Resource Documents

This page is a collection of articles, guides, toolkits and best practices on youth engagement. It also includes some of the tool and activities that we have found useful in our work.

This section is still in development, please feel free to browse around and send us any information you think we should add.
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A framework for Community Youth Development

Youth Engagement Theory
Community Youth Development (CYD) is the process of young people being engaged in meaningful participation through planning, decision-making, and program delivery in our governments, organizations, institutions, and communities. While encouraging the gifts and talents of individual young people, CYD places equal focus on the investment of these assets in the community. Individual youth and adults, organizations, and communities all benefit when youth are engaged as full and active participants. Heartwood’s Framework for Community Youth Development supports the engagement of young people in community building by identifying core values, program tools, and community resources.
Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development

Influence through participation: A critical review of structures for youth engagement

Youth Engagement Theory
In June 2007, the Centre for Social Action and The National Youth Agency (NYA) were commissioned by the IDeA and beacon authorities to review the positive youth engagement structures of the local authorities who received beacon status with the aim of enabling them to further develop and share good practice with each other and more widely. The Centre staff worked in partnership with the NYA, particularly with their trainers, who are themselves young people, to carry out the review in all eight beacon authorities. The purpose was to critically review current practices and models of positive youth engagement, to identify useful learning about the use of existing structures in the context of frameworks such as the Hear by Right standards and to identify what has changed as a result of young people being listened to within these structures.

This review has drawn out that there is much to celebrate in the work of young people who are taking their place at the centre of local democracy and ensuring that their voices are being heard and that much decision-making that affects them is informed by their opinions, wishes and aspirations.
Alison Skinner and Jennie Fleming

Youth Engagement: A Celebration Across Time and Culture- Framing the Issue

Youth Engagement Theory
This document traces various youth engagement frameworks, including: Youth Service, Youth Leadership, Youth in Decision-Making, Youth Philanthropy, Youth Civic and Political Engagement,Youth Organizing, Youth Media, and Youth Research and Evaluation.
W.K. Kellog Foundation

The Potential of Youth Participation in Planning

Youth Engagement Theory
The field of planning is increasingly recognizing youth as an important stakeholder group, and there are calls to directly involved youth in planning processes. Because youth are in many respects different from adults, the practice of youth participation needs special consideration. This article summarizes the findings from empirical studies of youth participation in terms of the impacts on the young participants and their communities, the capacity of youth to participate, and five lessons for effective practice. The literature review will help planners create meaningful opportunities for youth to have a voice in community and environmental affairs.
Kathryn I. Frank


Youth Engagement Theory
Community youth development is a powerful, transformative public idea that is challenging to put into practice. It means changing entrenched attitudes, behaviour patterns and cultural norms.
Supportive adults, young people, and community associations often ask: How do we build the quality relationships that are the foundation for youth inclusion? What roles should we each take? How do we make the process fun, rewarding and sustainable? How can communities and youth work together to effect change?

Who best to provide answers to these questions than a diversity of youth and adults who are currently working in partnership to improve their communities. Their successes and struggles convey practical insights and helpful examples. This article is based on qualitative interview research with participants from youth action teams in 12 communities across Nova Scotia.This article relates valuable lessons from these passionate change-makers for the benefit of youth and adults working together to build community in other contexts.
Camille Dumond, Dr. Alan Warner, Marc Langlois, and the Heartwood Institute

Positive Youth Development Resource Manual

Youth Engagement Theory
The purpose of this manual is to provide user-friendly resources and tools to community members and professionals who want to promote positive youth development in their communities. The materials can be used to educate community groups and service providers about positive youth development with the ultimate goal of facilitating organizational and community change. The manual includes training activities, handouts, brief power point presentations and references to other resources.

Youth Participation in Community Planning: What are the Benefits?

Youth Engagement Theory
This essay identifies various forms of youth participation; describes some of its benefits; and relates these to planning practice, research, and education. It draws upon extensive work in the field, including a national study of innovative program planning for community-based youth programs (Checkoway and Finn 1992). It is based on a belief that young people are community resources, that planners have a role in promoting their participation, and that new knowledge of the benefits of youth participation can help increase young people’s involvement in the planning process.
Barry Checkoway, Kameshwari Pothukuchi and Janet Finn

Children's Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship

Youth Engagement Theory
A nation is democratic to the extent that its citizens are involved, particularly at the community level. The confidence and competence to be involved must be gradually acquired through practice. It is for this reason that there should be gradually increasing opportunities for children to participate in any aspiring democracy, and particularly in those nations already convinced that they are democratic. With the growth of children’s rights we are beginning to see an increasing recognition of children’s abilities to speak for themselves. Regrettably, while children’s and youths’ participation does occur in different degrees around the world, it is often exploitative or frivolous. This Essay is designed to stimulate a dialogue on this important topic.
Roger Hart

Stepping Back from ‘The Ladder’: Reflections on a Model of Participatory Work with Children

