This blog was originally published on August 27, 2019. Youth voice in the advocacy space is still timely and relevant so we wanted to share it again. Enjoy!
I believe in the power of youth voice because youth can inspire change. Young people are experts on their own lives, and their lived experiences should be heard and used to advocate for change. We live in a time where advocacy and grassroots movements have been instrumental in highlighting social issues and bringing about positive change. We can empower youth to advocate for change that impacts their lives.
To start, what is advocacy? In the most basic definition, advocacy is a way in which people speak up and voice their opinion. Advocacy can be defined as an action that produces change. It is to fight for change or actively support change. Advocacy can also be to plead the cause of another.
When working with youth, there are 5 steps I encourage you to utilize when helping youth advocate for change. These steps demonstrate how young people can be a part of positive change, or as I like to call them, change agents!
Think About It: Initially have youth work individually to brainstorm different local, national, or global causes they would like to see changed. Then as a group look at the identified problems that are important to them and select one to focus on.
Act-On It: Next, the youth work to design their activity. Here is when they map out or plan what they need to do to make this activity happen.
Stand For It: The youth need to then be able to motivate others, specifically their peers, to support their cause and activity.
To do this, the youth need to be able to explain the issue that they are trying to address, the action they are planning to take, as well as the results they anticipate seeing.
Live It: Implement the activity.
Evaluate It: It is essential that the youth evaluate their activity to help them learn and grow. Simply have the youth tell what they learned from this process. Was the activity successful? Why or why not? Did they see the results they anticipated?
Knowing the steps to follow to help guide youth through the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation process is beneficial for advocacy, but there are essential attributes that are key for advocates and their messages. So what does someone need to do to be an advocate? Here are what I like to refer to as the “Advocacy Bees!”
Remember that anyone with a passion for an issue or cause can be an advocate. Youth can be some of the best advocates for youth topics because they have the best understanding of their own needs, realities, desires and capacities. We need to empower youth and provide them with opportunities to be advocates because advocacy is important when addressing the root causes of problems, leading to long-term positive change for young people and their communities.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
– Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
For breakfast, I had an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with a coffee.