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Dec/Jan 2010Vol. 10, No. 10Youth Voice Toolbox: Empowering Youth with Purpose

Engaging young people can build a strong sense of community, a commitment to civic action, and a passion for active learning. The Youth Voice Toolbox produced by the FreeChild Project provides tools to help engage youth, particularly historically disengaged youth populations. The Toolbox includes a series of more than 20 one- and two-page publications designed to provide guidance (e.g., definitions, assumptions), information (e.g., on diversity, roles), and actions (e.g., assessing youth voice, forming partnerships) for promoting the youth voice and youth involvement. The Toolbox offers advice on how to do more than making youth heard; the goal is to actually empower youth with purpose.
Some of the suggestions from the Youth Voice Toolbox are common-sense principles for involving youth in meaningful ways: 

  • Work with young people – not for young people. Engage, encourage, and empower them to take appropriate, purposeful, effective, and sustainable leadership for their own activities by providing training and coaching throughout every activity.
  • Make "having fun" powerful. If the goal is recreation, then let young people plan the activity, lead it, and reflect on it afterwards. Combine fun and learning, and change a young person's life.
  • Don't talk about "youth problems." Young people are part of larger communities, and when they have a problem, their communities have a problem. To promote social change, encourage young people to reflect critically on their experiences throughout their community.
  • Acknowledge young people in significant ways. There are many ways to show authentic commitment to youth, for instance, by providing school credit, a cash stipend, letters of support, or other tangible acknowledgments.

To learn more about the FreeChild Project and the Youth Voice Toolbox, visit: