Foundations Fail Youth By Design

To all the program officers cringing right now, I feel your pain.

Across the United States and around the world, there has risen a particular class of nonprofit organization that insidiously, if inadvertently, promotes youth discrimination. Through their giving programs, organizational culture, and leadership structures, foundations fail young people by design, constantly and consistently.

Starting in 2000, I have worked with philanthropies of all sizes and in many capacities. My experiences speaking at regional, national, and international conferences; consulting family and corporate foundations; contracting as a writer, evaluator, and interim program officer have given me insights into the field I want to share here.

There are three major concerns I have with foundations that serve young people: 1) Authentic youth engagement; 2) The culture of philanthropy, and; 3) Sustainability.

From the largest to the smallest, there is almost no foundation in the US that authentically engages young people by design. Of the growing number of youth philanthropy programs in the 2000s, many have been eliminated in the current economic climate. Glowing reports throughout the decade touted their efficacy and sustainability. However, those reports were devoid the grim reality that while several foundations hosted youth-exclusive programs, few if any integrated youth throughout foundations. Youth-driven philanthropy was also youth-centered, and when foundations cut youth-centered giving, they cut youth boards, too. The remaining youth-driven, youth-centered foundation programs in the U.S. today rely on the beneficence of their foundation’s regular governance boards to keep them intact. In such cases that their existence is secured by policy, youth are still segregated from adults. All of this severely hinders the authenticity of young people’s engagement in philanthropy.

The second way foundations fail young people by design is through their cultures. There is no philanthropy in the U.S. that actively addresses the reality of adultism, which is bias toward adults. Adultism is pervasive in philanthropy, as adult-driven, adult-biased philanthropic priorities are supported by adult-driven, adult-biased research which drives adult-driven, adult-biased grantmaking, the performance of which is evaluated against adult-driven, adult-biased metrics. I can find no evidence of any foundation that employs youth in regular positions. The rarity of youth-driven decision-making in philanthropies further understates the cultural reality of philanthropy. However, the way those examples are touted goes beyond decoration and purely objectifies youth, dehumanizing their contributions and grossly under-estimating their capacities. And this is only in the formal structures of foundations. I will say little about the directors, administrative leaders, program officers, and contractors I have personally encountered throughout my career, aside from suggesting there is an inherent anti-child and youth inclusive climate throughout the entire field of philanthropy.

Which brings me to my third point about how foundations are designed to fail young people. By their very nature, these organizations perpetuate a social pattern of youth segregation that is only 100 years old. This is an unsustainable trend, one that is beginning to erode as our greater society begins to reconfigure its institutions to reflect a new and growing consensus about young people: It is absolutely vital that all children and youth become woven throughout the fabric of community, both for their sake AND ours. Their contributions to the cultural, educational, economic, and political well-being of democracy are beginning to take center stage, as evidenced by several fields including philanthropy. However, stagnation is not acceptable, now sustainable. With the evolving capacities of young people continuously demonstrating their essentialness to social transformation, surely no foundation can justify their continued segregation through the historic excuses of inability or lack of desire. And some aren’t: I have heard more than one program officer say they have no interest in engaging young people as genuine partners in philanthropy. And I’m afraid that is indicative of the entire field, including boards of directors, consultants such myself, and many others. What makes this position truly unsustainable is the way foundations make it okay, even expect it of, their grantees. The organizations receiving money from foundations transmit this culture of age segregation almost unwittingly as their paternalistic funders refuse to revisit their apparent stance that young people are incapable. That is truly unacceptable, and clearly unsustainable.

Foundations fail youth by design- but there is a choice. And that’s another post for a different day.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Generations Must End

I wrote about generations and adultism last month, and drew a response from a dear colleague who challenged me. He suggested generations are important, and needed. I’m afraid they aren’t, at all.

The very invention of generations as a social analysis tool, especially the way Strauss and Howe have perpetuated them, is off-based to begin with.


Generational Generalism

Generational generalisms seem to have been constructed as an anti-dialogical response to the evolutionary nature of society. And it’s the non-transactional nature of this analysis that I reject most thoroughly: By postulating that populations are distinct and unique of themselves according to their birth to death ranges, sociologists remove them from the intergenerational nature of social life, which routinely blends and interacts individuals beyond people their own age in a variety of social, educational, cultural, governmental, militaristic, and other venues. These in turn define social categorization, along with the economic functioning of society, in ways that really have nothing to do with generations. All that is to say that two hundred years ago generations were not definable in the ways they are now.

