Involving Youth in Positive Youth Development

Youth involvement can benefit organizations and their programs as well as the youth themselves. Programs that are developed in partnership with youth are more likely to be effective at engaging the population and, therefore, to have a greater impact. Involving youth as partners in making decisions that affect them increases the likelihood that the decisions will be accepted, adopted, and become part of their everyday lives. In addition, empowering youth to identify and respond to community needs helps them become empathetic, reflective individuals, setting them on a course to potentially continue this important work in their future. Meaningful youth engagement views youth as equal partners with adults in the decision-making process. Programs and activities are developed with youth, rather than for youth. In this kind of equal partnership, both adults and young people need to be fully engaged, open to change in how things are done, and share a unified vision for the partnership.

Considerations for organizations that want to involve youth in a meaningful way

Here are some suggested steps to consider when trying to engage young people and ensure the experience is meaningful for the youth as well as for the program.


Consider where your program currently is on the continuum of youth engagement and where you would like to be. Not every program or activity can or should always involve youth at Level 5. Youth’s level of involvement may vary based on the capacity of program staff to spend time and resources on involving youth, the purpose of involving youth, and support within the organization for involving youth. Organizational infrastructure and support for involving youth are key concerns for sustainability of youth involvement.


  • Look at your organization’s programs and determine where it would be most beneficial and feasible to involve youth. Define the purpose of involving youth in the selected activity. Based on the purpose, determine how to engage youth and the most appropriate level of involvement.
  • Talk with other organizations and agencies that are already partnering with youth to learn how they went about doing this and any recommendations they have. Collaborating with other organizations that are engaging youth may help you avoid implementation challenges that others have faced.


  • Identify how you will recruit youth and how you will keep them engaged in the process. Issues to consider are how to recruit youth who are representative of the population you serve, what skills and capabilities the youth need, and what training should be provided.
  • Provide training for organization staff who will be working with youth to ensure they have an understanding of the rationale and purpose of partnering with youth, how it will benefit both the program and the youth, and the skills necessary to effectively work with youth.


  • Develop a plan to review and monitor the youth involvement process.
  • Engage the youth and adults to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of involving youth in the organization and program as well as its impact on the youth themselves.
  • Share successes and challenges with others.


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