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!

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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Good News for Pittsburgh Youth!

Adam’s note: This is the second of many posts I’m writing for a blog called AfterschoolPGH. I’m taking the privilege of reposting it here for your reading pleasure and my future reference!

The news doesn’t generally tell us is how excellent youth today are. Despite the pressures of a crumbling economy and failing social safety net, more than ever, youth are thriving. From my experience and research traveling the nation, I have directly observed that civic engagement, volunteering, community action, and social change led by young people are soaring. I’m not simply talking about those kids either: Instead, there’s a rampant movement afoot across our nation to engage all young people in changing the world.

Allegheny County is no exception. Across the area, there are countless youth working with adults to make their neighborhoods, the whole area, and our entire world a better place. One excellent example is Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG). This nationally recognized multi-generational mentoring program fosters leadership skills, a sense of female community, and a commitment to service among three generations: elementary-school girls, undergraduate women, and professional women. Another is Unified for Youth in Pittsburgh (U4Y). An annual conference boasting over 70 participants, U4Y is the only conference of its kind in Pittsburgh, bringing together youth, adult allies and educators for two days of safe schools training in LGBT issues.

Powerful activities like these serve as role models for other organizations and communities throughout Allegheny. They also change the narrative about youth by forcing the media to see young people in Pittsburgh as powerful contributors to making the world a better place.

Other examples come from the City of Pittsburgh Mayor’s Youth Council. Their goal is to serve as a liaison between youth and the Youth Commission on issues affecting youth. The Council encourages the positive growth and development of young people by involving them in social, cultural, recreational and other drug and alcohol-free activities. Upon request of the Mayor or City Council, the Youth Council shall provide advice and assistance on matters concerning the needs of youth from the perspective of young people.

When NAACP President Benjamin Jealous recently spoke in downtown Pittsburgh, he challenged young people to see that groups of committed, principled people can always overcome organized money. So many examples throughout Allegheny County demonstrate exactly how that’s happening, especially because youth are partners.

A faith-based community in the region that focuses on seeing youth past the news is called the Pittsburgh Youth Cluster with Adults, or PYCA. This effort of the Unitarian Universalists focuses on building an interdependent web of youth in the greater Pittsburgh area (hereafter referred to as the Cluster) through spiritual, social action, and community building activities. They say, “We are youth organizing youth!”

A large engine in Pittsburgh moving youth past the news is the Heinz Endowment. Through strategic targeting, they’re funding campaigns led by and with youth focused on air quality, education reform, and much more. The reports linked to here cover more than a dozen organizations, and are well worth exploring.
One way that young people themselves are addressing media bias against them is by creating their own media. In Allegheny County, a coalition called Pittsburgh Youth Media is creating opportunities for young people in the region to engage in both traditional and non-traditional forms of media, using the tools, skills, practices and technologies that professional media outlets use, thereby enabling them to participate thoughtfully in reporting on current events and issues. Pittsburgh Youth Media is a coalition of education, media and community groups formed in early 2012. Members include Carlow University, SLB Radio Productions, Inc., The Consortium for Public Education, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Community Television, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, WQED Multimedia, Allegheny Conference on Community Development. These organizations and the individuals involved are concerned enough about how the traditional media portrays youth to create a new narrative with youth as partners.

Congratulations Pittsburgh- you’re beginning to see youth past the news. Keep it going!

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

3 Tips for Excellent Youth Programs

“Some programs suck,” said Latisha as she sunk into her chair, arms folded.