Youth Engagement Theory
An update and reflection on Hart's Ladder of Participation, by Hart.
Roger Hart

From assets to agents of change: Social justice, organizing, and youth development

Youth Engagement Theory
This chapter addresses three fundamental questions regarding youth political engagement. What role can youth play in forging a democratic society and creating more equitable institutions? How can adults support sociopolitical development among youth? And what can be learned from youth organizing and its impact on the development of young people? In order to address these questions, we broaden the traditional individual focus of youth development by using a social ecology approach to provide a brief overview of the political, economic, and cultural context in which youth development and political participation occur.
Shawn Ginwright, Taj James


Youth Engagement Theory
In this chapter, the author reflects on 40 years of changes in approaches to working with and for marginalized young people. Despite the progress we have achieved during this time, the author reminds
us that young people must not only have access to resources and opportunities, but also must become active in sharing and exercising power if we are to achieve our vision.


Youth Engagement Theory
Youth–adult partnerships (Y-APs) are an innovation being used increasingly as a key strategy for promoting youth development, as well as for building strong programs and communities. This article discusses three pitfalls that can undermine their effectiveness: (1) the assumption that youth should do everything of importance; (2) the belief that adults should “get out of the way,” and give up power, and (3) the focus on youth as the marked category. The article also describes three promising practices to overcome pitfalls: (1) integrate reflection into meetings; (2) articulate the logic of programs and Y-APs; and (3) engage a third party to help explore group assumptions and values.
Linda Camino


Youth Engagement Theory
Youth–adult partnerships (Y-APs) for organizational and community change represent an innovative practice in the United States. Innovations are typically a challenge to implement, so it is not surprising that youth organizations are seeking guidance on how to adopt and sustain Y-APs. This article brings contemporary scholarship to bear on the issue. Through a synthesis of theory, research, and field-based data, it identifies six managerial guidelines for adopting and beginning to implement the innovative practice of Y-APs: (1) gain clarity and consensus on the purpose of Y-AP, (2) mobilize and coordinate a diverse range of stakeholders, (3) create favorable narratives about Y-AP, (4) construct theories and stories of organizational change, (5) affirmatively address issues of power, and (6) institutionalize new roles for youth. These guidelines depend on stakeholders having adequate time for shared organizational learning. Time for reflective dialogue, however, is a precious commodity in youth organizations, one that is rarely financed by public agencies or private foundations. A major challenge for the future, in terms of the wide-scale adoption and implementation of innovation, specifically Y-AP, may therefore lie in the creation of incentives and support for organizational reflection.
Shepherd Zeldin, Linda Camino, and Carrie Mook

From Periphery to Center: Pathways for Youth Civic Engagement in the Day- To-Day Life of Communities

Youth Engagement Theory
Inclusive participation is a primary component of civil society. Yet opportunities and pathways for youth civic engagement remain limited for youth. This limitation has been significantly influenced by the daily segregation of youth from adults, negative public beliefs about adolescents, and stereotypes, both negative and overly romantic, about the capabilities of adolescents. However, this state of affairs is being challenged by youth and adults across the county. Five contemporary pathways for youth civic engagement are described: public policy/consultation, community coalition involvement, youth in organizational decision making, youth organizing and activism, and school-based service learning. Three overarching qualities among these 5 pathways are also discussed: youth ownership, youth-adult partnership, and facilitative policies and structures.
Linda Camino; Shepherd Zeldin


Youth Engagement Theory
This article examines the unfolding of experiences in youth programs that differed in the degree of youth and adult influence over program activities. In-depth qualitative data were obtained over a three- to four-month cycle of activities in two “youth-driven” and two “adult-driven” programs for high-school–aged youth. All had been identified as high quality, and in all of the programs, the adults were sensitive and respectful to the youth. Rather than finding that one approach was categorically better than the other, our analyses suggested that each provided distinct developmental experiences, and that each presented somewhat different day-to-day challenges to the adults. In the youth-driven programs, the youth experienced a high degree of ownership and empowerment, and they reported development of leadership and planning skills. In the adult-driven programs, the adults crafted student-centered learning experiences that facilitated youth’s development of specific talents. Across both approaches, youth also gained self-confidence and benefited from the adults’ experience in other ways. The article highlights balancing techniques that adults in both programs used for keeping youth’s work in the program on track while keeping youth invested.
Reed Larson, Kathrin Walker, and Nickki Pearce

Community Youth Development: A Partnership for Action

Youth Engagement Theory
The concept of Community Youth Development is introduced and explained to raise the level of accountability, significance, and urgency for developing comprehensive responses to the epidemic of risk facing America’s youth. The two theoretical models of adolescence (i.e., Positive Youth Development and Risk and Resiliency) that are employed as the pillars of this approach are also presented. The key components that comprise the community youth development framework are discussed, along with implications for practitioners, researchers, and policy.
Daniel F. Perkins, Lynne M. Borden, and Francisco A. Villarruel Abstract


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