Doing it to youth, for youth or with youth?


You won’t want to miss this…we’re going to tell a little story on ourselves.

About ten years ago we decided to add youth members to our Grant Review Committee (the group of community people who advise our board of directors on which grant investments to make).  We just knew that serving on this committee would be a great experience for teens.  Think of the experiences they’d have! Think of the people they’d meet!  (Us–ha ha.)

While those guinea pig teens DO report having good experiences on our committee, it didn’t take us very long to realize that the learning was mostly taking place in us adults!  We heard fresh voices.  We saw first-hand the capabilities of young people.  We remembered (if a little late) that teens SHOULD be pretty good at selecting great youth development proposals.

It was a humbling experience for us, and one that we haven’t forgotten.  Since that time we’ve found more and more ways to include the voices and thoughts of young people into our work.  For what it’s worth here’s a little question that we ask ourselves when we’re planning work with young people:

  • Are we doing it to young people?  (Kids come but there’s little, if any, youth voice.)
  • Are we doing it for young people?  (The capabilities of young people to contribute and improve things go unused.)
  • Are we doing with young people?  (Learning and going forward together seems to be REAL youth development.  It’s messy though and often takes longer…like baking cookies with small children.)

To read more of our thoughts on what children need to grow and develop, visit the Adolescent Development section of our website.

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