What Does This Mean?

Organizations and adults actively build their ability to respectfully engage youth. * Youth and adults build upon their strengths and learn new skills. * Youth learn from each other. * Youth support and mentor other youth. * Youth and adults receive feedback that supports learning and skill development. * Youth have adult mentors and supports to build specialized skill sets (e.g. marketing, social media, art, music, cooking). * Youth and adults are encouraged to take risks and move beyond comfort zones


Build Youth Capacity. Learning more about their strengths and dreams helps youth set and achieve goals that build self-esteem and self-worth. This can help create a solid foundation for youth to be able to cope with challenges later in life. Furthermore, having the right support and encouragement to build new skills, competencies, and abilities can help the youth with career and life decisions.

Build Adult Capacity. It is vital to think about how adults and initiatives stay relevant to the youth involved. Receiving feedback and learning from youth is an essential part of building capacity to engage youth.

Peer-to-Peer. Initiatives can create opportunities for youth to develop different types of healthy relationships with other youth. Youth can learn from each other, give support, and give guidance to each other.

Feedback. People like hearing feedback in different ways. For both youth and adults, learn how each person wants to receive constructive feedback. For example, some might like it one-on-one while others like it in small groups; some want to know right away while others want to have a weekly check in.

Beyond Comfort Zones. Sometimes the most fun and rewarding experiences are when we take on a challenge that is new and that is not guaranteed to work. It is important that challenges are co-developed with youth and adults, as no one likes to be imposed upon. Youth and adults can offer support and guidance to those who are moving beyond their comfort zones.

Examples of developing capacity – in youth & in the initiative.

  • Peer-to-Peer
    Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
    Youth appreciate information that comes from other youth, even if they know the youth learned from an adult. Why? Because youth trust their peers, it is engaging, and it is easier for youth to relate to each other. YTM Youth Leaders often become the go-to person in the school when there are questioned about any of the topics YTM deals with. Not only does this mean a wider reach for learning, it also helps create a broader sense of safety for students in the school.
  • Increased Responsibility Over Time
    Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
    Youth decide whether they take support or leadership roles in YTM, with increasing levels of responsibility according to their interests and experience levels. Having enough time to build skills and confidence is critical, as there is a large learning curve with workshop design and facilitation. For example, youth often facilitate younger ages for the first few times to build their confidence before they facilitate youth who are the same age or older.
  • Mentoring & Practical Skills
    Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ AssociationVisit Website
    The NSSSA is a student-run, province-wide non-profit organization where high school students learn practical leadership skills through experiential learning and mentorship. Annually, the NSSSA holds 6 two-day regional high school conference, 6 one-day regional grade 9 or junior high conferences (depending on the region), a one-day provincial inclusion conference for students with special needs, and a four-day provincial conference for all students. The conferences are organized, promoted, and run by students. This includes anything from youth-led public relations, to IT support, to creating skill building manuals and mentoring other youth.
  • Feedback
    Youth Truth Matters, Tri-County Women’s Centre
    Feedback is central to the development of both the youth and the adult supporters. YTM creates safe environments where everyone can count on honest feedback that helps make the program, the staff, and the youth stronger.
  • Peer-led Violence Prevention
    Healthy Relationships for Youth Program, Antigonish Women’s Recourse CentreVisit Website
    The HRY Program is a peer-led school based violence prevention program. HRY consists of a series of twelve cumulative sessions within the Grade 9 Health curriculum that are delivered by trained youth facilitators. The interactive sessions are designed to reduce the risk of violence for youth through developing their skills and knowledge about creating and maintaining healthy relationships.

Resources to develop capacity – in youth & in the initiative!

Appreciative Approach
HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development
This booklet shares the appreciative approach, which is strengths-based and solution-oriented. In youth engagement, it means viewing young people not as dependents, service recipients, or problems, but as competent innovators who contribute to the community, and as energized participants and leaders in social change initiatives. In a community development context, it means using local skills and existing resources to find/create solutions, rather than relying on outside “expertise” to fix problems.

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 R & E (Establish Goals) of this website.

Peer-to-Peer Learning: 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 E (Environment), P & C of this website.

Peer-to-Peer Leadership: 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 R, E (Environment), S & P of this website.

Engaging & Empowering Aboriginal Youth: A Toolkit for Service Providers (2nd Ed.)
Authors: Claire V. Crooks, Director, Debbie Chiodo, Darren Thomas , Shanna Burns, & Charlene Camillo
This Toolkit presents a wide range of guidelines, strategies, templates, and case studies for those who work with Aboriginal youth. A mix of conceptual guidelines and practical strategies are provided throughout the Toolkit. In addition to the four key sections of the first edition – Background and Overview, Guiding Principles, Working with Schools, Research and Evaluation – the second edition has been updated to include an additional section on assessment, which provides a series of assessment tools to assist with identifying a starting point for change.

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