Case Study 3: Municipal Youth Committees & Organizational Adaptation

Youth Leaders Action Committee, Town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia


In late 2016, the Town of New Glasgow’s Council approved the creation of a Youth Leaders Action Committee consisting of 10 young people aged 15-35, three councillors, the Mayor, and the Director of Community Economic Development. The decision was supported by the outcomes from the Intergenerational Forum (Case Study 1) and other engagement sessions in which community members requested a youth-friendly avenue to participate in civic life.

The committee started meeting in the spring of 2017. Over the course of three large group meetings, several smaller planning meetings, and a final presentation, New Glasgow’s councillors, staff, and youth leaders were introduced to RESPECT and moved through the process that upheld and embodied the model. By the summer, the Youth Leaders Action Committee were ready to lead the committee and move forward with their projects.

RESPECT has supported the town in its desire to adapt for the opportunities of effective, meaningful youth engagement and its goal of empowering its young leaders to advise the town and lead community engagement initiatives.

Collaboration Details - Click to

Location: New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

Sponsors: The Town of New Glasgow & The Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs

Youth Leaders: Aliyah Fraser, Ashlie Cormier, Emily Morton, Emma Curley, Erin Wadden, Jake Chisholm, Kate Addison, Kyle Power, Lindsay Morton, Russell Borden

Town of New Glasgow Supporters: Mayor Nancy Dicks, Councillors: Clyde Fraser, John Guthro, Jack Lewis, Joe MacDonald, Troy McCulloch, and Frank Proudfoot. Staff: Lisa M. MacDonald, CAO, Geralyn MacDonald (Community Economic Development), Kim Dickson (Marketing & Communications), Frank MacFarlane (Business Development), Emily Morton (Recreation Coordinator), Jake Chisholm (Glasgow Square).

Adult Supporters: Adrienne from Adrienne McCurdy Consulting and Michelle Ferris from Bullrush Communications.

How RESPECT was Applied:

The Town of New Glasgow chose to adopt and incorporate the RESPECT Model for Youth Engagement in the formation and mobilization of its Youth Leaders Action Committee. The following describes how RESPECT shaped the engagements and the commitments the town and committee made to uphold each of the seven principles.


Youth were involved in establishing the balance of power between young people and town supporters and also informed the Terms of Reference.


  • The first session was with staff and councillors of the Town of New Glasgow to explore where and how they could make room for youth voice and participation.
  • Tools were created to help the youth leaders and town define their roles and decision-making power (see ‘Lessons’ at the bottom of this page for more information on the tools). They identified four roles for the committee (Committee Governance & Administration, Advisory, Youth-led and Town-Led Engage and Empower Initiatives), and then agreed upon the committee’s decision-making power for each role. The diagram below shows the range of decision-making power the committee has in each of the four roles.





We will strive to achieve, whenever possible a balance of power between youth and adults when it comes to planning, implementation evaluation, management, and decision-making. We will ensure there is a clear understanding of the roles, responsibilities, expectations, and decision-making power.”


Read more on Real Empowerment…


Together, the Youth Leaders Action Committee and the Town of New Glasgow set their Group Agreements.


“We will adapt our processes whenever possible to lower the barriers of participation for youth. We will embrace diversity, use inclusive language, take time to build trust, learn what safe, inclusive environment means to youth and other participants, and will strive to uphold our Group Agreements.”


Read More on Youth Friendly Environments…


The town made a pledge to RESPECT youth and identified resources and opportunities for involvement available to the committee.



“We commit to providing our youth leaders with the right balance of support and guidance in order to help them succeed as they take on responsibilities and leadership. We are prepared to prioritize youth needs and be flexible with our expectations. We will help the youth leaders learn to think critically about their actions and decisions. We will work to provide a clear understanding of roles and expectations and when things do not go as expected we will use an appreciative lens so that everyone can learn.

The Town of New Glasgow pledges to uphold the seven guiding principles of RESPECT, including several specific pledges, which can be found in the Acting with RESPECT Final Report.”


Read More on Support & Guidance from Adults…


The people in the committee and town discovered their shared purpose as a committee and as individuals:




“Sustained participation and engagement is possible when participation is personally meaningful to those involved. This means if youth are being asked to participate they should have the opportunity to set the agenda and pursue interests that are enjoyable, build healthy relationships, and provide youth with a sense of self-worth and value. We commit to supporting the committee in its purpose.”


