Why Involve Youth in Decision-Making?

The following is an exerpt from 15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making, which I participated in the writing team for. Its from “Point 2: Know Why You Want to Involve Young People,” and is adapted from a piece originally written by Amy Weisenbach. The writing team included Karen Young and Jenny Sazama, the founders of Youth On Board.

It’s about the bottom-line. Involving youth in decision-making saves time, energy, and money. Simply put, young people know what works for young people, and that knowledge can work for your organization. It’s about effectiveness. Involving youth in decision-making is a successful approach to youth development and education. Adults become better teachers, mentors, and coaches; organizations meet community needs more effectively; and government agencies engage more citizens more actively. It’s about culture. Involving youth in decision-making transforms the attitudes and systems that underlay the culture of organizations, schools, and communities. Addressing personal challenges and organizational barriers leads to healthier, more democratic cultures where everyone is engaged as partners. It’s about diversity. Involving youth in decision-making can ensure cultural, racial, economic, and social diversity. The perspectives, ideas, and actions of young people are also important to consider, as the population of youth is substantial (26% of the US population), yet largely ignored in decision-making. It’s about civil rights. Involving youth in decision-making fulfills the promise of the Declaration of Independence, which states that “All men are created equal,” and all are entitled to “certain unalienable rights.” That includes the right to participation throughout society, especially in democratic decision-making. It’s about integrity. Involving youth in decision-making meets the ethical demand of democracy, as young people gain voice and agency in the schools, agencies, organizations, and communities they belong to. It’s about personal development. Involving youth in decision-making builds the leadership skills young people need today and in the future. It’s about community development. Involving youth in decision-making creates practical avenues for effective planning, assessment, and policy-making throughout communities. Young people provide powerful insight and energy in environmental, social, economic, and educational growth for community planners. It’s about democracy. Involving youth in decision-making teaches the skills required to be a powerful member of democratic society. Civic engagement requires knowledge, skill, and insight; youth involvement develops each of these capacities in young people and their adult allies. It’s about today. Involving youth in decision-making challenges the “youth flight” or “brain drain” or inner-city and rural communities by establishing and strengthening powerful bonds between young people, adults, and elders throughout our communities. It’s about tomorrow. Involving youth in decision-making substantiates the urgency of change by challenging complacency and ignorance. By learning the practical considerations of leadership, young people and adults foster mutual authority and ability to meet the needs of the future.

The book can be ordered online from www.youthonboard.org. Powerful, if I do say so myself!

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