The supposed relevance of generations relies on an American model of social development, one that we’re collectively watching get town asunder today. Identifying people according to their birth and death ranges requires that those are distinguishable. In the way that calling generations “extinct” allows for them to exist in the first place, I will grant that they may have been relevant for the 100 years of global domination American imperialism enjoyed. The American mode of economy, family, and social structure necessitated a particular kind of distinctiveness among so-called generations in order to market to them more effectively; commercialism and consumerism make generations necessary. Minus the American market-based dominance over the world, generations are largely irrelevant.


Historical Revelations

What I have witnessed through studying history is that the convenient pinching together on the sides of differentiation effectively pummels young people to the bottom of the social ladder by disallowing their active congregation with adults. Schools, youth programs, youth marketing… all these are a type of age ghetto-ization/segregation that generations only perpetuates. Generations further necessitate age discrimination by making generalizations okay and intergenerational relationships taboo. We cannot afford this kind of age segregation and youth alienation anymore.

Unfortunately, generations are being used as a crowbar in our sociology- and education-oriented work. I constantly am made aware that people are using generations to justify their own ignorance, and for that alone we must abolish any use of these terms from our work.

I’m afraid we’re not taking any steps forward through defining, perpetuating, or expanding generational-oriented analysis; I simply have not seen or heard any good come of it. Worst still, I have only seen bad.

Share what you think by leaving a comment below.


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The Evolution of Society


Children and youth have been treated as apolitical and passive throughout time.

They are viewed as immature, irrational, untamed, incapable, dependent, inexperienced, victims, compliant, under-developed, unacceptable, manipulable, unknowledgeable, compromised, uncultured, and unfinished for what seems like eons.

Treated as less-than-human, non-members of society, and as adults-in-the-making, children and youth have experienced generations of indifference and neglect simply because they were not perceived as adults.

This view of children and youth is not science; it is bias. It is bias towards adults, which is the definition of adultism.

Over the last 40 years, young people have boldly challenged this view. In the last 10, they have more loudly challenged it through activism and technology than ever before. THAT scares adults for many reasons, primary among which is that the historical order of society is continuing upheaval. That upheaval is quickening though, and as ethically responsive adult allies, it is our obligation to advocate and guide this change in every part of society.

Adultism has become more oppressive as a response to this evolution. More than ever before, the systems, cultures, and attitudes that treat children and youth without regard for their full humanity are becoming obvious. Parenting, friendships, schooling, social services, community groups, governments, faith communities, legal systems, economic systems, health care, nurseries, and playgrounds are among the institutions throughout our society that are being revealed for their biases towards adults.

At the core of the discrimination young people face are the historical roots of adultism:

  • Paternalism. Paternalism is when a child or youth is controlled with the claim that they’ll be better off or protected from harm. It’s ugly enforcer is patriarchy, which is protectionism on a grand level.
  • Segregation. Setting young people apart from other people because of their age is segregation. It’s ugly cousins include alienation, which happens when children or youth are segregated from a group or an activity they should be involved in; demonization, which happens when young people are portrayed as evil, deviant, or malicious; and criminalization, which makes children and youth illegal because of their age, like age-based curfews do.
  • Adultcentrism. The belief that adults are superior to young people is adultcentrism. It’s obvious outcome is adultocracy, which is the system of structural and cultural controls adults use to impose their authority, domination and supremacy over children and youth. The linear outcomes of adultcentrism and adultocracy are their ugly children, gerontocentrism and gerontocracy, which are focused on seniors.
  • Fear. The fear of children, which is pediaphobia, allows adults to segregate them; the fear of youth, which is ephebiphobia, gives adults permission to demonize and criminalize them. These responses to so-called deviance are dove-tailed with infantalism, which is the ascribing of behaviors that are perceived to be “child-ish” to children, youth, and adults.

