Know why you want to involve young people.
Check your motivation. There is no wrong reason to involve youth.
You may want young people to have leadership opportunities, or you may
perceive youth as true partners in decision making. Just be sure to
match your efforts to your motives.
Secure organizational commitment.
An organizations leaders and staff must be committed to
involving young people. They may be asked to commit extra time to
rudimentary meeting processes or even provide transportation to meetings.
Conduct a thoughtful and thorough recruitment process.
Extend the opportunity for governance to youth from a range of backgrounds,
even those you might not expect to be interested. You want a young person
who possesses skills, a unique perspective and a readiness for your
governance environment. The most obvious young person may not be best
for your governing body.
Compose a letter of agreement and conflict of interest policy.
Once a new member is offered the position, carefully review a
letter of agreement and your conflict of interest policy which both
sign. This ensures that new people in leadership positions understand
the terms of their positions, and it increases both parties levels
Conduct a thorough orientation and training.
It is important to orient youth to your structure and policies,
especially so with young people who might be new to professional environments.
Orientation also gives you a chance to find out more about your new
leader, so you can thoughtfully involve her or him.
Train leaders on intergenerational relationships.
At least one meeting per year should be committed to youth/adult team
building. Intergenerational groups are always more successful when members
have explored their own thoughts and attitudes about age.
Institutionalize young peoples involvement.
This means amending bylaws and policies to state that young people
are permanently included in decision making and leadership. Young people
should be promptly replaced by other young people when their service
has ended. This ensures that youth involvement is not just a phase of
your current administration.
Overcome legal barriers.
Most states laws are silent on the issue of youth serving
in governance positions. Where laws do exist, they generally speak
youth on boards of directors or youth as incorporators of organizations.
The issue of legal liability and youth can sometimes seem daunting,
but with proper precautions it can be easily managed.
Make your meetings interactive.
Activities like "go arounds" and "brainstorms" ensure
that everyone has a voice in the decision making process. They create
a dynamic environment that will engage all of your members and
are critical to involving youth.
Meet with and mentor younger leaders.
For youth to be full and active participants, they need time to
prepare for meetings and to evaluate and discuss them afterwards. Adult
leaders should meet with young people for a few minutes before and after
Involve young people in visible leadership positions.
Committee positions and other visible leadership roles should include
young people as frequently as possible. Involving youth deeply in governance
fosters their fullest participation and ensures that they are included
in important matters.
Network young leaders with their peers.
Set up systems and situations for young people to network.
If there are other local young people in leadership positions, bring
them together on occasion to discuss their work, learn new skills, and
support one another. This kind of networking re-energizes youth.
Network adults who support young leaders.
If there are other organizations in your community with young people
in leadership positions, gather together adult board members to discuss
their successes and struggles with involving youth.
Accommodate young people's special situations.
Special situations will arise when involving young people.
A board should be flexible by accommodating school schedules and transportation
difficulties. Family commitments and extracurricular activities
deserve the same consideration as adults' work trips, vacations,