Involving Youth in Strategic Decisions

Last weekend, 02-04 August 2013, I was fortunate to be part of the Scouts Australia International Conference at Camp Cottermouth in Canberra. This is my third year at this annual conference and it has been good to see the number of youth members and young adult members at the table grow each year. As a youth organisation it is good to see that we are valuing the opinions of our young people through involving them in our strategic decisions.

It was no accident that young people were at the conference. Many of the International Commissioners from around Australia have included these young people in their teams. From my perspective it is part of a plan to ensure that the movement remains a youth organisation that is relevant to the youth of today. For this to occur we as the adult leadership are putting our egos to the side. This can be a difficult task as many of us work in senior roles in our working life.

The second thing that the adult leadership did to involve the young people was to invite them. This invitation was not just to be part of the conference, but also to be part of the discussion. This involved embracing the young people as equals at the table. Once again we all have to put egos to the side and honestly listen to our young people.

There is another key aspect in ensuring that youth members and young adult members have an important part in the process of making strategic decisions at the conference and this is listening to their opinion. In fact I find it beneficial to have the young people talk first on an issue. This helps me to understand the issue from the young person’s point of view, without the bias of my discussion points.

All of this does not mean that we as adult leaders do not provide guidance. In fact that is part of our role as adult leaders to provide guidance to young people in order for them to grow and develop through the Scouting program. I would like to emphasise that this is communication of guidance and it is not telling young people what to do. I also challenge us, adult leaders, to listen first, before providing guidance. This is not always easy to do, as I know from experience.

So what are the benefits of empowering youth when making strategic decision?

I find that young people have an enthusiastic view of the world and it is a view of the world that opens up my perception to opportunity. This opportunity leads to a better solution to issues and outcomes for all involved. Also through involvement of young people in strategic decisions we have empowered them with ownership over the decision, as they grow and develop.

In summary I challenge you to involve young people in your decision making processes. I am sure that you will get as much out of the experience as I did on the weekend. The four lessons I received on the weekend for involving young people in strategic decisions were:

  • Put aside your ego.
  • Invite young people as equal partners to the discussion.
  • Give young people a voice, listen first to their opinions on issues.
  • Provide guidance as required. Noting the difference between guidance and tell young people what to do.

©Attila &Kim Ovari 2013. The content of this Article may be reproduced with permission of the author, Attila Ovari. Created 07 Aug 13.

  1. Great article! In my time as the NYC Adviser, I did my best to be an advocate for Youth Involvement. One of the aspects I pushed hard was the personal development that is so rich when young people get the opportunity to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives. Sounds like it was terrific at the International Conference.

  2. This can be talked about at great lengths – but for now, just a mentioning that in Denmark, a significant part of scouting in the troop age (12-16/17) is “kids lead kids”, i.e. that the patrols to a large extent run their own programmes – of course with guidance and a gentle eye and ear from adult leaders on the sidelines.

    Yes, the border between success and some chaos is thin at time – but as mentioned, mistakes and the freedom to make them, is key. “Learning by doing” sometimes takes a turn towards “Learning by suffering” (as in when you don’t bother to read a map well and walk an extra good number of k’s as a consequence) – as long as we’re there to make sure the mistakes are not critical, it’s all quite ok.

  3. Atilla,

    I was a scoutmaster here in America for a number of years. I found it rather amazing the number of people who wanted to entertain boys with the program rather than trust it to be a boy-run, adult supervised activity. We do and then we learn. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Empowering youth to be full partners in the process leads to stronger, more capable boys and a much more innovative and relevant program for the boys.

    Youth may need to be challenged with standards, but as Samuel Johnson once said, “within our discipline we have total freedom.” It is amazing what can be created/accomplished when people have the freedom to innovate and are not penalized for mistakes.

  1. Pingback: Youth Empowerment – Involving Youth in Strategic Decisions | Attila Ovari

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