Youth organizing involves youth-led action for social change built on a strong foundation of power analysis and support. Empowered with the tools needed to organize effectively, youth can lead outreach, education, and campaigns on their own or as part of strategic coalitions.
Background and Strategies
It is typical for adults to use their personal experiences as young people and their acquired adult skillset to address issues that disproportionately impact youth. Although well-intentioned, attempts to make changes without consulting those who the changes will affect is negligent at best and damaging at worst. With the right tools and support, youth are uniquely positioned to self-organize and work in coalition with adults to make transformative social change.
In 2012, the Heinz Endowments published a document entitled The Power of Transformative Youth Leadership: A Field Analysis of Youth Organizing in Pittsburgh, in which they summarized research on the topic of youth organizing. According to this report:
“Structural inequity in public education disproportionately affects young people of color and youth from low-income families. Youth, therefore, have a critical role to play in informing the development of policy interventions that address the causes of inequity and create workable solutions. Attempts to solve social problems that do not engage the people most directly affected often fail, while youth organizing has proven outcomes for youth, their families and communities.”
Research in the field of youth organizing has consistently demonstrated that youth organizing is an effective strategy for creating policy change, engages young people in solving the problems that affect them, and helps to prepare the next generation of community and education reform leaders.
Studies show that young people engaged in youth organizing have higher rates of civic participation than their peers, and many individuals involved in youth organizing go on to become significant community leaders (Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing, & Movement Strategy Center, 2012).