and places where action can happen.
There are many roles in democracy-building by youth. Following are several different opportunities for young people to take action.
23 Ways Young People Can Change the World
Children and Youth as Facilitators. Knowledge comes from study, experience, and reflection. Engaging young people as teachers helps reinforce their commitment to learning and the subject they are teaching; it also engages both young and older learners in exciting ways.
Children and Youth as Researchers. Identifying issues, surveying interests, analyzing findings, and developing projects in response are all powerful avenues for Youth Voice.
Children and Youth as Planners. Planning includes program design, event planning, curriculum development, and hiring staff. Youth planning activities can lend validity, creativity, and applicability to abstract concepts and broad outcomes.
Children and Youth as Organizers. Community organizing happens when leaders bring together everyone in a community in a role that fosters social change. Youth community organizers focus on issues that affect themselves and their communities; they rally their peers, families, and community members for action.
Children and Youth as Decision-Makers. Making rules in classrooms is not the only way to engage young people in decision-making. Committees, board membership, and other forms of representation and leadership reinforce the significance of Youth Voice throughout communities.
Children and Youth as Advocates. When young people stand for their beliefs and understand the impact of their voices, they can represent their families and communities with pride, courage, and ability.
Children and Youth as Evaluators. Assessing and evaluating the effects of programs, classes, activities, and projects can promote Youth Voice in powerful ways. Young people can learn that their opinions are important, and their experiences are valid indicators of success.
Children and Youth as Specialists. Envisioning roles for youth to teach youth is relatively easy; seeing new roles for youth to teach adults is more challenging. Youth specialists bring expert knowledge about particular subjects to programs and organizations, enriching everyone’s ability to be more effective.
Children and Youth as Advisors. When youth advise adults they provide genuine knowledge, wisdom, and ideas to each other, adults, organizations, institutions, communities, and other locations and activities that affect them and their world at large.
Children and Youth as Designers. Youth participate in creating intentional, strategic plans for an array of activities, including curriculum, building construction, youth and community programs, and more.
Children and Youth as Teachers. Facilitating learning for themselves, other youth, adults, or children, youth can be teachers of small and large groups in all kinds of topics.
Children and Youth as Grant-makers. Youth in philanthropy identify funding, distribute grants, evaluate effectiveness, and conduct other parts of the process involved in grant-making.
Children and Youth as Planners. When planning programs, operations, activities, and other events and activities, youth can benefit nonprofits, schools, their homes, and any other institution throughout society.
Children and Youth as Lobbyists. Influencing policy-makers, legislators, politicians, and the people who work for them are among the activities for youth as lobbyists.
Children and Youth as Trainers. When they train adults, youth, children, and others, youth can share their wisdom, ideas, knowledge, attitudes, actions, and processes in order to guide programs, nurture organization and community cultures, and change the world.
Children and Youth as Politicians. Running for political office at the community, city, county, or state levels, youth as politicians can run for a variety of positions.
Children and Youth as Recruiters. Youth building excitement, sharing motivation, or otherwise helping their communities or people to get involved, create change, or make all sorts of things happen can happen through youth as recruiters.
Children and Youth as Social entrepreneurs. When youth recognize a social problem, they can use entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.
Children and Youth as Paid staff. When organizations, businesses, agencies, and other groups hire youth, they can be staff members in programs for adults, other youth, children, or for the community at large. They can fulfill many roles on this list in paid positions.
Children and Youth as Mentors. Mentoring is a non-hierarchical relationship between youth and adults, adults and youth, or among youth themselves, that helps facilitate learning and guidance for each participant.
Children and Youth as Decision makers. Participating in formal and informal decision-making, youth can be board members, committee members, and in many different roles.
Children and Youth as Activity Leaders. As activity leaders in nonprofits, community organizations, and other areas, youth can facilitate, teach, guide, direct, and otherwise lead youth, adults, and children in a variety of ways.
Children and Youth as Policy-makers. When they research, plan, write, and evaluate rules, regulations, laws, and other policies, youth as policy-makers can enrich, substantiate, enliven, and impact the outcomes of policies in many ways.
Do you want to engage, involve, inspire, motivate, or activate young people? Then order my book, The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!
Packed with useful activities, deep insights, practical tips, and other information and resources your need to move youth voice, youth engagement, youth leadership, and youth empowerment to the FRONT of your work with young people!
The book is meant for people who work with middle school and high school youth. If you work with traditional youth leaders, you’ll learn how to move that work forward. If you work with nontraditional youth leaders, you can learn how to engage them in positive, powerful activities that can change your program or organization.
The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide
“The Youth-Driven Programming Guide is a must read for youth workers in all settings. Adam does a tremendous job of getting straight to the point with a clear message in a concise format that even the busiest of youth workers will be able to make time to read. We operate a Parks & Recreation related youth program that provides multiple youth after school program sites, late night events, a series of dances, and a Youth Commission. This guide is the newest required reading for all volunteers and staff within our program.
—Paul Simmons, Parks and Recreation Director, Cheney, Washington
“I work with groups of young people in Preston, Lancashire, England to have a real voice in decision making in our Impact Youth Groups, co-working with young people training to be Youth Workers and my work in schools and justice projects. The book is an excellent informal education tool in planning your work young people, supporting the work you, developed with young people in a simple understanding education tool, creates fun in learning, while young people can be given a real voice with support, in their social education learning and decision making experiences.”
—Terry Mattinson, youth worker, Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom