What Supports Youth Engagement?

All the individual spheres of youth engagement are parts of a generally unspoken system. This system surrounds all young people from the time they’re born through adulthood, and beyond. A system is “a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular.”

Systems of youth engagement are the broad ways young people experience sustained connections throughout their lives. There are many different ways to envision these systems operating. Here, I focus on the formal and informal institutions throughout the lives of young people that drive, affect, or impact the sustained connections they have throughout life. These systems can include, but aren’t limited to, their family, education, health, social services, recreation, faith communities, cultural activities, work, civic action, mental health services, and juvenile justice. Other systems can include transportation, food and nutrition, housing, business, and the environment.

When these systems function well, there are communities full of engaged children and youth. When they do not function well, young people experience disengagement in any or all of these spheres. The fewer sustainable connections a young person experiences in each and all of these spheres, the more disengaged they become throughout their lives. The more disengaged a person is as a young person, the more likely they’ll be disengaged as an adult; the more engage a person is when they’re young, the more engaged they will become when they’re older.

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

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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