University of Florida

Involving Youth in Community Development

Youth involvement in community planning, decision making, and action hasn’t received a lot of attention in the past, but youth are becoming increasingly involved in community development. Youth collaboration can benefit community nonprofit organizations, volunteer programs, and nongovernmental organizations in the following ways:

  • Youth can be an effective planning and evaluation resource.
  • Younger members can help long-term community efforts because they’re in a position to become long-term contributors.
  • Involved youth can help organizations become more aware of issues that concern younger populations, which can increase an organization’s impact.  

Not only do community organizations benefit when they collaborate with youth, this collaboration also helps youth themselves. Community participation helps youth become empathetic citizens who could potentially continue similar work when they become adults. Additionally, youth who give back to their communities develop leadership skills, learn the importance of helping, and gain work experience.

Consider the following suggestions to encourage youth participation in community development:

  • Give youth an opportunity to contribute and offer their input.
  • Allow active collaboration between adults and youth—integrate youth into committees with adults who can act as mentors.
  • Form relationships with teachers who engage youth in community concerns to increase youth involvement.
  • Connect youth to policy efforts by including them in the assessment of current policies and potential policies.
  • Encourage youth to identify their own interests and activities where they can make positive changes.
  • Allow youth to confront serious social problems and become active community citizens.
  • Evaluate youth involvement efforts on a regular basis to identify and capitalize on strengths, identify and address weaknesses, and help gain more meaningful youth participation.

Youth are a valuable resource for organizations and groups involved in community development. By encouraging and allowing opportunities for adult-youth-collaboration, community organizations can help youth learn valuable skills and prepare them to become civically engaged adults.

Adapted and excerpted from:

R. V. Barnett and M. Kumaran, “Involving Youth in the Community Development Process (FCS9253),” UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 05/2012).

Community Services & Learning,” Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development (Accessed 01/2014).

L. Bestul, “How Youth Participation Benefits Adults and Organizations,” Youth-Adult Partnership in Community and Government (12/2012).

Involving Youth,” (07/2013).

Community Development

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