Jennifer piped in, “Yeah, teachers can just be rude and get away with it.”
“Ah man, I had this one who tried to pick a fight with me just because I had to go to the bathroom,” volunteered a guy everyone called Bee.
This was part of a conversation I had last week at the National Service Learning Conference in Denver, Colorado. There to co-facilitate a presentation of a project I’m involved with in Seattle, I made a point of connecting with several young people who were attending the conference too. At lunch one day I sat down with a group of African-American students. Speaking frankly, I reassured them that I was a safe adult to talk to, and started asking them about the programs they attended in their hometown of Minneapolis. A little while into that conversation the above dialog came out.
I believe it’s because of perceptions like the ones above that youth programs are absolutely essential to the vitality and success of communities in the United States today. Faced with an unending barrage of challenges from the neighborhoods they serve, K-12 schools across the country today are under assault from all sides. Their budgets are getting cuts and their problems are stacking up.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that youth program providers aren’t having it a lot easier. However, there’s are many reasons why our nonprofit, government, and faith-based programs are going to make it a lot further than their K-12 comrades in schools, and one of the primary reasons is excellent facilitation. Following are a few tips for how to facilitate excellent youth programs.
3 Tips for Excellent Youth Programs
  1. Don’t be evil. Afterschool programs are not business, and nor should they be. They do not generate fiscal profit, and rely primarily on donations from individual and foundation donors, as well as government funds. This means that the 200,000 young people under 18 in Allegheny County aren’t consumers and the aren’t products. Instead, they’re humans. They’re imbued with emotions and ideas, feelings and beliefs. They ask questions, observe, critique, praise, examine, explore, identify, deny, and play, often insatiably. Excellent afterschool programs don’t squelch or repress these instincts; instead, they uplift and support them. They ensure that ultimately they’re serving young people where they’re at, and not insisting they go somewhere else. Don’t be evil with children and youth.
  2. Do not harm. All children are born with a love of life. It doesn’t matter what family you’re born into or what the conditions are that you are raised in; children want to dig into living and grow. After years of increasing instruction and guidance and leadership by adults, young people can feel the love of living squeezed out of them. They’re exposed to the realities of poverty and the tension of popular culture, all of which seems determined to make them into successful consumers. Excellent afterschool programs foster the love of living within their participants, no matter how old they are. Teenagers become successful community leaders when they’re in great afterschool programs; elementary students become determined learners. Do no harm by lifting the love of life into the highest part of your heart and mind, and engaging young people in doing the same thing.
  3. Make things better. Its a cynical age that divests in afterschool programs while increasing funds for private juvenile incarceration companies. Young people in low-income homes are parents by moms and dads working two and three part jobs to make ends meet, while middle class children and youth are becoming latchkey kids again. Seen primarily only as lower-income consumers and service workers, businesses are withdrawing their support for young people too. When they invest in empowering and engaging young people, excellent afterschool programs step head and shoulders above their peers. Make things better by serving children and youth in substantive ways that changes lives. We can’t afford for you to do any less than that.
Afterschool programs have had to rely on excellent facilitation for their entire existence. Without the compulsory attendance laws governing schools, we’ve had to rely on appealing to kids from a more base level in order to recruit, engage, and retain participants. Providers can’t be jerks, autocrats, or mean, because children and youth will simply stop attending their programs.
The steps above are just a start; I wrote an article called “Becoming An Excellent Facilitator” that you may appreciate. Find other great resources, and make your youth program an excellent one.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Youth Involvement in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Adam’s note: This is the first of many posts I’m writing for a blog called AfterschoolPGH. I’m taking the privilege of reposting it here for your reading pleasure and my future reference!

Since the 1970s, there’s been a national movement to promote youth voice. Funny enough, there’s never been just one definition of youth voice, so its not surprising that the movement never really took off. I wrote the my Short History of Youth Voice in the United States back in 2005, and since then I’ve uncovered a lot more history. Historical writer Phillip Hoose has contributed extensively to these findings too. However, he and I aren’t really writing about a movement, per se, but instead, incidents. In 2004, the National Youth Leadership Council invited me to think about the question of whether the youth voice movement was dead, and almost 10 years later I know the answer.
I came to Pittsburgh in 2011 to share the basics of Youth-Driven Programming with almost 50 providers from across Allegheny County. The year before the University of Pittsburgh’s Youth and Family Training Institute brought me to State College to talk with youth providers from the systems of care movement. Throughout my times with these different program workers, organization leaders, and others, I learned about many different ways youth voice is engaged throughout Allegheny County. Before I explore some of these examples, let’s define some terms.

