Involve Young People

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Involving young people: first steps

Congratulations! You’ve made a great decision to involve young people. The first steps to take will be thinking about attitudes, opportunities and diversity.
Why do you want to involve young people?

OK, take a minute to reflect on why you want to involve young people. Which of the following are your reasons?

  • Improve or strengthen my organisation, service or community.
  • Support young people to grow, develop, or learn.
  • Support young people’s right to participate in society and community life.
  • Empower young people to become independent and aware self-advocates.
  • Requirement of my job / something someone else has asked me to do.

If it’s just the last one, you’ll need to rethink about how ready you really are to involve young people!

Why young people will get involved

Young people will become involved in organisations or community groups for a combination of different reasons.

  • Making a difference to their own lives and the lives of others.
  • Having new experiences.
  • Learning new skills or developing talents.
  • Professional learning or career opportunities.
  • Meeting new people or hanging out with friends.
Whatever their reasons, each young person will be looking for an opportunity that is:
  • meaningful, with a clear, realistic purpose
  • challenging, with real responsibilities
  • enjoyable!

Here are some tips for organisations who want to involve young people as volunteers:

Want some more ideas before you get started? Watch SYN’s and YACVic’s series about how to involve young volunteers:

Varied opportunities

There are lots of different ways you can involve young people. These don’t have to be limited to formal, structured processes or groups. In fact, less formal approaches – activities, projects or programs that are based around interests or hobbies – are sometimes a better way to start. Creating a variety of opportunities for young people to get involved with your organisation or community will help them feel valued, building mutual trust and respect.

Read more about different ways to involve young people.

The importance of diversity

Young people aren’t one big group, who are into the same things. Like all people, they’re diverse – each young person is a unique individual, with their own personal talents, skills and interests. And each young person’s identity will be shaped by their own social and cultural backgrounds and experiences.

When thinking about involving young people, it’s good to first recognise and understand the diversity of young Victorians. And it’s important to reflect on how assumptions about cultures, genders, sexuality or abilities can contribute to discrimination or exclusion of certain groups. If you want some help in thinking these ideas through, you can read more about involving young people from diverse backgrounds. You might also consider taking some cultural, disability or sexuality awareness training before you start involving young people.

Some of the benefits for organisations involving young people from diverse backgrounds include:

  • Better representation of community members.
  • Improved quality of service across the community.
  • Strengthened relationships within communities.
  • Increased understanding and appreciation of different Australian cultures.

See how this Life Saving Club involved a diverse group of young people to learn, have fun and serve their community.

Are we ready?

So is your community or organisation ready to involve young people? Ask yourself the following questions:

Is there a ‘youth friendly’ culture?
  • Do older people have positive attitudes towards young people?
  • Are venues, systems and processes easily accessible to young people?
  • Do young people feel safe, comfortable and welcome?
What opportunities are available?
What policies and procedures are in place to help you involve young people?

If you can’t answer all the questions yet, don’t worry – Yerp is here to help you, just read on! :)


Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) (2012) A national plan for child and youth wellbeing, A review of the literature, November 2012, Canberra: KPMG and ARACY.

Harris, A., Wyn, J. and Younes, S. (2009), ‘Beyond apathetic or activist youth: 'Ordinary' young people and contemporary forms of participation’, Young Vol 18(1): 9–32; ibid

Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development (US) (2005), Reflect and Improve: A Tool Kit for Engaging Youth and Adults as Partners in Program Evaluation, Takoma Park, MD: Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development.

Lofquist, W. (1989). The Technology of Prevention. Tucson, AZ: Associates for Youth Development.

Mathew, A., Martelli,A., Bertozzi R., and De Luigi, N. (2010),Reflections on the participation of particular groups’, pp.121-124 in Barry Percy-Smith and Nigel Thomas (eds) A handbook of children and young people’s participation: perspectives from theory and practice, New York: Routledge

Pittman, K. and Martin, S. (2007), Core Principles for Engaging Young People in Community Change, The Forum for Youth InvestmentAnderson Williams, Oasis/Community IMPACT

YACVic (2012), Volunteers from Diverse Backgrounds, Melbourne: YACVic.

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