It is helpful to think about engagement as an ongoing process, rather than checklist. Your organization or network should always be actively working to better and further engage young people in your work. Before understanding how to engage young people, first we need to make sure we understand the basic principles of engagement.
Each time someone engages in the organisation or network’s work, they can be understood as fitting onto this circle. The goal of encouraging engagement is to move people onto and into this circle. However, it does not always make sense to move people along in the circle of engagement, for instance, not everyone will become a champion, and that is alright. Each level of participation has value and plays an important role in advancing the organisation or network’s mission. Only where there is capacity and interest should people be supported to move forward in this process.
This circle should always be in mind when you are engaging people. For instance, if your organisation has a number of young people that are curious about the organisation, you could organise a youth-focussed event, this would help move those individuals from curious to guests. From there, you could host a brainstorming session and collect feedback and inputs from the attendees, this would move them to a participant. You could also collect the participants’ emails to send them the outcomes of the session and an action plan for how the organisation will incorporate their inputs, to show that their contributions are valued. At the same time, you could make a request to see if anyone is interested in joining a committee to work on incorporating the outcomes of the session into the organisation’s/network’s work, which would move them to the role of an actor. As you can see, by thinking about the engagement circle you can help make sure that efforts to engage youth (or anyone!) have real results and that their participation does not end after one engagement.
This circle can serve as an example and as a tool to support your work, but feel free to adapt the scale to create something that makes sense for your organisation or network’s work.
Curious – they know about your organisation and are interested in learning more.
Next Step – for them to attend an event, and/or follow the organisation’s/network’s activities online.
Guest – they have attended at least one event or have connected with the organisation online but have not contributed or engaged beyond their physical or online presence.
Next Step – to attend events more regularly and contribute something to the organisation by making a suggestion or talking with someone who is involved.
Participant – they are a regular participant in events and activities. They attend, and sometimes contribute to, activities, but they are not contributing to achieving the mission/vision of the organisation/network.
Next Step – to make regular and more meaningful contributions that work towards the mission and vision of the organisation/network.
Actor – they are actively and regularly contributing to the organisations missions and vision and are influencing decision-making in the organisation.
Next Step – to take on a leadership role in the decision-making processes of the organisation and actively promote the organisation and network.
Leader – they are leading decision-making processes within the organisation and promote the organisation/network’s work.
Next Step – to actively support the growth of the organisation by championing their work.
Champion – they are supporting the growth of the organisation by championing the organisation’s mission/vision and engaging other people within the organisation.
Next Step – to continue actively engaging and continuing to grow the network and organisation. To bring others onto and up the scale of engagement.
Now that you understand the basics of engagement and have the tool of the engagement circle in your toolbox, it is time you put together a strategy for engaging youth. Start by developing your short term and long term goals for youth engagement in your organisation and then work to develop an action plan based on the circle above. Remember that prioritising youth participation requires an investment of time and resources. Be prepared to put budget and staff leadership behind your plan in order to ensure its success.