It is essential to meet youth where they are in order to best engage them in your work. This means you must consider where youth are currently gathered and ask what youth are looking for.

Who is your target audience?

As was already discussed, youth are not a homogenous group, so it is important to ask yourself, what type of young people would be best-suited for a particular role, or might most interested in engaging in your work? Are you looking to engage 15 year olds or folks in their late 20s? Does your organisation/network focus on a specific thematic area? Where can you find youth that are have that thematic interest? Perhaps you think the opportunity may be of interest to all or many youth, that is alright as well, but the purpose of this section is to think about who you want to reach and how best to reach them.

Thinking about the engagement scale, this section focuses on how to get people to the curious or guest stage. Below are some examples of ways that you can reach youth, if you aren’t looking for a very specific skill-set it is best to cast a wide net, and from there you can support those with a demonstrated interest in continuing to move up the engagement scale.

When you think about where to go to access youth, consider which type of youth you may be accessing, and do your best to access and provide opportunities to a broad diversity of young people. For instance, if you are only conducting outreach at Universities, you are most likely accessing a very privileged portion of the population and are missing many others. Think about both rural and urban opportunities for outreach, and conduct outreach with access and equity in mind.

Making a case for participation

As you would for anyone who is interested in getting involved in your organisation you should prepare a pitch to present the benefits of engagement and reasons why young people should want to engage. When thinking about how to present the opportunity to youth ask young people that are already involved or that have shown interest, what about the opportunity is appealing to them?

While all youth are different, research done in Canada found the following motivations to be important to young people (Imagine Canada):

  • Altruistic and personal motivational factors – it feels good to help people and helping people can also help me
  • Social recognition – it feels good to be noticed and acknowledged for my good work
  • Work related experience – it is important to gain work experience to support career development
  • Growth Opportunities – it is an opportunity to have different experiences and learn and grow as an individual
  • Opportunities to gain skills – it is important to gain transferable skills that can support that individuals overall development and advancement
  • Opportunity to work on their areas of interest – it is an opportunity to learn more about a particular topic
  • Social opportunities – it is a chance to meet new people and expand networks

In addition to the opportunity to make an impact and help, it is important to think about what youth will gain from being a part of your work. Their schedules are likely busy and it is important to acknowledge and respect their competing interests and priorities by making a case for how they will be able to grow and benefit from this experience.

Be sure that you have a very clear role defined for the young person to fill. It is important that you are able to clearly articulate how they will be contributing to the organisation or network, this is true of engaging anyone.