The language of youth engagement is broad and varied. Different communities and people groups use the term describe the practice of youth engagement in a variety of ways. Some of these descriptions include involvement, participation, inclusion, leadership, engagement, and so on.
The term also connotes something we do to youth. Engage them. While we do need to be intentional about engaging young people, it is important to view the relationship as not something we do to youth but a relationship in which we are partners with youth.
How we understand this term and how we view the value of youth engagement directly impacts how we engage young people.
There is significant evidence on the benefits of youth engagement both to young people and the communities they help shape. We know that engaged young people see experience positive outcomes related to health, education, employment, and civic engagement. The communities they live and engage in also stand to benefit tremendously. A study conducted by World Bank in 2008 showed that when youth are not active participants in their society, the GDP of their countries decline. Apart from the economic benefits of youth engagement, the engagement of youth lead to better decisions and social outcomes. They bring innovative ideas and unique perspectives to the table. Youth are best poised to advocate for their needs and their voices help communities develop policies and programs that are youth friendly.
How do youth view engagement? What does leadership mean to them? How might we learn to better work together with youth and co-labour to create better outcomes that benefit our communities?
We would like to invite young people and the sector in a robust discussion about youth engagement and leadership.
We will be focusing on Youth Leadership over the next few months and are looking forward to learning together!