How to EMPOWER Youth to Transform Your Community
Leaders that include and promote youth voices are better able to build trust between young people and public agencies. Ask for youth perspectives and be intentional about including youth voices in your efforts. Promote their participation and their points of view in qualitative and quantitative research. Document their insights and clearly specify how their ideas or concerns will be addressed in future policies or programs.
Optimize youth engagement opportunities with mutual benefits. Find activities that meet your agency needs and also engage young people. Research suggests that young people need essential services and job skills and want to explore options through volunteering, leadership and skill-building programs. Tailor your youth programs to address this need and the needs of your workforce pipeline.
The work matters. It’s important to showcase all the diverse careers available in local government. Provide job shadows, internships, and field trips in your agency’s program and administrative units. Work with your agency staff to share personal insights about their skills and passion through classroom career days or after-school programs. Support youth with summer job info sessions, resume workshops, interview coaching or other online guides to prepare them for this process. Partner and refer to local community-based organizations that serve young people in the transition to work.
Create opportunities to connect and engage with youth in a meaningful way. Be curious about issues of importance and be and ready to support young people in finding solutions to issues that matter to them. Be accessible and consistent. Do not ignore or disregard their perspectives. Leverage technology. Provide equitable access to programs and services.
Respect must be earned and maintained by all parties. Youth often have a history of negative experiences with adult-led institutions or systems that have inflicted harm or generational trauma on the community. Agency staff and policy-makers should seek to understand that even though young people are learning about themselves and the world around them, they are also community members with valid opinions and lived experiences that shape their perspectives. As respect is earned, adults and youth will gain a greater understanding of shared community values and opportunities that exist for partnership, collaboration and systemic change.