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Bringing Young People to the Table: Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Youth Engagement


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Young people make up a vital part of our communities, and engaging them brings diverse perspectives, new solutions to old problems, and cultivates the next generation of engaged citizens. However, if we’re not intentional about taking steps to include this demographic, things like unspoken norms, transportation issues, and not having a space to speak in meetings can prevent them from becoming or staying involved. We’ll talk about specific ways you can overcome barriers to youth engagement that will make your effort more inclusive of young people and other underrepresented groups. We’ll also hear several examples from real communities that have involved young people in different ways. Participants will have the chance to put their new knowledge into practice and to explore solutions to the specific challenges their community may be facing related to youth engagement.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Bringing Young People to the Table: Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Youth Engagement

  1. 1. Bringing Young People to the Table: Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Youth Engagement Frontiers of Democracy Conference June 24, 2016
  2. 2. Rebecca Reyes Communications Manager, Everyday Democracy Malana Rogers-Bursen Program Associate, Everyday Democracy
  3. 3. What we’ll cover today o Define terms o Brainstorm challenges o Hear stories/examples of youth engagement o Explore scenarios o Apply an equity lens to our work
  4. 4. Definitions Youth: Ages 12-18. Middle-school and high school age. Young adult: 18-30 Young people: Anyone under 30 Recognize the range of experiences even within these age groups
  5. 5. Defining youth engagement Youth engagement: when young people are actively and authentically involved, motivated, and excited about an issue, process, event or program Youth leadership: when adults support youth to gain the skills, information and capacity to take leadership alongside adults Youth voice: when youth speak on issues that affect them and adults aim to really listen and value those perspectives on an equal footing to adults opinions Youth-adult partnerships: youth and adults share decision-making power equally. Youth are involved in planning, implementation and evaluation work throughout. Programs and activities are created WITH youth.
  6. 6. Questions for Small Group Dialogue o How were you involved in your community as a youth (high school age or younger)? As a young adult (18-30)? If you are a young person, talk about how you’re involved now. o If you were/are involved, how did you become involved? Who was influential? What institutions or structures existed to promote youth engagement? o If not, why not? What challenges or barriers did you face?
  7. 7. Santa Barbara, Ca. Conversations about community building, education, community-police relations, public safety in 2012. Key components: oStudents as young as 6th grade participated in dialogues with adults oStudents as young as preschool-aged participated by creating art projects
  8. 8. Outcomes: oYouth and young adults had equal say in action ideas oAn action team focused on creating and communicating about youth resources
  9. 9. Columbus, Ohio Dialogues on mental health in 2014. Key component: Conversations were entirely youth- driven. Adults in attendance listened and asked clarifying questions.
  10. 10. Action plans include: oIncrease support for mental health issues for children and youth oCreate a cyber space for youth services and resources oHold leadership development training for teens oEstablish a place where youth voices can be heard
  11. 11. Montgomery County, Md. Dialogues in schools focused on closing the achievement gap since 2002. Key components: oStudents from grades 6-12 participate in dialogues with students and staff oDialogues held within the schools
  12. 12. Outcomes: oStudents felt like the staff cared about them for the first time oNew student leaders emerged oNew school support systems in multiple languages oNew discipline plans to treat students of color fairly
  13. 13. Strong Starts for Children Five communities in New Mexico held dialogues on early childhood development in 2010. Key components: oYouth media organization captured video stories oDialogues included community events to engage families
  14. 14. Outcomes: oLaunched Youth Creating Change Film Festival oStories of young mothers influenced changes at the city level oYouth involved learned the importance of early childhood development
  15. 15. Equity Equity ≠ Diversity. (Diversity = Variety) Equity ≠ Inclusion (Inclusion = Representation) Equity ≠ Equality (Equality = Sameness) Equity = Fairness and Justice Adapted from presentation by Bethany Johnson-Javois on June 1, 2016
  16. 16. Equality vs Equity vs Liberation
  17. 17. Applying an Equity Lens Applying an equity framework is important to make sure include diverse perspectives and empower them to have their own impact. o How are young people involved in the decision-making? Are you making decisions in partnership with young leaders? o How do your strategies impact different age groups – youth, young adults, older adults? Do they help level the playing field for everyone, or do they perpetuate disparities? o How do create authentic youth/adult partnerships in your work?
  18. 18. New Haven, Conn. Dialogues about community-police relations, youth, racial equity, and immigration in 2009. Key components: oYouth were dialogue participants, facilitators, and implemented actions oClass credit offered to high school students for participating oYouth were encouraged to be trained as facilitators
  19. 19. Outcomes: oSeries of dialogues focused on hearing the concerns of teens oDialogues with teens and police led to improved relationships oImproved literacy after approval of community service credits for participating in after-school ESL classes
  20. 20. Text, Talk, Act Conversations about mental health designed to reach youth and young adults since 2013. Key components: oIntegral part of planning, organizing, and communications oUse of technology oPeer-to-peer dialogue oContests encouraged young people to organize their peers
  21. 21. o This initiative was part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health starting in 2013. o TTA was created with the specific focus of engaging youth and young people in dialogues on this topic. Youth and young adults make up the majority of the dialogue participants. They also are Thean integral part of planning, organizing, and communications. o The use of technology, the accessible format (no facilitators or training needed), and the peer-to-peer format likely attracted this demographic. o TTA hosted contests to encourage and inspire young people to organize their peers in whichever ways they thought would be most effective. o Over 90% of respondents said their understanding about mental health, how to help each other, and how prevalent mental health is has increase as a result of participating in TTA. o New young leaders and young advocates for mental health have emerged as part of participating in various stages of the process. “It’s perfect for youth in school, because even if they’re just going through it with other students—and there's not a teacher around, there's not an adult around—the questions are so open and so understandable that it’s easy to have five kids sitting in a room, and look at a text message that says, “Have you ever felt this way?” and be able to speak to the entire group, everyone being honest and saying, “Yes, I have,” or, “No, I haven’t”. -Tim Cox, organizer for TTA Outcomes: oOver 30,000 participants oOver 90% of respondents said understanding about mental health, how to help, and prevalence of mental illness increased oNew young leaders and young advocates for mental health emerged