There are many roles in democracy-building by youth. Following are several different opportunities for young people to take action.
- Youth as Facilitators. Knowledge comes from study, experience, and reflection. Engaging young people as teachers helps reinforce their commitment to learning and the subject they are teaching; it also engages both young and older learners in exciting ways.
- Youth as Researchers. Identifying issues, surveying interests, analyzing findings, and developing projects in response are all powerful avenues for Youth Voice.
- Youth as Planners. Planning includes program design, event planning, curriculum development, and hiring staff. Youth planning activities can lend validity, creativity, and applicability to abstract concepts and broad outcomes.
- Youth as Organizers. Community organizing happens when leaders bring together everyone in a community in a role that fosters social change. Youth community organizers focus on issues that affect themselves and their communities; they rally their peers, families, and community members for action.
- Youth as Decision-Makers. Making rules in classrooms is not the only way to engage young people in decision-making. Committees, board membership, and other forms of representation and leadership reinforce the significance of Youth Voice throughout communities.
- Youth as Advocates. When young people stand for their beliefs and understand the impact of their voices, they can represent their families and communities with pride, courage, and ability.
- Youth as Evaluators. Assessing and evaluating the effects of programs, classes, activities, and projects can promote Youth Voice in powerful ways. Young people can learn that their opinions are important, and their experiences are valid indicators of success.
- Youth as Specialists. Envisioning roles for youth to teach youth is relatively easy; seeing new roles for youth to teach adults is more challenging. Youth specialists bring expert knowledge about particular subjects to programs and organizations, enriching everyone’s ability to be more effective.
- Youth as Advisors. When youth advise adults they provide genuine knowledge, wisdom, and ideas to each other, adults, organizations, institutions, communities, and other locations and activities that affect them and their world at large.
- Youth as Designers. Youth participate in creating intentional, strategic plans for an array of activities, including curriculum, building construction, youth and community programs, and more.
- Youth as Teachers. Facilitating learning for themselves, other youth, adults, or children, youth can be teachers of small and large groups in all kinds of topics.
- Youth as Grant-makers. Youth in philanthropy identify funding, distribute grants, evaluate effectiveness, and conduct other parts of the process involved in grant-making.
- Youth as Planners. When planning programs, operations, activities, and other events and activities, youth can benefit nonprofits, schools, their homes, and any other institution throughout society.
- Youth as Lobbyists. Influencing policy-makers, legislators, politicians, and the people who work for them are among the activities for youth as lobbyists.
- Youth as Trainers. When they train adults, youth, children, and others, youth can share their wisdom, ideas, knowledge, attitudes, actions, and processes in order to guide programs, nurture organization and community cultures, and change the world.
- Youth as Politicians. Running for political office at the community, city, county, or state levels, youth as politicians can run for a variety of positions.
- Youth as Recruiters. Youth building excitement, sharing motivation, or otherwise helping their communities or people to get involved, create change, or make all sorts of things happen can happen through youth as recruiters.
- Youth as Social entrepreneurs. When youth recognize a social problem, they can use entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.
- Youth as Paid staff. When organizations, businesses, agencies, and other groups hire youth, they can be staff members in programs for adults, other youth, children, or for the community at large. They can fulfill many roles on this list in paid positions.
- Youth as Mentors. Mentoring is a non-hierarchical relationship between youth and adults, adults and youth, or among youth themselves, that helps facilitate learning and guidance for each participant.
- Youth as Decision makers. Participating in formal and informal decision-making, youth can be board members, committee members, and in many different roles.
- Youth as Activity Leaders. As activity leaders in nonprofits, community organizations, and other areas, youth can facilitate, teach, guide, direct, and otherwise lead youth, adults, and children in a variety of ways.
- Youth as Policy-makers. When they research, plan, write, and evaluate rules, regulations, laws, and other policies, youth as policy-makers can enrich, substantiate, enliven, and impact the outcomes of policies in many ways.
Adapted by Adam Fletcher from this article.