All of this allows adults to maintain their power over young people in the most dramatic and simplistic ways. Without any voice in the matter, young people are routinely treated apathetically, pitifully, sympathetically, and charitably. This is despite the fact that all adults have been young. Our social programming disallows adults from remembering our younger years, which would lead us to empathizing with children and youth.

What may be needed is that farthest point on the spectrum of perceptions of young people, which is solidarity. More on that later.

I want to end this post by acknowledging that a massive evolution of young people is underway right now. Technology of all kinds is facilitating it, starting with the electronic transfer of communication, knowledge, ideas, and preparation for action. It is underway thanks to academia, where sociology and education have been on transformative bents for years in order to acknowledge authentic realities of young people, rather than their historically subjective judgments. It is underway in social settings too, including homes and neighborhoods and faith communities.

There’s an exciting future ahead, past these dark days. That’s because the evolution of childhood and youth is underway right now, and that’s because of you, right now. That’s why you just read this blog.

Adultism In Schools

    The following post is adapted from my book, Facing Adultism, and focuses on what adultism looks like in schools.

Adultism Is The Reason

Adultism is the reason schools exist. When children and youth packed factories, farm fields, mines, and service jobs around the western world in the late 19th century, many adults could not find jobs. This caused adults to rally against child labor and for public schools. A lot of adults said they wanted to end children ending up on the streets without an “occupation”- especially after newspapers reported that was the case. Schools suddenly became popular as places where young people could have productive experiences throughout the day. In the early 20th century they were made compulsory in many Western nations. Moving children from compulsory labor occupations into compulsory learning occupations without their input, ideas, or contributions in any way paved the way to the state of education today. That was just the first effect of adultism in schools.

More Than Neglect

In nineteen states across the U.S. corporal punishment is legal in schools. Corporal punishment is any physical punishment administered to students. This includes spanking, slapping, smacking, pulling ears, pinching, shaking, hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles. Corporal punishment also means forcing a child to stand for a long time or forcing a child to stay in an uncomfortable position. It can mean forcing a child to stand motionless or forcing a child to kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones. Corporal punishment can also mean forcing a child to retain body wastes; forcing a child to perform strenuous exercise, or; forcing a child to ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice. In schools where students received corporal punishment, students often have no format to appeal such punishment. They frequently do not have the ability to raise concerns over the legitimacy of the claims made against them, and they may not have the ability to raise concerns over the severity of the punishment being administered for their presumed violations.

Corporal punishment may be one of the most obvious physical impacts of adultism, but it is not the only one. One hundred years ago, because of the influence of Italian educator Maria Montessori, educators began paying attention to the physical apparatuses young people were expected to learn with. Their desks got lower, the chalkboards were holdable, and drinking foundations were built at their height. These types of accommodation ended where young people were expected to stop interacting with adults. School board meeting rooms were built for adults; school counselor offices were built for adults; cafeteria food preparation areas were built for adults. Even in high schools students are expected to be “of average adult height” in order to operate learning instruments such as microscopes, computers, and other devices. Research suggests that within in school students comprise an average of 93% of the human population, with adults accounting for the other seven percent. There is an awful lot of accommodation of that  seven percent!

Discrimination By Mandate

Adultism is apparent when large numbers of young people of any age are not allowed to congregate, cooperate and coordinate. Schools today are rooted in age segregation that disallows young people from socially and educationally interacting with each other. With few formal opportunities to socialize, young people may learn to distrust their peers and seek the approval of adults only. Some adults in schools lose the ability to distinguish between conspiracy and community, and they make continuous efforts to keep students from interacting with each other in schools.

Adultism drives adult behavior throughout schools, as well as a lot of student behavior. Teaching styles frequently represent adults’ values and skills rather than young peoples’ perspectives and capabilities. Adults determine what is valuable for students to learn and how young people need to demonstrate their learning. They enforce inequities between students and teachers in everyday behavior, too: When teachers yell at students, they are controlling classrooms; when students yell at teachers, they are creating unsafe learning environments. Ultimately, students in schools are subjected to their parents’ and their teachers’ assessments of their performance in the classroom, and have no formal input into grading or graduations. Searching for adult approval in order to receive the most praise or achieve the best grades, students routinely appease adults with sufficient class work without actually engaging in the content being taught. They find solidarity with the adults who control their classrooms while betraying the trust of their peers as they tattle and compare each other.

