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Youth Engagement Resources

Understanding Youth Development:

Understanding Youth Engagement:

Models of Youth Engagement:

Hart’s Ladder of Young People’s Participation

  • A model that shows the level of youth involvement in a program or organization
  • Can be used as a tool to identify a need to increase meaningful participation of youth
  • Highest levels of engagement are at the top of the ladder where youth and adults share decision-making
  • Lowest levels of engagement are at the bottom of the ladder where youth are non-participants

Youth Infusion Continuum

This model describes youth and adult perceptions of working together along a continuum. At the end of the continuum, it describes ideal youth-adult partnership (Youth Infusion, 2007).

Youth are viewed as the target audience
Youth are viewed as an intermittent resource—the focus group
Youth are viewed as a volunteer source
Youth are viewed as
decision-makers, equal partners, and agents of social change
Adults are viewed as authoritarians—out-of-touch with the younger generation
Adults are viewed as an intermittent advisor—someone to go to in times of need
Adults are viewed as mentors—someone to learn from in both good and bad times
Adults are viewed as trusted guides and lifelong learners--they both teach and learn from youth


Source: Youth Infusion. (2007) Continuum of Change. Retrieved March 2007, from

Youth Engagement Continuum

Defines approaches to working with youth and/or providing services to youth. The model moves through five stages and defines these stages by how they impact youth (Listen Inc., 2003)

Collective Empowerment
Systematic Change

Defines young people as clients

Provides services to address individual problems and pathologies of young people

Programming defined around treatment and prevention
Provides services and support, access to caring adults and safe spaces

Provides opportunities for the growth and development of young people

Meets young people where they are

Builds young people’s individual competencies

Provides age-appropriate support

Emphasizes positive self-identity

Supports youth/adult partnerships
Includes components of youth development approach plus:

Builds in authentic youth leadership opportunities within programming and organization

Helps young people deepen historical and cultural understanding of their experiences and community issues

Builds skills and capacities of young people to be decision makers and problem solvers

Youth participate in community projects
Includes components of youth development and youth leadership plus:

Engages young people in political education and awareness

Builds skills and capacity for power analysis and action around issues young people identify

Begins to help young people build collective identity as social change agents

Engages young people in advocacy and negotiation
Includes components of youth development, youth leadership and civic engagement plus:

Builds a membership base

Involves youth as part of core staff and governing body

Engages in direct action and mobilizing

Engages in alliances and coalitions
Source: Listen Inc., (2003). An Emerging Model for Working with Youth: Community Organizing + Youth Development = Youth Organizing. Retrieved April 20, 2011 from Pereira (2007): “Ready, Set, Engage!”

Understanding Developmental Assets©: