Youth Engagement - Knowledge Synthesis Report


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Children and youth in challenging contexts, both in Canada and overseas, face common threats to their mental health that can be better addressed when researchers, service providers, practitioners, and communities pool their knowledge, resources, and lessons learned of what works best for improving young peoples’ mental health. If these groups continue to work within their occupational and disciplinary boundaries, they will fail to mobilize the full potential of the evidence documented by researchers, the practice-related knowledge of service providers and practitioners, and the local knowledge of communities. The CYCC Network was developed in response to this need and in the summer of 2013, released three thematic knowledge synthesis reports: violence, technology, and youth engagement.

There has been an increasing recognition that youth engagement is central to any best practice or intervention that involves young people. Valuing youth engagement puts the focus on the positive contributions that youth make to programs and their effectiveness. Programs and services that acknowledge the independence and agency of at-risk youth provide opportunity for young people to give feedback on the relevance and appropriateness of the programs that serve them. Additionally, youth engagement can promote a sense of empowerment on an individual level, and facilitate healthy connections between young people and their community. Despite these benefits, however, there remains a gap in our understanding of the implications of engaging vulnerable youth. In order to better understand and optimize youth engagement, different strategies need to be explored that identify their appropriateness for youth living in different challenging contexts, representing all genders and age categories. With these gaps in mind, the knowledge synthesis report on youth engagement explores strategies that have been shown to work in engaging children and youth in challenging contexts as full members of their communities and in ending feelings of disempowerment and abandonment.

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Youth Engagement - Knowledge Synthesis Report

  1. 1. Working with Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts to Promote Youth Engagement Knowledge Synthesis Report 2013 Prepared By: Emily Zinck Advisory Committee: Michael Ungar, Shelly Whitman, SilviaExenberger, Linda Liebenberg, Jimmy Ung, & Isabelle LeVert-Chiasson
  2. 2. “NOTHING FOR US WITHOUT US.” Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement
  3. 3. GUIDING QUESTIONWhat strategies have been shown to work engagingchildren and youth in challenging contexts as fullmembers of their communities and ending feelings ofdisempowerment and abandonment?
  4. 4. What is Youth Engagement?Youth Engagement: The meaningful andsustained involvement of a young person in anactivity focusing outside the self. Fullengagement consists of a cognitive component,an affective component, and a behaviouralcomponent, also known as “Head, heart, andFeet” Centres of Excellence for Children’s Well-Being: Youth Engagement
  5. 5. Population Groups• Children and youth affected by • Aboriginal children and youth war • Homeless children and youth – Child soldiers • Youth gangs – Children and youth in military • Child labourers families – Children and youth in the• Refugee children and youth workplace• Children and youth affected by – Children and youth who have natural disasters been trafficked• Immigrant children and youth • Children and youth living with• Children and youth subject to health-related challenges maltreatment – Children and youth living with• Children and youth in alternative chronic illness care – Children and youth living with mental illness – Children and youth in institutions – Youth in juvenile detention
  6. 6. Pyramid of Evidence
  8. 8. #1- Promote Youth Engagement to Make Services More EffectiveInitiating youth participation is a steptowards engaging young people in programdesign and implementation. – YouthNet, CHEO
  9. 9. #2- Include Youth in Decision Making Processes• Principle: Youth VoiceWhere possible, include youth at everylevel of program development, planning,implementation and evaluation. – Leaders of Today Network
  10. 10. #3- Make Civic Engagement Holistic• Principle: Civic EngagementProvide youth with opportunities to make areal contribution to their community. – SPARK Youth Engagement Program
  11. 11. #4- Pay Attention to Culture and Context• Principle: Culture and Context SpecificNot all methods will be appropriate for allyouth. It is important that programs andservices be adapted to suite the specificcontext and culture. – Strengths-based approach: River of Unity
  12. 12. #5- Create Mentorship and Partnership Opportunities• Principle: Positive RelationshipsIt is important to develop an environment ofpartnership and equality between youth andadults in working towards a common goal. – Adult Youth Partnerships – Canadian Roots Exchange Program
  13. 13. #6- Use Participatory Research to Document the Benefits of Youth Engagement• Principle: Participatory ResearchThe more that young people are included inresearch the more valid and contextuallyrelevant the results will be – Digital Story-telling: My Word
  14. 14. #7- Develop Better Methods to Evaluate Youth Engagement StrategiesResearchers and practitioners need todevelop easy to use methods that canevaluate the effectiveness of youthengagement.
  15. 15. #8- Develop a Community of Practice to Share Effective Youth Engagement StrategiesCreate sustainable structures to document,format, share, and access best practicesrelated to youth engagement. – Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement – Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development – Pat Dolan: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre
  16. 16. Thank you!!