Planning, doing and sustaining youth engagement requires a team. You will want to identify an intergenerational and diverse team complete with adult allies, clinical supports, and youth, all of whom play unique and important roles in promoting and supporting youth engagement. The composition of your group will vary depending on the goals of the team. For example, if you’re working towards a youth-led initiative, you’ll likely have a group of youth with fewer adults working as allies. If the team is focused on implementing a clinical evidence-informed practice, you will want to have a mix of youth, family members, and service providers who are working as co-developers, sharing decision-making and accountability. Consider the ratio of youth to adults-- it should make sense within the parameters of each initiative and continually monitor the engagement process. Remember, having a disproportionate amount of youth voice at the table can be tokenizing. It can also be disempowering to have one young person be the voice of their community. Unless a person has been elected by their community, understand that young people speak from their own experience.
Valuing the unique contributions of both youth and adults
In meaningful intergenerational partnerships, both youth and adults are valued for their contributions and expertise. Youth can provide adults with: new energy, creative talents, fresh perspectives, direct access to youth population, up-to-date information on the best ways to reach other youth and knowledge about current challenges facing youth. Adults can provide youth with: opportunities to get involved, resources, mentorship, support, experiential knowledge regarding operations of organization and credibility with other adults and when they take programs out into the community.
Building effective youth engagement teams:
Tuckman’s theory of group 1 development is a widely used model for effective team building. According to Tuckman, teams grow through clearly defined stages, moving from a group of individuals to a cohesive, task-oriented team.
Tuckman's stages of group development:
The team comes together but has not yet connected with participants. The group clarifies roles of individual team members.
- Take time to build the team, bring the appropriate players to the table
- Use icebreakers to spark conversation between youth and adults
- Provide all information about the opportunity
Participants start to be active team members. The group may face tension due to a variety of perspectives, interests and commumcation styles.
- Create a safe space for open communication
- Welcome and validate all opinions
- Facilitate team-building activities to identify group norms and goals
- Engage participants in an ongoing process of critical reflective practice
- Partners should come together as equals in the decision-making process
The team establishes ground rules and has become more effective in their communications. The group focuses less on individual goals and more on the common objective.
- Seize the opportunity to build skills
- Ask the group and youth which skills they would like learn/develop
A shared clarity and purpose leads to a sense of ownership and collective action. The group is functioning at its highest level.
- Keep up the good work!
- The team requires less supervision/guidance
- Members have become interdependent
The group has completed their collective task(s). Team members may feel a sense of pride and mourn the separation from the group.
- Plan for succession to keep your youth engagement initiatives alive
- Anticipate that youth may not see a project through to completion
- Identify milestones and create opportunities to celebrate successes
- 1. Tuckman, 1995