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Making your Organization and Programs Youth-Friendly
(From a Youth Perspective)
We’ve all seen some of the TV ads and posters about HIV/AIDS that have been created for youth. Some of them used to be really lame because they were put together by adults without youth involvement. What often happened is that the adults got together an idea to do a program for youth, they pulled together their "experts" and started making plans. If they were doing a poster, they would come up with 5 different versions. At this point, they would call in the "youth representatives" and ask which one they preferred. Adults today are starting to realize that this is not adequate youth involvement. Youth should be involved from the very beginning.
So much good information is out there but youth are not paying attention because of the way it’s presented to us. We need to have a role in designing projects that work for us. Fortunately, adults today are starting to get youth more and more involved in making projects for youth.
The tips below are for organizations that have, or would like to have youth as clients. It will help you make your organisation and its programs, projects, and written materials youth-friendly through youth involvement. There is also a quiz which will help you find out whether or not your organization is youth friendly.
Why Involve Youth?
· We know our needs best.
· We can lend advice as to how issues that affect us can be approached in a way that will appeal to us.
· We’re enthusiastic.
· We’re creative.
· We’re passionate.
· We are open to new ideas.
· Hey, it’s cheaper for you to get us to do the work than to hire a high-priced consultant!
Quiz: Is your Organization Youth-Friendly?
1) Where are you located?
a) A convenient location that is accessible by bus or by walking
b) Accessible by bus but a bit out of the way (not central to community)
c) It’s so hard to get there that even your own staff hates commuting to work!
2) What are you hours of operation?
a) You’re open on certain evenings and weekend days so youth in school can come in
b) You’re open a bit late on one or two nights
c) You’re open regular business hours. Youth might have to skip school to get services there
3) What is the atmosphere in your organization?
a) It’s a really relaxed jeans and t-shirt kind of place. People can walk in, grab a cup of water, have a seat on our couch, and chat
b) It’s a quiet, professional, but friendly atmosphere
c) Youth will really stand out here. The only place to hold a meeting is in a
fancy boardroom and staff almost all wear suits
4) How do you advertise your programs to youth?
a) You advertise and send resources to youth magazines and hang-outs, youth shelters, other youth services, in schools, and sexual health clinics. You have a youth section on your website and your youth posters are all over town. You’re also easy to find in the phonebook and on the net
b) You advertise and send resources to some youth service organizations
c) You don’t advertise and send resources to youth
5) Do youth know about the services you offer?
a) Your name is well known and most youth in town know where you’re located
b) Youth who are already accessing some services probably know about your organization
c) Few youth understand what services you can offer them
6) How does your staff react when young people come in?
a) Staff is totally cool with young people. Most or all of staff have experience working with youth issues. Lots of them are young too!
b) Staff is kind and respectful of youth but most don’t have any particular expertise working with young people
c) Staff is a bit judgmental and/or condescending of youth, especially when they have piercings, tattoos and blue hair!
7) How do you communicate?
a) You offer services in all of the major languages common in your community, in simple language so most people can understand. You use pictures a lot so people with literacy issues can still get the message
b) You offer services in some of the languages common in your community and use fairly non-technical language
c) You offer services in one of the languages common in your community. You make the assumption that most people already know what terms like ‘seroconversion’, ‘meds’, ‘two-spirit’, ‘barebacking’, and ‘cocktail’ mean, and use lots of jargon and acronyms
8) What kind of youth programs do you offer?
a) You have programs targeted to youth that are youth-driven. Youth are involved at every level
b) Your youth programs are created and managed by adults who are sensitive to youth issues. Adults have power over the program but youth are occasionally consulted
c) You have no specific youth programs but youth are allowed to participate in your other programs
9) How do you think youth feel about their involvement in your programs?
a) Youth report feeling empowered and proud of their involvement in planning and implementing your projects
b) Youth seem to be unclear about their role, wondering things like "Am I assessing these programs or contributing to them?"
c) Youth aren’t really involved
10) What resources do you offer youth?
a) You offer all kinds of youth-friendly resources relating to various topics (aboriginal, gay, lesbian, bisexual, drug use, tattooing, prisons, Hepatitis C, housing, addiction, etc.)
b) You have one or two brochures aimed at youth
c) You have nothing youth-specific
11) Do you know where to refer youth?
a) You know a lot about the youth agencies and services out there. You give referrals to youth to places where you know they will be treated well
b) You know a few youth agencies and tell youth to go there, even though you’re not sure if they will be able to help them with their particular needs
c) You don’t know much about youth services in your area and usually tell youth to try to find out what’s available on their own
If you picked answer ‘a’ for all or most of these questions, congratulations! Your organization is youth-friendly. Keep up the good work! If you picked mostly answer ‘b’, you are taking good steps toward a youth-friendly organization, but more work could be done to make youth feel comfortable accessing your services. We hope that you can get some good ideas from our suggestions below. If you answered ‘c’ for most of the questions, your organization is probably not a place where youth feel comfortable. For your organization, there is lots of room for improvement to make it youth-friendly, so please have a look at our tips below on how to do this.
How to Involve Youth
Making your Organization and Programs Youth-Friendly (From a Youth Perspective). © Canadian AIDS Society. Published 07/27/2007. Updated 02/28/2010. Web. Retrieved 05/21/2013 from http://www.cdnaids.ca/organizationprogramsyouthfriendly