Involve Young People

Taking Part:

Ways to involve young people

There are lots of different ways you can engage and involve young people in organisations and communities. These don’t have to be limited to formal, structured processes. In fact, less formal approaches are sometimes better. Creating a range of different opportunities will help build relationships with young people and make them feel they can contribute.
Formal and informal

Formal ways to involve young people include recruiting them as members of advisory boards and committees. These are good ways to include young people in decision-making processes, but it’s important to remember that formal structures are only not the only option.

In fact, research shows young Australians are interested and engaged in political and social issues, but they feel excluded by traditional forms of participation.

Informal, less structured approaches can often be a better way to begin involving young people. For example, activities or programs that are based around interests or hobbies, learning skills or simply having fun. Think arts and music, sports and games, and useful talents like gardening and cooking.

Different young people will want to become involved in different ways, so it’s important to have a range of opportunities available.

“We can have young people who are engaged with us but don’t really participate, but we can also have young people who participate but who aren’t really engaged with the overall vision of the organisation” – Jonathon, SYN

What works when involving young people

The best projects and programs that involve young people are ones that:

  • young people see as relevant to their lives, backgrounds and experiences
  • enable them to address issues in ways that respond to their own priorities, interests, and needs
  • allow them to take part in a safe environment, particularly where the issues are personally confronting or challenging.

Whether you’re offering informal or formal opportunities, they should:

  • provide chances for young people’s self-expression and creativity
  • be flexible
  • include activities that have a purpose – where young people will personally get something out of it
  • provide chances to socialise and have fun.

Other things to consider will be:

  • whether you need support from skilled youth workers (particularly important if you’re involving young people who don’t normally feel supported or included by the community)
  • how you can build mutually respectful relationships, which will be essential for any project, program or activity.
Different ways to involve young people

Here are some quick examples of some different ways to involve young people:

  • Advisory or reference groups
  • Community mapping– supporting young people to document local resources or activities
  • Consultations
  • Commissioning– identifying local needs and deciding how to use available resources to best meet them
  • Co-production - working in equal partnership with young people to plan, deliver and review services for young people.

  • Celebrations – parties or BBQs to mark special occasions
  • Collective action – when young people and adults work together to achieve common goals, sharing powerand decision making.
  • Decision making groups
  • Interest groups – either online or real world.
  • Mentoring – either adult-youth or peer-to-peer.
  • Participatory design (or Co-design) – involving young people in the design stage of a project or piece of research, or in the design, event, activity or venue.
  • Performances – of music, drama, poetry or dance
  • Research – into issues facing the community or organisation
  • Skills-sharing –younger and older people teaching each other new skills
What you can do now

Black B., Walsh, L. & Taylor, F. 2011 Young people on the margins: What works in youth participation, Youth Studies Australia Vol 30 (1);

Burns, J., Phillippa, C.,  Blanchard, M., De-Freitas, N., and Lloyd, S. (2008), Preventing youth disengagement and promoting engagement, ARACY.

Collin, P. (2008), Young People Imagining a New Democracy: Literature Review, Sydney: The Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney.

Hagen, P., Collin, P., Metcalf, A., Nicholas, M., Rahilly, K., Swainston, N. (2012), Participatory Design of Evidence-based Online Youth Mental Health Promotion, Intervention and Treatment, Melbourne: Young and Well CRC.

Kaufman , L. R. (2011),Community Youth Mapping: A Tool for Youth Participation and Program Design, US:Educational Quality Improvement Program 3 (EQUIP3).

Participation Works Partnership (2012), How to involve children and young people in commissioning, London: Participation Works.

Sullivan, T. K. (2011), Youth Engagement: More than a method. A way of life for healthy youth and community development, A white paper written for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development.

Taylor, M. and Percy-Smith, B. (2008) ‘Children’s participation: Learning from and for community development’, International Journal of Children’s Rights 16(3): 379–94

Vision Islington (2013), The Islington Outcomes Framework for Young People, London: Vision Islington.

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