What Does This Mean?

Balance of power between youth and adults. * Engagement is more than tokenism. * Youth are involved, as much is possible and feasible, in aspects of the initiative, including planning, implementation, evaluation, management and decision making. * Youth feel a sense of ownership. * There are visible impacts from youth participation.


Balance of Power.  Do youth and adults feel like there is equality and respect between them? That they are able to speak and be heard, to make decisions, and set the direction of the initiative? Adults have more access to power within typical power structures, so it is important that the power balance is not taken for granted by ensuring that youth have a say in whether it feels balanced for them.

Token youth engagement  is when youth are invited to participate only to give the appearance of youth engagement. This can be when their participation does not feel important or inclusive for the youth and/or when youth are asked their opinions or feedback yet it is ignored or there was never any intention to take action.

Giving Input.  There are ways for youth to share thoughts, feelings, opinions, and feedback that are taken seriously and influence decisions moving forward.

Youth Involvement.  Youth are more engaged, feel more ownership, and care more about the outcomes when they are involved in multiple dimensions of the initiative. Are youth involved in: Planning events, decision making, short and long term programming, or strategic planning? Being hands-on both behind the scenes and in the forefront? Evaluating the initiative? Overseeing that part or all of a job is done, including training or overseeing others? This could be anything from organizing the volunteers, to making sure that the food table is set up, to leading the clean up.

Examples of real youth empowerment.

  • Active Participation
    Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
    Youth are actively involved in Youth Truth Matters. They support the planning, management, decision making, facilitation and evaluation of youth forums, as well as host presentations to young people and community members about illicit drug abuse and related social concerns. During YTM Youth Leadership Training retreats, senior youth leaders are involved in helping set up activities, facilitating, as well as taking part in the training.
  • More than Tokenism
    Student Council, Digby Regional high School
    In Digby’s Student Council, students plan and deliver all their own events. They are responsible for all the pep rallies and school dances as well as big yearly events such as the Anti-Bullying Day, the Winter Carnival, and the Spring Fling. This includes coming up with the idea, finding chaperones, talking to administration, promoting, and overseeing the event.
  • Youth Ownership
    Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
    Each high school in the Tri-Counties has a group of youth who engage their peers in being well informed around the health and social factors of illicit substance abuse. Key to their outreach are monthly bulletin boards with topics relevant for youth in each school. Not only do the youth decide the topics, research the information, and design the boards themselves; they also host a lunch time information meeting where anyone interested in learning more can attend.
  • Taking Responsibility
    Laing House
    Members of the Laing House drive the programming, which means that they design, request, organize and run the programs and workshops with varying degrees of support from staff. The members and staff meet as a group every 6 weeks to discuss programming and other issues that might arise in the house. Members take responsibility for maintaining the positive atmosphere at the house by reminding each other of their Community Standards, or shared agreements, when necessary.
  • Emeralds and Slugs Feedback Activity
    Partners for Youth Empowerment International — View PDF
    This is a great way to invite feedback about the workshop or the program you are working on in a fun and engaging way.

Resources to support real empowerment!

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. 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 E (Environment), S, P & C of this website.

JCSH Youth Engagement Toolkit
Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health
The JCSH Youth Engagement Toolkit is brimming with research and resources around Youth Engagement. It is designed as a ‘how-to’ resource for organizations, educators, and policy makers.

Circle of Awesomeness
Community Youth Development Framework, Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development
The Community Youth Development (CYD) Framework gives a process for young people to be engaged in meaningful participation through planning, decision-making, and program delivery in governments, organizations, institutions, and communities. It generates both individual and community outcomes by encouraging the gifts and talents of individual youth, while focusing on the investment of these assets in the community.

D3PARC: A Tool for Youth Community Action
Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development
This tool aids groups, organizations, or individuals to work with youth in order to take action in their community (service learning, placemaking, volunteering, art projects, etc…). D3PARC has proven to provide a strong guideline for creating a meaningful, empowering, and engaging process for youth action in community.

Also found in Principles E (Establish Goals) & C of this website.

Youth Engagement Spectrum (YES)
Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development
The YES tool can be used by organizations, communities, and systems (e.g., health care, child welfare, education, etc.) to:

    • Assess the extent of youth engagement in existing programs and services
    • Explore new ways and means of engaging youth in organizations and in the community (or system)
    • Identify the underlying values and activating principles that can help make youth engagement a commonplace practice
    • Design youth engagement strategy to fit specific situations and local circumstances


Also found in Principles P & E (Establish Goals) of this website.