Undermining Purpose

Finally, and perhaps ultimately, adultism undermines the very purpose of educating students in schools. Student engagement has been shown to directly affect academic achievement. When students experience adultism, their engagement is severely affected in negative ways, no matter the environment. Classroom management, learning activities and student discipline are all affected by adultism, in all grade levels. In response to all of the bias towards adults throughout their educations, some young people completely acquiesce to adult expectations. Others completely abandon or apparently rebel against these expectations by routinely performing lowly in school through behavior or academic achievement, and through dropping out. Dropping out of school is the ultimate impact of adultism in schools.

In addition to those such as Montessori, who was almost uniquely oriented against adultism in schools, educators have rallied against adultism in schools without naming it as such for more than a hundred years. Massively influential, thought often misunderstood, American school philosopher John Dewey constantly promoted a curriculum for schools that was footed in student realities instead of adult conveniences. He once wrote, “Nature wants children to be children before they are men… Childhood has ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling, peculiar to itself, nothing can be more foolish than to substitute our ways for them.” This situates him squarely on the side of anti-adultist teachers. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator whose theories on teaching oppressed people continue to inform school change, justly sought authentic learning for students, too. His attitude could be summarized by his singular belief that, “the educator for liberation has to die as the unilateral educator of the educatees.” This positions the student as the holder and determiner of learning, and that is anti-adultist. While some theories address students’ roles indirectly, and others head-on push against the overbearing domination of adults, in schools, all are valuable as allies in this struggle.

It is because of all these realities that adultism makes schools today ineffective in every way.

Is there anything you’d add, take away, criticize, or expand on?

Helping Adults Remember Our Youth

‎”There is in you what is beyond you.” 
Paul Valéry

Every one of us was a young person, and from that place we can all relate to children and youth better than we do right now. Just as there is not a young person in this whole world who cannot be engaged, there is no adult in this world who is wholly and completely incapable of becoming engaged with young people.

This is because of the same reality French poet Valéry was alluding to above. All young people and all adults, everyone in this world, is inherently engaged in an eternal dance of society, propagating and critiquing and expanding and evolving the infinite potential of the world we share. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about this, too, when he said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” 

The opportunity of our lifetimes is to learn and build ways to consciously, creatively, and meaningfully grow this “inescapable network of mutuality” throughout our society with purpose and intention. Helping ourselves become conscientious of the threads we sew in the “single garment of destiny” is the large part of this learning. After we’ve done that we can begin to help others do the same. All children and youth can help their younger sisters and brothers, siblings, and adults learn about the “single garment of destiny”. All adults can learn about that garment, too, and help others learn about the inescapable network of mutuality” we are all part of.

We all share this responsibility, which is one of the greatest we have in our lives. What are you going to do today?

Here’s a reflection activity I use to help adults reconnect with their experiences as young people. 

Remembering Our Youth
Time required: 20-45 minutes
Needed: Quiet room
Before you start. I’ve found this guided reflection to be done best with participants age 12 through elder. As with any good learning activity, adjust as needed. Begin the reflection by reading the following at a comfortable, relaxed pace. Your tone should be quiet and calming, and you should give people time to bring up the images in their heads and really remember them. You can add to or subtract from this script as needed.
To start: Begin by asking each group to sit down and get comfortable. Explain that you will lead them through a reflection activity that sends them back in time to when they were teenagers. Ask them to close their eyes. Then ask them to imagine that its [today’s date] during their ninth grade year in school. If the group consists of people who work primarily with one age group (e.g., fourth graders) use that school year. Otherwise chose a year in school for them. A year in middle or high school works best.
Questions to ask: Continue by reading the following, slowly:
  • “Think about getting up in the morning.
  • What time is it?
  • Does someone wake you up? Who?
  • Do you get up easily or is it a pain?
  • What is your morning routine? Do you take a shower, bath, or do your hair?
  • What do you wear?
  • Are you ready in a few minutes? An hour?
  • Who else is around in the morning? Do you have to help anyone else get ready?
  • When you leave for school, how do you get there? Bus, drive, get a ride, walk, bike? Do you go with others?
  • What does the school building look like? How do you feel about the place?
  • What do you do when you first get inside? Do you go to your locker? Hang out with friends? Who are your friends? How do you feel about them?
  • What is your first class of the day? Who teaches it? Do you like the subject? Do you like the teacher? What are your favorite classes?
  • What classes do you dislike? Why?
  • What about lunch? Where do you eat? What did you eat? Do you have any meetings?
  • Now it is the end of the school day. Do you play a sport, have an activity, have a job, do your homework, hang out with friends?
  • What adults do you encounter after school? coaches, advisors, administrators, or bosses?
  • When do you get home?
  • Do you eat dinner with your family?
  • Do you do homework, or pretend to do homework? Do you watch TV? Talk on the phone?
  • What time do you go to bed? How do you feel at the end of the day?

