Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Importance of Youth Engagement

As communities know, resident engagement strategies that foster leadership and empower residents to take community action are a critical component of successful community changes initiatives. In an effort to build vibrant communities that provide opportunities for all residents, communities must consider how to actively engage local youth. A new report from the Center for the Study of Social Policy highlights the importance of youth civic engagement and provides policymakers with recommendations on how to craft policies that ultimately promote youth civic engagement.

CSSP’s report suggests that youth who have opportunities to connect with their communities are less likely to engage in negative behaviors, such as substance abuse, delinquency and dropping out of high school. However, youth today appear much less invested in civic engagement opportunities. A recent report from Corporation for National and Community Service suggests that, when compared to Millennials (born 1982 and after), older adults (65 and older) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are the most civically engaged demographic groups in America, with members consistently voting, volunteering in local organizations and servicing as members of community-based boards of civic groups.

As youth transition to adulthood, it is important to consider the many ways that communities can promote youth engagement. Developing youth voter registration activities and ensuring that youth have access to healthcare, support services and opportunities to provide feedback to community leaders and/or policymakers, for example, can create meaningful and welcoming structures that acknowledge youth voice. Youth engagement can lead to several community benefits as well. For example, incorporating input from youth may impact community investments, allowing funding to be directed at programs that youth are invested in while avoiding expenditures that do not reflect the needs of youth.

Similarly, in an economic era with the lowest percentage of young adults employed in over a generation, it is imperative that youth have meaningful opportunities to build job skills and develop positive relationships and community networks as they begin their transitions to adulthood. Bridging these opportunities at a young age promotes positive youth development and increases the likelihood that youth will vote, volunteer and be valuable members of the community and the workforce as adults.

For more information on CSSP’s report on youth civic engagement, please click here.

Youth Engagement Resources:

Authentic Youth Civic Engagement: A Guide for Municipal Leaders, National League of Cities

Civic Engagement and the Transition to Adulthood, Future of Children

Civic Life in America, Corporation for National and Community Service

Family Engagement for High School SuccessToolkit, Harvard Family Research Project

The State of Young America, DÄ“mos and Young Invincibles

No comments:

Post a Comment