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!

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