Reflection: After a long, deliberate pause, ask participants to return to the present and open their eyes. Tell them you understand that the exercise may have reminded them of some painful or personal memories, and perhaps of some humorous ones, too. Reassure them that no one will be forced to share, but that you’re going to ask them to join in pairs and take a moment to share general reactions. 
Asking questions: When they are in pairs, give them 2-3 debriefing questions they can discuss with their partner. They can include:
  • What do you remember most vibrantly from this reflection?
  • What do you think is the greatest difference between your ninth grade year and the experience of a ninth grade student today?
  • What do you think is most similar?
  • Who were the adults in your life after school?
  • What are your best teacher like? Worst?

When each pair is done, have a large group conversation about the activity and ask participants to share what they’ve discovered. When you are finished, if time permits allow participants to journal alone for a moment on the following questions: 

  • What was good about being young? 
  • What was not good about being young? 

Close the activity by reminding participants that we all have different experiences, and none are better or worse than others- just different.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Privatizing Afterschool, and Privatizing Society

I just read about a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 3498, that will expedite the process of privatizing afterschool activities across the country. This greatly concerns me as a career-long youth worker, as an advocate for nonprofit social services, and as a lowercase “d” democrat.

Let me begin by suggesting that in addition to being aware of wholesale efforts to privatize public education, every single privatized area of public education needs to be strategically cataloged and made apparent to the Public. They range from curriculum to assessment to professional development to food services, now tutoring and teachers, and so many other areas. The process that got us to this point started in the 1950s, caught steam almost three decades ago, and is well underway.

This process was not the gateway into our possible future as a privatized society; it’s just the biggest door to indoctrinate young people. The original doors were utilities, the military, hospitals, prisons, and transportation. Once all regarded as public essential bastions of democratic living, now almost all these institutions are privatized across the United States.

Social services are one of the last great pillars holding up the roof of the so-called “public good”. Once a public service, most mental health services are privatized today. Social welfare management is increasingly private, as are services for developmentally differently-abled people. Libraries, public health, social security, and so much more sits squarely in the sights of private corporations and people committed to profiteering off a unconcerned and disengaged Public. Schools are high on their lists, and afterschool programs are next.

Young people are obviously the best objects for privateers to target, both because of their susceptibility, and because of the long-term impact of “teaching them right”. Since the decimation of public schooling is well underway, the battlefield for the next wave is afterschool programming. I am watching this unfold right now as standards for afterschool programming are emerging across the U.S. and internationally. As public schools proved, the process of standardization lends itself to professionalization, which in turn morphs quickly into privatization.

Unfortunately, The Radical Left has been largely useless in fighting the privatization movement. As demonstrated by what is happening in public schools, their voices have been co-opted by The Right to fight against the institution of public schooling, rather than the process of privatization. Even the non-radical Left has historically reduced school privatization to anti-unionism, which is a myopic perspective at best. By taking these stances, The Left is actually contributing to the further decimation of the democratic infrastructure that built the American middle class and provided a utopian ideal to motivate social mobility, particularly among the poor.

All of this critique examines the heinous nature of neoliberalism, which describes the process of privatizing all public services, including education, social security, water, prisons, public transportation, and welfare services. Neoliberals believe that when the government, acting on behalf of The People who vote for them through democratic process, is a bad manager of these services. They think all these institutions need fixed, and the only way to fix them is in through privatization. History has shown us there are very few benefits for The Public in privatization, while large corporations controlled by small groups of people make great deals of profit. I first learned about neoliberalism and its effects on young people from my mentor Henry Giroux, and I have continued to examine the ill effects of neoliberalism throughout society through the writing of many other writers, including Noam Chomsky and Amartya Sen.

