Youth participation key to good decision making
Youth participation key to good decision making
March 9, 2015
Youth development organisation Youthline says it is a priority for communities to facilitate meaningful youth participation.
This was one of the driving forces behind a meeting of Youthline’s National Youth Advisory Group, recently renamed the National Youth Collective, (NYC) last month.
A Youth Advisory Group (YAG) is a group of young people who are supported with good training and equipped to provide input and undertake tasks, or who lead projects and campaigns for organisations, services, or initiatives related to youth. It is about giving young people an opportunity to participate meaningfully in things that affect them and helping organisations and services to get it right when working with youth.
Youthline national spokesperson Stephen Bell said youth participation is vital if we are to stay relevant to young people.
“Youth Advisory groups are youth development in action and we are passionate about ensuring young people have a voice and feel heard when it comes to decision making within their own communities.”
Youthline Auckland facilitates five YAGs and supports 35 Youth Health Councils (YHC) across the Auckland Region These groups are held in partnership with several organisations, including the Waitemata District Health Board, Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB), the CMDHB Alternative Education YAG, the Auckland Central YAG and the National YAG, or NYC with Youth Health Councils in secondary schools taking on projects to improve the wellbeing of their peers within a school setting.
YAG groups work on a range of projects within the community such as creating art murals, giving feedback on the concepts and design of Youthline’s website, assisting with the development of youth friendly health and promotional material, developing website content, advising on service design and organising performances or events.
The National Youth Collective captures the insights of young people from across New Zealand., reflecting the diverse opinions and interests they hold. As a leadership development programme, the YAG model supports young people to recognise their skills and leadership potential, and supports them as change makers within their communities.
National Youth Collective member Lennon Cameron said he was part of We Speak, an opportunity for young people in Christchurch to have their say on issues relating to them.
“It's great for young people to have their say because at the end of the day, we're the ones that deal with the decisions that are made today. It's important for adults to remember when they were younger and had adults making decisions for them, and how important it is for everyone to have their say regardless of age/status. It feels good having a say because you know you're making your mark for a better future.”
Youth Advisory Groups are key stakeholders for all decisions made within Youthline and Youthline encourages other organisations committed to youth leadership to consider how young people are included in their organisational structure, and how their opinions and ideas are valued.
Youth participation also strengthens a young person’s sense of contributing to something of value to society, feelings of connectedness to others in society and the belief that they have choices about their future.
For this to be successful, young peoples’ views need to be respected and valued.
“There is nothing better than seeing a community work together to build better opportunities for future generations.
“Youth volunteers are more likely to volunteer as adults and become active members of the community,” Mr Bell said.
Youth participation is known to enhance youth health, create positive youth development opportunities, promote commitment, add value to organisations and projects and most of all ensures services, products, projects, policy and programmes focussed on young people are relevant and lead to better decision making.
National Youth Collective member Alana Mulvena said that the last time she was asked to have her say was after 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The university wanted to create a new student space and they wanted to know what students wanted and needed in order for the space to be as useful as possible.
“I felt included when asked about this and felt like the university was really making an effort to ensure student success and wellbeing was at the top of their agenda rather than it just all being about revenue gathering. This made me feel like they cared about the future of their students also.
“I felt it was important for them to gather the opinions of students not only because students are the life-blood of any campus but because that way they had a better idea about what needed to be put into that space. Also, what would be most useful to students, rather than just assuming, which means we have this awesome new space which is used more widely and more often by the people it was created for and it's even won awards too,” she said.
Youthline encourages any young person, parent, school, organisation, business, or governing body interested in meaningful youth participation to get in touch. With over 45 years of experience in building communities where young people thrive, Youthline is committed to involving others in this journey.