Working with more groups around the world has caused me to constantly revise and refine my processes. The following thoughts were shared with me by a group of youth as advice to adults who want to successfully engage youth. We can all strive to use them as guidelines in youth engagement work.
Youth Engagement Tips
- Make room for youth to talk first. Adults often feel compelled to start conversations or answer questions first. Let youth talk first.
- Do not force youth to talk. Sometimes you don’t have things to say. Sometimes youth don’t have things to say. Don’t try to force anyone to talk, and just sit in uncomfortable silence if you have to.
- Remember one youth doesn’t represent all youth. All youth are individuals with their own perspectives, backgrounds, and realities. Youth aren’t all the same.
- It is okay to not know everything, even if you’re an adult. It is okay to be uncertain, express doubt, and ask questions. It is also okay to believe youth.
- Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable with youth. If we’re talking about things that cause you discomfort, don’t make us change the conversation. Be uncomfortable.
- Speak your truth to youth. Don’t hide behind titles, age, positions, degrees, or other appearances. Tell us what you know and have done, and be human.
- Listen for understanding, not affirmation. Sometimes youth won’t support your conclusions and decisions, and that’s okay.
- Do not try to “fix” youth—they aren’t broken. Young people can come from broken homes or depressed communities, be incarcerated or homeless, but they’re not broken. They are whole people; treat them that way.
- Take appropriate risks when you’re talking with youth. Challenge yourself to stay engaged with young people exactly as they are right now, instead of making them come to where you’re at.
- Avoid just listening to youth voice. Take action.
What else would you add? Where can this page grow or change? Leave your comments below!