; Guidelines for Youth Participation - Youth Work Essentials

Youth participation is important and has benefits for the young people themselves, the youth group and community as a whole. It is the role of the volunteer youth worker to encourage young people’s participation. 

Young people become more confident and enthusiastic when they see that their views are being taken seriously and acted upon. They feel increased ownership of and responsibility for their youth group.  Their self-esteem improves, they gain skills, and they become more likely to actively participate in other areas of their lives (for example their local community, school, politics).  

If young people are involved in planning and decision-making, the youth group activities are more likely to be relevant and enjoyable for young people.  This means young people are more likely to attend, and display good behaviour when they do.  

The following guidelines identify good practice in youth participation. They are based on material from Keep it Real – the participation pack for youth groups.

Treat all young people and adults with respect

When it works it look like this:

  • Youth group membership reflects the make-up of the local community
  • Language used at the youth group shows respect for all members of the community.
  • Young people and workers agree on the rules for their youth group.
  • Young people can get a second chance if they break the rules
  • Young people and workers feel that they are treated with respect.

Accept young people’s ideas

When it works it look like this:

  • Workers listen to young people’s suggestions and change session plans.
  • Workers revise project to incorporate young people’s ideas.
  • Young people put their own ideas into practice with the support of workers.
  • Young people are enthusiastic because they can use their imagination.

Support young people

When it works it look like this:

  • Young people and workers talk about the progress of their project.
  • Workers support young people as they put their plans into practice, but don’t take over.
  • Young people see what they have learned even if the outcome wasn’t perfect.
  • Young people begin to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Young people develop a more confident attitude towards new challenges.

Use everyday situations

When it works it look like this:

  • Ask individual young people and small groups their opinions about decisions at the youth group while they are playing pool or having a drinks break.
  • Encourage everyone to contribute and listen carefully.
  • Keep a record of views and suggestions for follow up.

Try out activities

When it works it look like this:

  • Young people can inspire each other using activity like ‘ideas storm’
  • Young people using a plan, do, review process learn from their experiences.

Give young people a voice

When it works it look like this:

  • Young people influence both the youth programme and the organisation of the group.
  • Young people are involved in the recruitment and selection of workers.
  • Young people are members of the management committee.
  • Young people help to write newsletters and annual reports.

Plan both short and long term projects

When it works it look like this:

  • Some young people are involved in decisions at one-off events.
  • Other young people are involved in leadership roles on an on-going basis.

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