Tips to help empower young people
Young people can be one of the most difficult groups in society to engage with and get involved in community initiatives. But having said that, once young people are effectively involved, they will usually bring something different to the table and will add greatly to the dynamic of a community. Youth disengagement can often be down to poor engagement strategies within communities rather than apathy among young people themselves.
One important strategy is to empower young people to make decisions and take ownership of things affecting their lives. Here are some ways that can help empower young people.
Listen to their ideas
This sounds simple and obvious, but too often we expect young people to obey and follow rules. We focus too much on their behaviour and not enough on their ideas. But the younger generation can be incredibly creative and innovative if given the right levels of support.
Encourage youth representation
Too often, there is one voice missing at the table when things are being discussed in the community – the youth voice. Young people are just as affected by everything going on in the community as everyone else and should have their say. There should be youth representation at meetings and on boards where possible.
An important step in nurturing the next generation of leaders within the community is providing that level of ongoing support, however informal, from those who already have the necessary skills and experience who can help guide young leaders along their journey and keep them confident.
Have a two-way conversation
As well as listening to what young people have to say, engage them in a dialogue. Show that you value their contributions by speaking with them as equals. Accept new ideas if they are worth listening to, and show humility if new ways are actually better than the tried and tested approach, even if it might be difficult for you to admit! Voluntary community organisations can play a key role here as enablers for young people and their ideas through focusing on strategies and pathways towards youth leadership.