From all of this I arrive at the belief that we need a new conversation in our society that goes beyond revolution for the sake of revolution and “anarchism as hope”, because both of these fail. We have to make plain the mythologies of history. Let’s examine our social capital and the social contract. Take our afterschool programs, along with our schools systems, social services, community development activities, democracy building movements, and let’s critically explore their intentions, outcomes, and assumptions. Let’s peel this onion throughout our society in order to make meaning of the chaotic disembowelment democracy is experiencing today. However, let’s not abandon the positive powerful future we could all share together.

Who is to write that future? I have an idea that I’ve written about before – let’s start with young people.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

The Bones Of Justice / The Capacity Of Youth

The tides of discrimination wash back and forth over the bones of justice. Whitewashing reality happens every day, as people conveniently forget what they do not want to remember, and coincidentally recall the most minute details at the perfect moment in time. Keeping these things in mind helps recall how some become the oppressors, and how others reinforce their power.

When considering the roles of young people of all ages throughout society it is easy to deny the truth. This morning I was speaking at a local summit called “Voices of Youth” in which a group of young people from local high schools were gathered to discuss young peoples’ health and well-being. I was quickly reminded that adults, despite having the best intentions, often have it in for youth.

Rather than turning the floor over to young people to identify, develop, lead, and reflect on substantive social change we oftentimes regale them with our knowledge, hammer them over the heads with our capabilities, and expect young people to be passive recipients of whatever we’re giving them. I AM GUILTY of doing this. As a public speaker I feel a twang of irresponsibility when I approach an opportunity in this “sit n’ git” fashion. It pains me some days. But I do it anyway.

Where do adults establish their supremacy? 

Recently I talked with a group of adults- parents and organizational leaders and others- who boiled it down to the statement that “Adults have intellectual and moral capacity that youth do not, and that enables us to make decisions for them that they should not make for themselves.”

However, “intellectual capacity” and “moral capacity” are both subjective perspectives that are determined a variety of factors. Reflecting on my own professional experience, I find that adults generally attribute all variable components of a young person- of any age- to their so-called “developmental ability”, which in itself is a subjective variable dependent on concrete influences. Allowing for all those variables to reasonably influence policy and programs affecting children and youth would encourage much more efficacy in how we educate, socialize, and otherwise engender the experience of being young throughout our society. 

Today I’m curious whether there are boundaries to the intellectual and moral capacity of young people. What do YOU think?

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Youth Are Leading Social Evolution

Hey, remember when it seemed like that loud, unruly kid was a punk? Remember when that quiet girl doing art in the back of the room was weird? Remember when the kids who were leaders were predictable and understandable? What a cool world that we live in that none of that is true anymore!

Over the last 100 years our society has been busy birthing new realities, thrusting itself forward into an unfamiliar, unknowable future. Women’s suffrage and civil rights were the cusp of these changes, as our family structures, social relationships, and cultural growth has reflected an even broader transformation. Young people, who at first were merely keeping pace with those changes, went from being the canaries in the coalmine to being the leaders at the front, taking charge, making movements, and driving social change as never before. Today, young people are the bellweather of the brave new future we continue to move towards.

Look around you! See those kids fixing their own problems on the playground? That’s evolution! See the teens in the alleyway finishing that tremendous graffiti mural? That’s evolution! See those tents and that meeting in the park where the Occupy movement is keeping hold? That’s evolution! Who is at the head of all this? Young people.

I challenge you to see today’s reality: The Evolution Is Underway. Can you see it? Can you feel it? The economy, politics, education… Young people are stepping in front of these speeding trains that are bulleting their ways through our society, and they’re doing what appears to be “crazy stuff”. But that crazy stuff, unfamiliar and scary as it may seem, is bringing us towards a positive, powerful future for all people everywhere all the time.

The Freechild Project has been steadily moving towards demonstrating this evolution for more than 10 years, and during that time we’ve made some tremendous strides. Step with us into the future to see where we’re all going – together!

