Ideally, youth engagement happens throughout communities and across society. Youth programs and youth councils are good
; but engaging youth at home and throughout regular community places is great
. However, the space is not as important as the characteristics of the community.
Working with more than 40 youth engagement practitioners throughout King County for our Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre over the last two years, I have collected a lot of best practices and tips. Here are some some of the characteristics of successful youth engagement they identified.
Characteristics of Successful Youth Engagement
Programs are Focused.
Instead of meandering through purposeless activities and focus-less personal activities, every activity is designed to be a concise, deliberative engagement of multiple intelligences, broad perspectives, and varying experiences. Engaging young people remains the central action throughout the program, and improving the community is the focus of every activity.
Environments are Supportive.
Youth and adults alike are committed to working together without fear of retribution or alienation. All youth are partners with each other and adults in the program, and work together for the common cause of improving communities through youth engagement.
Activities are Engaging.
The experiences, knowledge, ideas, and opinions of youth are validated and substantiated with meaningful learning experiences that infuse community interest with a new capacity to visualize, analyze, create, and engage youth as partners.
Thinking is Critical.
As co-learners within a community of learners, youth provide vital insight in the community improvement process for their peers and adult allies. These democratic interactions are actively encouraged and supported by all members.
Processes are Transparent.
There should be no mysteries about what the purpose of the youth engagement program is, or what the outcomes of the activities will be. The program offers numerous ways to make goals, outcomes, and activities fully understandable to youth.
Decisions are Decentralized.
Youth engagement activities emphasize the common experience of all participants—youth and adults—as co-learners, empowering youth to engage fully throughout the learning process. Decisions affecting every member are made by members of the program—youth and adults—and everyone is held equally accountable and celebrated equally.
The Cadre members taught me that these characteristics combine to create powerful climates for youth engagement. Learn more about the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre here, and contact me for more information.