Our YEAP program (Youth Engagment Assistance Program) is up and running
A Few Suggestions On How to Improve Youth Engagement
Young people are an important part of any community as they provide new ideas, fresh perspectives, and most importantly, unequivocal energy and enthusiasm. The following guide offers advice for not only engaging with youth, but also giving them the opportunity to be everything they can be and more. We believe the four important areas of engaging with youth are as follows:
The best way to engage with youth is to work with them, not against them. This seems obvious enough but it can prove difficult when put into practice. By creating a relationship based on trust and open-communication we are better able to connect with youth and develop creative, more meaningful relationships. Including youth in the conversation and working together with them as equals shows that you care and value their feedback and point-of-view.
- Open up dialogue. Ask them questions and listen to what they have to say.
- Give them feedback. You would be surprised how youth respond when they feel acknowledged and appreciated.
- Adapt to their schedule. Gain youth interest by approaching them in a variety of settings. Use mediums that they might feel more comfortable using, like Facebook or Twitter. Take a look at your social media policies and update them to reflect current trends and realities.
- Support their ideas and help them along the way without being controlling.
- Build relationships. Know that every decision relating to youth provides an opportunity for them to contribute and enhance your organization.
The more people feel appreciated the more they will commit to what they're doing. This goes for everyone regardless of their age. So, when working with young people, it can greatly improve their level of engagement when you recognize their efforts and notice their hard work and contributions.
- Give youth a voice. And make sure they know they can use it.
- Show your appreciation. It is easy to tell someone they're doing a good job, but more effective to show them through your actions. Give them a smile! ☺
- Establish a youth committee. Connect youth from the community to work together. This can help inspire new projects and promote their engagement.
- Give youth an opportunity to stand out. Many people are shy and require a little encouragement before they feel comfortable getting involved. A little push can sometimes go a long way.
It isn't enough to tell someone how they can help, but more about educating them on why it is important. Establishing a reason for participating in their community/with your organization through volunteering and building relationships can help create an emotional connection that can last a lifetime.
- Inspire youth. Provide resources that enable youth to find new opportunities to contribute and engage with their community.
- Provide information. Educate youth on the impact they can have on lives, organizations, and communities by volunteering.
- Integrate youth through a vision. Together, create a set of values and develop a plan of action that corresponds to a mutual goal.
- Empower youth to play a more influential role in their community.
The more youth feel that they are collaborating to an end goal, the more willing they will be to participate in it. Give them a reason to care. Show them how their contributions can help reach a specific aim, and how they can assist in getting positive results.
- Provide clear roles and responsibilities. Youth may not respond well to rules, but they certainly thrive when given responsibilities and allowed the space to fulfill them. Make it clear what you want, but allow them to be creative in their approach.
- Engage youth. Young people need the opportunity to engage as citizens in their community and to increase their awareness of responsibility. Let them.
- Make them part of the process. Invite youth to take on specific roles in the community. Expected results should be defined and negotiated together.
Remember, as communities and/or organizations grow more expansive and diverse, it becomes increasingly more difficult to provide services that satisfy the needs of everyone involved, and especially important to include everyone in the decision-making process. Youth today have access to a multitude of information and technology that give them the ability to thrive in any number of areas or situations; however, even as they become invariably more connected with the world around them, they typically do not take much interest in their own community as they can feel inconsequential. By engaging youth we give them the opportunity to participate in, and influence their own communities and causes, providing them with the opportunity to shape our environment, and their future.