5 ways to engage youth

The question ¨how to engage young people¨ is one of the most famous question in the youth work, which is being repeated very frequently, and seems like that many youth workers have this problem, they prepare the activities, put money and time in this, and then no one shows up, or the participation is not as they imagined it.

I wrote already one article how people get to be active and mobilized around a specific issue, where I identified 3 factors – obligation, strong personal interest and coincidence. This is connected with the mainstreaming some of the issues that we want youth to be aware of and stand for like equality or human rights.

During the seminar in Tanzania we talked again about the methods and approaches how to bring young people into our activities and seems like we know how to do it. Each of the national group identified quite a lot of ways that works for them to involve young people and moreover most of the strategies are very similar. Therefore I have decided to write this article and present what works for us, so instead of asking over and over again what works and overcomplicating things we can start doing them.

5 things we can do to engage youth

  1. Create activities around their passions

The learning is a process, and it takes time to develop curiosity and motivation to get engaged. What happen often is that we want to work let´s say global education with young people, and we propose the workshops on global education, and becoming very disappointed when almost no one shows up. Why? Possibly because of the inner-readiness, the fact that young people don´t know what is it about and they don´t feel that much motivated. And it is normal, things take time.

And there is a solution for it! Creating activities for young people around their passions and then having the main topic that we would like to work as the transversal thing, and in this way we are bringing youth to the activities, and we can work on their curiosity, motivation and willingness to participate.

We had this experience in Cazalla how passions are important. We got the opportunity to bring to Lorca one of the famous YouTubers from Murcia, and since it was the last minute initiative, we made the promotion of the event just one day in advance, and the results were amazing – Saturday morning and the youth center was full of youth running around with cameras and learning.

  1. The activities we offer needs to be regular

There are several reasons for this. First of all, if the activities are regular there is a possibility to bring more people on board, since if one persons liked the activity there is a higher possibility that this person will bring friends next time. And simply if the activities are happening on the regular basis, then young people know that they have a possibility to do something. Imagine a young person who is at home Friday afternoon and doesn´t know what to do in with their selves, if they know that every Friday there are some activities going on in the local youth center, there might be a high chance that this person will join.

On the other hand, the direct work with young people needs to be long term, since the impact coming from the participation in one activity will not be the same as the impact from long term engagement. From one single activity we can inform youth about different issues – like activities the can do in the city, workshop on drugs, or information where to get help if they are a victim of violence. If we want to have the impact on something more then knowledge, when we want to develop competences, it is necessary to work on the long term basis with young people, and having the holistic approach, what takes time.

  1. Going out to Young people – outreach

As simple as it sounds, if young people are not coming to you, you should go to young people. You can go where the young people are and simply talk to them, but not imposing, rather inviting, or talking about what is going on with them, how they feel, creating relationship with them.

  1. Informing Young people about the possibilities

If young people don´t know what are the possibilities and if they don´t feel welcomed, they will not join your activities. Therefore, as youth workers we need to find a way of communication with young people to make them feel informed and invited. There are several ways of doing it, and in our case one of the tools we are using is going to the high schools where the young people are, entering the classes and presenting them with the different possibilities and workshops that happens in youth center, and we invite them.

There are as well ways to promote our activities through social media, although we need to take into the consideration what means of communication young people are using. Since if you use in Spain Facebook, and you will hope that young people will get informed via this mean, you are mistaken, since young people don´t want to use social media where their parents are, or where adults are. Surprise!

And I will repeat it again! It is not enough to bring the information to young people, but as well make this information inclusive, and making them feel invited, because we talked that one of the challenges that people have is low self-esteem, so if we want to reach this group, they might fear to come, just after seeing the post on Instagram.

  1. Ensuring safe space

Young people have one important need which is feeling safe and respected. Here we talk about the space where they are, people with whom they are, the possibility of expressing themselves, the security that they will not be judged, where they feel listen and understood, and where their voice and they being matters.

We have learnt that most of the young people needs role models, adults whom they can relate to, with whom they can talk, who can listen to their problems, and being understood. So the safe spaces need to have adults who have time and simply can be with young people.

There is one main conclusion coming to my mind, which is – if we want to work on the topic of global education with young people, we should not organize workshops on global educationJ I mean that first we need to work with young people, work on the transversal competences as self-esteem, knowing own identity, working in the team, and learning how to participate. So let´s not rush! Youth work is not a competition, and we should not be moving with the speed of plane, we should be as slow as snails instead.

So have fun! And let´s make the youth work that matters!

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