Sustaining Youth Voice in schools, organizations or communities is complex – but not impossible. Research shows the following 8 keys are central to creating change that lasts in any organization’s climate.
- Policy– Create and foster systematic and sustainable engagement of Youth Voice. These policies can be community-wide and program-specific.
- Systems – Create or transform positions that embrace and promote Youth Voice. Regular staff positions, board membership or adjunct opportunities DO matter.
- Instruction – Teach your adults (and children and youth) well. Provide sequential, developmentally appropriate and constructivist training activities about Youth Voice, barriers to meaningful youth involvement, and taking action.
- Climate – Actively work to transform the way your community or organization feels. Key messages and healthy behaviors focused on engaging Youth Voice are important.
- Programs – Develop and maintain specific programs designed to emphasize and encourage Youth Voice within your organization and the larger community. Encourage that program to act as the vanguard for Youth Voice in your community, and constantly demonstrate their relevance to larger organizational goals.
- Funding – Don’t short change Youth Voice. Providing adequate support demonstrates commitment to young people and adults.
- Evaluation – Youth Voice is often relegated to the bins of “feel good” and “interesting” by decision-makers. However, research by Zeldin, Camano, Mitra and others clearly shows the significance of engaging young people. Advocates must grow comfortable using this data to demonstrate the substance of Youth Voice.
- Ongoing Support – Youth Voice isn’t a one-time or coincidental thing. Instead it must be a deliberate and ongoing process that must be expansive and adaptive, responding to the urgencies and needs of everyone involved.