  • Youth Voice. I define any expression of any young people anywhere, anytime, about anything, as youth voice. This wide-open definition allows for the broad diversity of children and youth to be acknowledged, and makes it so that youth voice is not contingent on whether or not adults want to hear it. Listening to youth voice is a step towards youth engagement, but they’re not the same. 
  • Youth Engagement. After reviewing the research literature and writing a variety of summaries about it, I defined youth engagement as the sustained connection young people feel to the world within and around them. This includes all types of connections, from interpersonal to intrapersonal, animated to stagnant, social to personal. Youth engagement is required for youth-driven programming, but can exist without YDP. 
  • Youth-Driven Programming. YDP is a guiding philosophy and practice for organizations that integrates youth as partners in a variety of ways throughout organizations and communities. YDP is among the deepest forms of youth integration that can happen in nonprofits, government agencies, and faith-based community. 

All that said, youth voice is a lot broader than YDP. YDP demands an integrity and commitment that a lot of organizations simply can’t make. However, all organizations can and should listen to youth voice. As simple expression, youth voice can be everything from youth on boards to graffiti and poetry, and from youth surveys to clothing and music. Youth voice is any expression of young people, and not just those that adults want to hear.

In Allegheny County, there are several examples of organizations that use YDP to effectively reach young people. Following are just a few.

  • CHANGE – The Children’s Hospital Advisory Network for Guidance and Empowerment (CHANGE) is a youth led and driven board which advises Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC about the youth perspective and issues that affect this population. It will work to ensure successful adult lives for youth who have special healthcare needs or have faced barriers in healthcare transition. 
  • Summer Youth Philanthropy Interns – Recognizing the need to incorporate a youth voice in its grant making, The Heinz Endowments again employed recent high school graduates as summer youth philanthropy interns. The program included eight teams of interns at local nonprofit organizations, each of which awarded $25,000 in grants. 
  • SITY (Systems Improvement Through Youth) – Comprised of 14 individuals, ages 16 through 25 years, who are active in or alumni of DHS and related child-serving systems including child welfare, drug and alcohol, education, juvenile justice, mental health and mental retardation. Building on the value of their personal experiences in the system, they will be assisted to develop leadership skills as advocates and system advisors, be provided with positive experiences of social service careers and policymaking, and be encouraged in their professional development. 

As each of these show, YDP is much more involved, sophisticated, and impacting than youth voice. They represent the next forefront of work for afterschool providers across the nation, and especially in Allegheny County. Here are several resources that might be useful for your own YDP efforts:


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

Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide

This guide is an introduction to youth-driven programming for nonprofits, government agencies, and other youth-serving organizations. The booklet gives a definition and compares approaches, and then provides planning tools, evaluations and assessments, and more. It includes the Ladder of Youth Voice, rubrics for assessing youth-driven programming, and links to examples and resources that readers can explore on their own.


Elsewhere Online

Differences Between YDP and Traditional Youth Programs

As long as community work specifically focused on youth has existed, adults have been designing, facilitating, and evaluating it. However, over the last twenty-some years, many nonprofits, schools, and government agencies have discovered the reward of fostering youth voice throughout throughout their operations affecting youth. Years of research and best practice have led to the development of a model to foster the growth of this activity, and it is called Youth-Driven Programming.

What’s The Difference? 

This selection is from The Freechild Project
Youth-Driven Programming Guide for Action.

Youth-Driven Programming, or YDP, is different from traditional youth programming in many ways. The differences become apparent in the premises or assumptions behind the program to the activities youth do to the funding the program receives and the ways it is evaluated. There are distinct differences.

