What Does This Mean?

Reduced barriers for youth participation and respect youth challenges. * Location and setting makes it easy to have active and on-going engagement. * Create a safe, fair and collaborative space. * Appreciate diversity and build trust. * Use inclusive language that builds connection. * Find out what a safe, inclusive environment means to each group. * Consider including food, music, arts.


Reduce Barriers.  When planning meetings or events that desire youth participation, it is important to make sure that youth can access it easily, that it feels safe, and it is free from distractions. Each group of youth will have different needs. It works best when participating youth decide which days, times and locations work best for them. For example, having meetings after school on school property could work for one group where as another group might find it easier at the community centre on weekends.

Inclusive Language.  What we say and how we say it has a powerful impact on shaping ideas, perceptions and attitudes. Language can be used in a positive way by promoting feelings of respect and equality between people, however it can also be used to express prejudice or discrimination. Demeaning, belittling, negative words not only create a barrier to understanding, they can be offensive or racist. Individuals must develop sensitivity to on-going changes in the appropriate use of language and adapt accordingly.

Discriminatory Language.  Language can be used to express acceptance and inclusion, and it can be used to discriminate against others. Some of the ways language can be used to express discrimination include derogatory labelling, imposed labelling, stereotyping, undue emphasis on differences, invisibility, discriminatory humour, put-downs and self-deprecating comments.

Food, Music & Arts.  When youth are part of any kind of workshop, presentation, etc., it is important that they are interested, engaged and well fed. Including food, even just snacks are also a great bonus youth look forward too. Including arts and a creative approach is a great way to make an initiative more interesting and engaging for youth.

Examples of youth-friendly environments.

  • Physical Environment
    Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
    The youth decide the weekly meeting days, times and locations when most of them can make it (e.g. before school, at lunch, after school on school property). Sometimes gas cards are given to parents as an incentive to drive. This makes it easier for them to arrange rides and work around their busy schedules. Youth also choose where in the school they want to meet, which usually means meeting in comfortable, quiet places with couches and windows.
  • Inclusivity
    Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
    Both youth and adults share the responsibility to create and maintain inclusive, non-judgmental environments for YTM meetings and events. Youth and staff are trained in using inclusive, non-discriminatory language and in the importance of creating welcoming environments for people regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, abilities, socio-economic background, or peer crowds.
  • Focus Groups: Sexual Violence & Bullying
    Tri-County Women’s Centre
    To understand sexual violence and bullying from a youth perspective, young people participated in focus groups. To begin the conversation, all youth were asked to write down an example of any kinds of sexual violence. These examples were then read out loud by a facilitator, and as a group, youth placed them on a continuum of sexual violence.

Resources to build youth-friendly environments!

Community Standards
HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development
Having youth create their own “standards”, or agreements, is empowering and it provides a foundation for group development; i.e., when the group gets into its “storming” phase, the standards are a useful reference for how we can deal with issues and problems that come up. This resource illustrates how a facilitator may guide a group through the learning process to maximize their learning experience.

Also found in Principle S of this website.

Inclusive Language: Youth Leadership Training
YTM Tool Kit Section 1, Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
This guide is valuable in creating Youth Leadership Facilitation Training retreats, covering anything from the logistics, to the art of facilitation, to example YTM youth-led workshops. Embedded throughout are approaches that help create the right atmosphere including creating community agreements, building trust, and using inclusive language. The guide includes these trust-building principles for the youth and adults: Do what you say; Never lie; Volunteer information; Don’t omit important details; Speak your feelings; Tell the truth; Honour your promises. This guide can be modified to fit your initiative’s purpose and goals. See the website for the complete tool kit.

Also found in Principles R, S, P & C of this website.

Strategies for Healthy Youth Relationships
The Fourth R: Strategies for Healthy Youth Relationships
The Fourth R promotes healthy youth relationships by building the capacity of schools and communities through innovative programming, research, education and consultation. Our contention is that relationship knowledge and skills can and should be taught in the same way as reading, writing, and arithmetic. The program is taught in the classroom, using a thematic approach to reduce risk behaviours including: Violence/bullying, unsafe sexual behaviour, and substance use.

Opportunities for Belonging and Meaningful Inclusion
Youth Engagement Toolkit, Joint Consortium for School Health
All young people should feel that they belong regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, ethnicity, abilities, socio-economic background or peer crowds. See this checklist for practical tips to provide youth with opportunities for social inclusion, social engagement, and integration. Click here to see the complete Toolkit.

Workshop Materials: Illicit Drugs & Social Issues
YTM Tool Kit Sections 2 & 4, Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
These workshop materials focus on illicit drug use in our communities and the social issues that young people are facing. They were created by youth, for youth. Section Two: Youth Created Workshops outlines activities, presentations on illicit drugs, games and tools that can be used when engaging youth in these topics. Section Four: Social Issues provide workshop materials for Body Image & Eating Disorders, Bullying, Gender Stereotypes, Homelessness, Hypersexualization, Mental Health, Pornography, Racism, Relationships, Roots of Abuse, and Self Harm. See the website for the complete tool kit.

Also found in Principles P, C & T of this website.

Catch the Fire: An art-full guide to unleashing the creative power of youth, adults and communities
Authors: Peggy Taylor & Charlie Murphy, Partnership for Youth Empowerment
Catch the Fire is a complete guide to using arts and empowerment techniques to bring greater vitality and depth to working with groups of youth or adults. Based on the premise that you don’t have to be a professional artist to use the arts in your work, this unique book invites group leaders into the realm of creativity-based facilitation, regardless of previous experience.

Also found in Principle P of this website. 

Partnership for Youth Empowerment Toolkit
Partnership for Youth Empowerment
There are plenty of creative ideas for engaging youth in this toolkit found in the Facilitation Activities section, songs that have the power to bring people together in the Song Sharing section, and a bookshelf with more great resources.

Youth and Theatre of the Oppressed
Authors: Peter Duffy & Elinor Vettraino
Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is a performance strategy which aims to develop possible alternatives to oppressive forces in individual’s lives. This book looks at diverse perspectives on the theories and practices within Theatre of the Oppressed as they relates to young people. This book shares TO’s goal of engaging the collective to create generative conversations among readers which look deeply into the issues of community through theatre – whether in India or Nova Scotia – and to work with young people to name their world, untangle the knot of oppressions, and to develop with them possible action plans for their own futures.