10 Steps to Transform the Roles of Young People

I formed my neighborhood’s first youth council when I was 17. Ambitious and direct, I wanted the people who work with young people to sit down together at the same table to talk about how to do it better. Unfortunately, after a few meetings people gave up on the idea.


However, since then I’ve been involved with no fewer than 100 youth councils across the United States. Serving them as a consultant, adviser, and trainer, I’ve helped build leadership skills and knowledge bases among participating youth and adults; developed strategic infrastructure plans; and worked to create sustainability agendas for long term action. Along the way, I’ve been documenting best practice and procedure, and studying others’ work on what works.


From that foundation, I’ve discerned the following 10 steps communities can follow to transform the roles of young people throughout society. This includes infusing youth voice in programs, creating youth-driven programming, and promoting youth engagement in all our venues including home, schools, nonprofits, and government agencies.


10 Steps to Transform the Roles of Young People throughout Society


  1. Create Policy and Practice. There are ways to carry out the policies that support the objective  of transforming the roles of young people throughout society. Make sure they’re intact, transformed, or sustained as necessary.
  2. Data Driven Practice. Data related to youth engagement as it affects the young people involved, their peers, adult allies, and the larger community should be collected regularly.
  3. Budget Supports Action. Budgets include line items that support the transformation of the roles of young people at home, in schools, in nonprofit programs, and throughout government agencies.
  4. New Knowledge is Fostered. Regular training orients new youth participants and adults and strengthens existing youth and adult allies’ skills, knowledge and commitment to transforming the roles of young people.
  5. Accountable Action at the Grassroots. Policies supporting transforming the roles of young people activities have been published in a document available to youth, adult allies, youth workers, government officials, politicians and families.
  6. Accountable Action at the Treetops. A coordinator responsible for transforming the roles of young people reports to a high-level administrator and the position is incorporated into the organizational chart.
  7. Change is Temporary; Support is Permanent. A transformational program has survived a significant change of leadership among youth, adult allies and within the group, organization and/or community.
  8. Community Informed Action. Other groups, organizations and/or communities are assisted in designing, implementing, sustaining and/or evaluating their activities supporting transforming the roles of young people through conferences, workshops and/or local outreach.
  9. Policies and Practices are Shared and Compared. Organizations, groups, and communities actively “swap notes” about policies and practices in order to strengthen self-perception and grow beyond limited views.
  10. Networks and Coalitions are Formed. Like-minded individuals and organizations, including youth and adult allies, form networks for support and coalitions for advocacy. Tangible action, practical outcomes, and meaningful activities form and reform the bonds that unite them.


These steps are the tip of a large iceberg reflecting the new roles young people are assuming, innovating, being given, and inheriting throughout society. Learn more from The Freechild Project website, and contact me for more information.



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