The primary ways traditional youth program models treat youth are in their focus. Most either see youth as receptacles, recipients, informants, and promoters. As receptacles, activities and ideas treat youth as empty containers who bring nothing relevant to the program, instead needing to have everything given to them from the time they walk through the door. As recipients, youth are treated like customers who simply walk through the door, consume what they choose, and walk away with their needs met. When they’re treated like informants, youth tell adults what they want to hear and leave adults satisfied because they believe they know what youth want, think, or know. The other popular way youth are treated in traditional programs is as promoters. When they’re promoters, youth are treated like advertisers and promoters who share the ideas of their programs for adults.

YDP challenges those assumptions by assuming youth can be active partners in programs affecting them and their communities. Programs position participants in many ways, including youth as drivers, facilitators, organizers, and specialists. As drivers, youth are acknowledged for their capacities to motivate and sustain the processes and outcomes they’re targeted with. When they’re involved as facilitators, young people teach, lead, operate, and guide activities by working in equitable ways with adults. Organizing programming comes as second nature to some youth, as they align activities with goals, develop activities and processes for participants, and position the programs in strategic ways to meet the needs of the organization. Finally, as specialists youth have opportunities to develop, implement, and share the expertise, knowledge, and wisdom they’ve established, and to critically examine what is done to them.

The differences in these approaches are vital for understanding the capacity of YDP to change the lives of individual youth, as well as the organizations and larger communities they belong to.

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

Youth-Driven Programming Dos and Don’ts

Interested in owning your own copy of these dos and don’ts? Find them in our new…

This is a short checklist for Youth-Driven Programming. I wrote it for nonprofits, schools, and other organizations that want to ensure their activities are meaningful for young people. You can own your own copy of the dos and don’ts by purchasing a copy of our new book from Amazon.com! ORDER YOUR COPY NOW.

If you want to learn more about Youth-Driven Programming, contact our office today by emailing info@commonaction.org or calling (360)489-9680.

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!

Youth Segregation

Youth segregation rages across western society. Moving young people into full-time schools, part time afterschool programs for children and youth, youth-exclusive work environments, youth-isolated commercial spaces, and excluding them from public, democratic duties and spaces is creating a crisis of purpose, possibilities, and hope in our times, right now.

Youth segregation is terrible for our society. Aside from tearing at the very fabric of democracy, it is destroying cultures, thrashing at the economy, prohibiting innovation, and decimating community.
  • Democracy—Youth segregation undermines the civic will of individuals to contribute to the community and societies they live in. It disallows young people from voting, running for office, speaking in many public venues, and from participating in the general democratic life of their communities.
  • CulturesBy keeping young people from being able to produce, critically analyze, and share real culture, adults also keep them from sharing, maintaining, and building upon what already exists. Reduced to the role of passive recipient, youth segregation is killing off any sense of history and purpose from culture.
  • EconomyContributing more than 5% to the global economy in the last decade, young peoples’ economic impact is not underestimated by the commercial sector. Yet, they routinely rely on the rampant segregation of children and youth from adults in order to sell their wares. Identifying alienated youth subcultures and fostering parental and adult indifference to young peoples’ spending, saving, and earning habits only engenders further youth segregation from adults.
  • Innovation—Stories about young inventors and young entrepreneurs abound. But young innovators aren’t simply middle class white kids hellbent on making millions of dollars. Instead, there are young social entrepreneursyouth activists, advocates, and educators who are impacting their communities with radical and pragmatic innovations from this century and beyond. They’re routinely segregated from adults, limiting them to critical exposure for their efforts and sustainability.
  • CommunityExcluded from the formal decision-making of democracy in society, youth segregation also happens throughout communities. Young people’s interests are routinely left off the table, and they aren’t educated about what effects them the most. Because of this, they can’t stand up in the nonprofits, schools, and even homes where they spend their days. 

More than a decade ago, I started The Freechild Project with the intention of demonstrating how young people and their adult allies are combating youth segregation in the U.S. and around the world. Today, there’s a growing awareness of what’s happening and the needle is starting to move. The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg for all the ways youth segregation happens. We need to do more.
What are YOU doing to stop youth segregation today? Learn more at freechild.org.

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