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The group shared their dreams for the community as well as the things they would most like to learn about and brought these together to identify its first three projects.



“We will assist and support the committee in establishing and pursuing goals that apply RESPECT principles and are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, and Timely. The committee will build from their dreams and learning objectives to help establish committee goals.”


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The group created action plans to complete three #NGRandomActsofBeauty placemaking projects. These projects were tied to the dreams for the community as well as the shared purpose and goals for the committee. The committee and town decided the level of decision-making that was appropriate for each of the three projects.



“We will work to identify and provide the resources to support the outward focus of the committee. The youth leaders want to make a difference in the lives of other youth, the greater community, and the natural environment. The youth leaders will be given opportunities to establish connections and build relationships in the community.”



Read More on Community Matters…


Youth and adults named the perspectives they each bring to the committee, the skills they have to share and their learning needs.




“Our youth leaders and their adult supporters will build upon their strengths and learn new skills. They will learn from each other, support and mentor each other, and support and mentor other youth in our community. Feedback is intended to support learning and skill development. Everyone is encouraged to take risks and move beyond comfort zones.”



Read more on Learning Together…


1. Adopting RESPECT: New Glasgow Town Council adopted the RESPECT Model for Youth Engagement in the formation and mobilization of its Youth Leaders Action committee. This approach not only in influences town processes, but will also enrich the work of the committee as it embarks on its own community outreach initiatives. The consultant who helped develop RESPECT was hired by the Town of New Glasgow to help the town and its new committee members get started with RESPECT.


2. Commitment: Through the process Town Council and staff were introduced to the seven principles of RESPECT. In order to establish the importance of each principle, they first considered worst-case scenarios of what would happen if they do not meet the principles. Then, they identified specific ways they will commit to upholding each principle.


3. Youth Input: In the past, committees have been given a Terms of Reference (TOR), which outlines the scope of the committee’s role on behalf of council. However, since youth involvement is critical for achieving Real Empowerment, the New Glasgow Youth Leaders Action Committee was given the opportunity to:


  • Provide input on the committee’s Terms of Reference;
  • Determine their own goals and priorities each year;
  • Identify the support and resources they will need.


The committee’s goals and requested supports will be submitted as an Annual Plan to Town Council.


View the PDF Quick Guide:


Impact/Lasting Change:

Because Town Council and staff have been introduced to the principles of RESPECT and have been provided with some tools for hosting conversations, it is expected that they will be able to move forward in an inclusive way. This includes tools specifically designed to help the committee identify the appropriate degree of autonomy or decision-making power in future projects.


The workshops helped the committee identify the aspirations, skills, and learning outcomes of its members, which fed into the committee’s first projects. In earlier sessions many committee members identified the desire to learn more about ‘placemaking’, which is an inclusive approach to planning, design and management of public spaces. Using placemaking templates, the committee hosted their own conversations to plan three ‘Random Acts of Beauty’ projects.


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  • Involve broadly: Organizational change requires buy-in from people who might not be directly involved in an initiative. For the first workshop, anyone in a leadership role with the town was encouraged to join. This included councillors, the mayor, heads of departments, and staff who directly interact with the public. Once internal commitment to support the Youth Leaders Action Committee was achieved, subsequent workshops were a mix between youth leaders, town staff and councillors.


  • Identify opportunities and resources: Broad organizational involvement helped build town staff and council’s understanding of how and where to involve youth in different departments or initiatives. In workshop one, the staff and councillors identified opportunities to involve the new committee, resources they can provide, and the areas they would like to receive feedback to make sure that their department is aligned with youth needs.


  • Decision-making authority: When working in municipalities, there is a creative balance to be struck between meeting the legal and regulatory demands of a town and the need for young people to be involved in a higher degree of decision-making in order to achieve Real Empowerment. A new tool was created by combining the International Association for Public Participation’s Public Participation Spectrum and Roger Hart’s Ladder of Young People’s Participation. In workshops one and two, the town and committee each identified the types of roles they would like to play which were: Advisory, Committee Governance, Youth-Led Engage & Empower Initiatives, and Town-Led Engage & Empower Initiatives. These were each mapped onto the spectrum to determine their level of autonomy in making decisions and added to the Terms of Reference. Moving forward, new projects will use this tool to determine their decision-making authority.