Engaging Youth in Systems Change
by Laura Romanoff, Long Island Regional Youth Partner, Families Together of NYS — Youth Power
To be youth guided is educating and empowering while providing space for youth to take an active role not only in their own lives but by impacting policies and procedures that affect other young people as well. Through Positive Youth Development (PYD) Strategies, youth guided practices positively impact not only youth, but the adults that care for them and policymakers/organizations alike. PYD is a framework that guides how service providers deliver services and supports so youth are confident while reaching their goals. This strengths-based approach engages the youth so they focus on what they bring to the table rather than focusing on possible deficits or barriers they might have. Examples of PYD are Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets and the Circle of Courage.
Understanding what it means to be youth guided, listening to youth perspective, and building youth engagement are all key factors in PYD. Here are 9 tips to promote youth engagement within your organization, community, and/or advocacy work.
- Look: What communities are the youth you want to engage with involved in?
- Name: What type of event, workshop and/or activity do youth want to participate in?
- Listen: What do the young people care about? Are you using youth feedback in the development of your program? Are youth included in hands on development of it?
- Acknowledge: Let the youth know you’re listening by affirming and asking questions.
- Create: Provide opportunities for young people to gain leadership experience. Don’t be afraid of “out of the box” thinking! Encourage the youth to think broadly and creatively about how they want the programming to look.
- Act: Provide additional spaces and opportunities for youth voice to be heard by inviting them to conferences, speak outs, and program development meetings, etc.
- Reflect: Look back strategically; identify challenges, successes, and room for growth.
- Analyze: Identify “what helped vs what hurt”. What was your end goal of the activity? Did you reach your end goal? Why or why not? (Youth Move National 2014)
- Strategize: Encourage youth feedback. Ask the youth what could be done better or differently when planning another event, or activity. Consider switching up the way that you outreach for future events!
For more information about Families Together and the Youth Power Program, go to: https://www.ftnys.org/youthpower/