YOUTH ENGAGEMENT FRAMEWORK
HOW TO USE THE FRAMEWORK
How to use
Artwork by Rachel Derrah
Before you jump in to exploring the framework, we want to offer some advice to help you make the most of what’s here.
Setting Expectations. First, we want to be clear about what this framework is not, and that’s a step-by-step guide to achieving “perfect” youth engagement. While it is based in research and founded on the experiences of young people across our province, it is not all-encompassing, and we know that the youth experience is dynamic (we couldn’t have created something one-size-fits-all if we tried!). This is a living, breathing, growing framework that we will continue to adapt as we learn more from those at its centre.
Taking Time. Supporting youth and bringing youth into your work in a positive way takes a certain degree of time, energy, and resources—everything in this framework will require some effort on your part if you’re hoping to integrate it into your organization. Before choosing to engage youth in your work, we ask you to please make sure that you’ll be able to dedicate adequate time, staffing, energy, funds, resources, etc., to ensuring that the experience is a positive one for everyone involved.
Something Old, Something New. You may notice, as you make your way through the different sections, that some of the recommendations we’ve included seem pretty straight forward, or familiar—and your observation will be correct. Not everything in this framework is radically new or innovative, and that’s because what we heard from youth, for the most part, wasn’t radically new or innovative either. Instead, we heard a lot of things that we’d heard before—things that, on the surface, seem as though they should be fairly easy to address or implement. What this tells us, however, is that as many times as we’ve heard those things, they still aren’t happening. So if you find yourself skipping through ‘old’ news in search of something new, we ask you to pause and take a moment to reflect:
- Why do these things sound familiar to you?
- Have young people expressed these things to you before?
- Have you already implemented them in practice?
- Do you think there’s still room for you to grow in these areas?
- Can you identify any gaps between what you know, and what you do?
If it turns out that you’re already rocking those stellar youth engagement practices, that’s great! Skip away! If you’re not super confident in your answers, or if you find yourself hesitating before giving yourself a gold star, perhaps you should spend a bit more time sitting with the old, before looking for the new.
Talk to Your Youth. Our final piece of advice is to talk to your youth. Their opinions override this framework 100% of the time, because they’re the ones who will be impacted by any changes you make, or recommendations you adopt. If you’re not sure how to approach those conversations, you can find some suggestions on how to do so in the Youth Voice and Youth-Adult Partnership sections of this framework.
YOUTH ENGAGEMENT TOOLS
We’ve created this framework to be as practical and applicable as possible, so we’ve included some tools to help you apply your learnings to practice! As mentioned above, not everything in this framework will apply to every reader, and even if it does, changing everything all at once isn’t a sustainable approach.
May Lawless, one of the CEI’s 2022 summer interns, created the following evaluation tool to help employers get started on their reflective journeys. Completing this quiz will give you a sense of what you’re already doing well, and direct you to certain framework sections that could be valuable based on your responses. We hope this rubric will also serve as a tool for continuous self-evaluation, and encourage you to repeat this reflective practice regularly as you begin to make changes to your practice. (This tool may be useful to non-employers as well, though the wording will be less specific to other contexts).
GOAL SETTING WORKSHEET
The following tool is intended to be used while you’re making your way through the framework, as you come across pieces you’d like to try and incorporate into your own practices—we’ve included a copy-able and printable worksheet version of the tool, but it’s also simple enough that all you really need is scrap piece of paper and the following questions:
- Which recommendations will be easy for me to adopt with very little effort, and make happen in a short (think weeks or months, not years) amount of time? (Level 1 Goals — the low-hanging fruit)
- Which recommendations will take some time and effort to adopt, but I can see them being implemented over the course of the next two or three years? (Level 2 Goals)
- Which recommendations will take a lot of time and effort to adopt, and require extensive shifts in how I carry out my work? I could start working towards these recommendations now, but they might take a significant length of time to be fully implemented. (Level 3 Goals)
Identifying recommendations using this ranking system will help you to pull out what’s meaningful to you and your work, and what will be both most achievable and most impactful. Essentially, in completing the worksheets below, you’ll have drawn your own framework from the information presented here, that you can lean on as you work towards better supporting the young people you interact with. We recommend identifying no more than three goals per level, so that you can really focus your energy on implementing them well.