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Publications By CommonAction

CommonAction Consulting has released a number of publications over the years that are focused on engaging young people in social change, community action, school reform, and more. The following is a list of our publications, most of which are available for free at the URLs listed. Contact us with any questions!


Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide (Adam Fletcher, 2010, 71 pgs) The Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide features 24 workshop outlines designed to help learning groups explore different aspects of Youth Engagement. All exercises are hands-on, interactive, and focused on practical applications. The workshops are designed for learners of all ages, including youth-only and adult-only groups. Available as a free PDF at

Freechild Project Youth Voice Toolbox (Adam Fletcher, 2010, online) The Youth Voice Toolbox is an online resource comprised of a series of one-pagers on youth action, youth engagement, youth empowerment, and more. These tools identify a number of innovative practices, practical considerations and critical concepts related to youth voice, particularly among historically disengaged young people. Available as a free website at 
United We Serve: PTA Call to Service Toolkit (Adam Fletcher, 2009, 52 pgs) This Toolkit is designed specifically for PTA members and leaders to provide tips, techniques and ideas to plan your own service project. This Toolkit is a guide to create successful and thoughtful service projects. It can be used as a complete package, or can be used as needed to provide guidance on a specific aspect of the service project. The examples, sample timeline, and questions asked throughout this toolkit can provide guidance and a framework to brainstorm and keep track of your progress. Available as a free PDF at
Environmentalism: How You Can Make a Difference (Mary McIntyre Coley consulted by Adam Fletcher, 2009, 32 pgs) From animal rights to environmentalism, we all have the ability to make change, and these books show you how. Inspiring stories of real kids engaged in activism, plus concrete tips and strategies for getting involved, will start you on your way to making a difference in your world. Published by Capstone Press with ordering information available at
Political Activism: How You Can Make a Difference (Heather Schwartzconsulted by Adam Fletcher, 2009, 32 pgs) From animal rights to environmentalism, we all have the ability to make change, and these books show you how. Inspiring stories of real kids engaged in activism, plus concrete tips and strategies for getting involved, will start you on your way to making a difference in your world. Published by Capstone Press with ordering information available at
Animal Rights: How You Can Make a Difference (Rhonda Lucas Donald consulted by Adam Fletcher, 2009, 32 pgs) From animal rights to environmentalism, we all have the ability to make change, and these books show you how. Inspiring stories of real kids engaged in activism, plus concrete tips and strategies for getting involved, will start you on your way to making a difference in your world. Published by Capstone Press with ordering information available at
Social Justice: How You Can Make a Difference (Lynn Bogen Sanders consulted by Adam Fletcher, 2009, 32 pgs) From animal rights to environmentalism, we all have the ability to make change, and these books show you how. Inspiring stories of real kids engaged in activism, plus concrete tips and strategies for getting involved, will start you on your way to making a difference in your world. Published by Capstone Press with ordering information available at
SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum (Adam Fletcher, 2007, 215 pgs) The SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum is a collection of 27 lesson plans, a facilitator’s guide, a student handbook and a planning guide designed to teach high school students about how they can become partners in school improvement. A free module and ordering information available at
15 Points to Successfully Involving Young People in Decision-Making (Karen Young and Jenny Sazama with Adam Fletcher, 2007, 150 pgs) 15 Points collects the essentials of our knowledge in an easy-to-use format and aims to challenge and inspire your work with the young people and adults in your organization or school. Published by Youth On Board with ordering information available at

Washington Youth Voice Handbook – (Adam Fletcher, 2006, 189 pgs) The first introductory guide to Youth Voice shares what, why, who, when, where, and how Youth Voice happens throughout our communities.Highlighting examples and lessons from across Washington State, CommonAction provides insights and ideas for young people, youth workers, teachers, and anyone else interested in truly empowering youth to make a difference. Available as a free PDF at
Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People – (Adam Fletcher with Joseph Vavrus, 2006, 16 pgs) This short guide looks at social change and progressively-oriented activities intended to build democracy by young people. The publication is split into four major sections: The Cycle of Youth Engagement is a tool that documents the trends that have been identified in successful youth engagement and can be used to plan, evaluate, or challenge any activity that seeks to engage you people in social change; issues addressed by social change led by and with young people; actions led by and with young people to create social change; other tools to develop, expand, and challenge the field. Available as a free PDF at

Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change – (Adam Fletcher with Kari Kunst, 2006, 20 pgs) These activities provide a basic exploration of trust, teambuilding, communication, and social change by actively involving all participants. Young people, community youth workers, classroom teachers, and others are encouraged to use this tool to promote youth engagement, community improvement, and active participation. Available as a free PDF at

Meaningful Student Involvement Guide to Students as Partners in School Change – (Adam Fletcher, 2005, 28 pgs) This guide provides the theory, research, and numerous practical examples for working with students to take action together to improve schools, written by a leading practitioner in the field of youth voice and student involvement. Published with HumanLinks Foundation and available as a free PDF at
Stories of Meaningful Student Involvement – (Adam Fletcher, 2005, 40 pgs) This booklet provides examples of several roles that uplift the aims of Meaningful Student Involvement. They include students as education planners, students as education researchers, students as classroom teachers, students as school evaluators, students as education decision-makers, and students as education advocates. Each example includes a description of the role, examples of students in action, and resources for readers to learn more. Published with HumanLinks Foundation and available as a free PDF at
Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide – (Adam Fletcher, 2004, 36 pgs) This publication reviews literature that broadly summarizes, examines, and accesses examples of Meaningful Student Involvement. The articles, journals, and books reviewed come from both scholarly researches that represent a scientific, theory-based approach; and applied research that employs case studies resulting in theories. The goal of this research guide is to identify what literature exists and evaluate its value in advocating for Meaningful Student Involvement. Published with HumanLinks Foundation and available as a free PDF at
Meaningful Student Involvement Resource Guide – (Adam Fletcher, 2004, 34 pgs) This guide provides descriptions and annotations for dozens of publications, toolkits, organizations, and websites that support student voice throughout education. Published with HumanLinks Foundation and available as a free PDF at
Firestarter Youth Power Curriculum (Adam Fletcher, 2005, online) Firestarter was created to provide young people, youth workers and teachers with accessible, powerful tools to engage young people. The collection of materials forms a loose curriculum that can be used to promote youth engagement, increase youth knowledge and ability, and develop group teamwork. Includes a facilitator’s guide. Available as a free PDF at


Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Christian Post Interview with Adam Fletcher

“Study Shows Young People Prefer Traditional Values in Politics”
Originally posted at

By Gina E. Ryder, Christian Post Contributor
The Christian Post, Mon, Oct. 10 2011 10:25 PM EDT

A recent Gallup poll released last Thursday revealed a surge in the percentage of young adults who said the government should promote traditional values.

In an utter reversal of Gallup’s historical patterns, Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are now more likely than older Americans to say government should promote traditional values.

“When young people say they are looking for traditional, they are really looking for familiarity,” Adam Fletcher, director of Free Child Project, a youth political advocacy group told The Christian Post.

In their most recent survey, Gallup asked 1,017 Americans age 18 and older this question: “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”

The results said that 48 percent of Americans thought the government should promote traditional values and 46 percent responded saying they thought the government should not favor any particular set of values.

“Young people attach to the vision of what America is and not to what the political parties represent it to be,” said Fletcher who has worked with 10,000 young people a year for the last 12 years.

According to Fletcher, young people today wanted the American dream in an authentic democracy. They aren’t looking at political parties but rather the future-oriented issues that America stands for.

“Traditional values are fully inclusive, meaning that young people have roles in society as active partners not as passive recipients, “ said Fletcher who said his role as the group’s director was to reinvent roles for young people throughout society.

Because of the recent rise in the percentage of young adults who thought the government should promote traditional values, Gallup suggested that the overall trend in this view might be only temporary.

“The trends by age raise questions about how permanent the shift in the overall trend is, with younger adults showing a recent surge in preference for advancing traditional values,” said Gallup’s analysis. “Normally the views of young people are on the leading edge of social change.”

The Free Child Project provides training for schools, non-profits and government agencies interested in using engagement all around the country.

Fletcher told CP, “Young people want togetherness, acceptance and a real sense of belonging. They want to be engaged. The traditional values that they are looking for are values that really looks at the future as being promising.”

The percentage saying they thought the government should promote traditional values peaked twice at 59 percent, first in January 1996 and then again in October 2001.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!