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Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Including Youth on Your Board, Commission, or Committee
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas What do we mean by including youth on your board or committee? Including youth on boards, commissions, or committees means recruiting young people to serve as members or representatives on those bodies. A Board of Directors is the formal governing body of almost all incorporated (and some unincorporated) non-profit organizations, initiatives, or institutions, and many public bodies as well. A committee is a part of a larger organization or initiative, is formed to deal with a specific issue or area of functioning, or a freestanding body usually meant to address or oppose a particular issue A commission is a government body that has charge of a particular area of functioning, or a group appointed by government to study or oversee an event or issue. Youth may be included on boards, commissions, or committees with full membership, with limited membership, in an advisory capacity, or as members of board committees, but not of the full board.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Why include youth on boards, committees, and other similar bodies? Your board can gain insight into the youth perspective on issues and on its actions. Youth can bring new and creative ideas. Youth can inject new life into your board. Board membership can make youth more conscious of and knowledgeable about community issues and the larger factors that affect their – and others’ – lives. Youth board membership makes your group more inclusive and participatory. Having teen board members is more likely to convince community youth to participate in your organization or support your positions.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Why include youth on boards, committees, and other similar bodies? (cont.) By including youth on your board, you’re making a statement to the community about their importance and about their ability to contribute. As a result of their interactions with youth board members, adults on the board may develop more positive attitudes toward young people. You can increase the credibility of your group, both among youth and in the community in general, by acting on your principles. If you’re a grassroots organization or initiative, having a diverse board that includes youth membership is likely to be consistent with your philosophy. You’re encouraging youth leadership and developing the next generation of community leaders.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Challenges to including youth on boards: Youth may need help with meeting skills. Most youth simply don’t have the background of knowledge and experience that most adult board members do. Young people may be hesitant about speaking out, and may need lots of encouragement before they’re comfortable enough to feel that their opinions are valued. Adolescents – even those that are generally quite mature – can be impulsive. Incorporating youth members takes time. Adult board members may have to change their assumptions about what youth are capable of. While youths may be better advocates for the organization or initiative with other youth, they may have less credibility in the community with adults, especially those who are more conservative.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas When is a good time to add youth members or representatives? When you’re starting a new organization or initiative, especially – but not limited to – one that addresses youth and youth issues. When youth are not responding well to a program or initiative aimed at them. When youth board members are a condition of funding. When you need the youth perspective. When you want to demonstrate – to youth, to the community, and/or to your board – that you believe in the abilities of youth to take responsibility if they’re given the opportunity. When you want to empower a youth constituency. When you want to prepare youth to take community leadership positions. When members of the board request it.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Who should be involved in including youth on boards and committees? Educational efforts Local and state school boards. Colleges and universities. Private, alternative, and charter schools. Adult literacy programs (many serve out-of-school youth). Youth-oriented or youth-focused efforts Peer counseling and peer tutoring programs. Recreational programs (teen centers, skate parks, sports leagues and programs). Prevention programs targeting risk behaviors (ie. delinquency, violence, tobacco and substance use, suicide, teen pregnancy and STI prevention efforts). Service providers to homeless and other at-risk youth. Service learning and youth community service programs.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Who should be involved in including youth on boards and committees? Community or larger-focused efforts that include youth as one of several targets or constituencies Community building efforts or organizations. Health promotion or healthy community initiatives. Health providers – hospitals, clinics, mental health centers. Anti-poverty, anti-crime, or similar broad efforts. Human service organizations. State and local government agencies concerned with youth. Legal restrictions may limit youth to a representative or advisory role on these boards. Employment boards.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Young people who might be recruited as board members Those who are already active in sports, scouting, church groups, etc. Youth who want to be involved, and/or who volunteer. Youth with real leadership potential, including some who might be seen as “troublemakers.” Youth with first-hand knowledge of the issues and population you’re concerned with, such as: Current or former gang members. Runaways or “emancipated minors” (the legal term for kids who’ve been thrown out by their parents) who live or have lived on the street. Youth who’ve been involved with the courts. Youth with direct or close secondhand (through relatives or close friends) experience of the issue the organization deals with or with street life in general.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas Young people who might be recruited as board members (cont.) Youth with first-hand knowledge of the issues and population you’re concerned with, such as: Successful graduates of substance abuse programs. Youth who have, or are working to, overcome academic difficulties or learning disabilities. Youth who have been abused or have struggled with dysfunctional family situations. Youth currently or formerly in foster care. Adoptees. Youth whose families have been homeless. Recipients of your services, participants in your program, or potential beneficiaries of your initiative.
Copyright © 2014 by The University of Kansas How do you engage youth on boards and committees? Decide whether you want youth members or representatives on your board. Determine the niche you expect the young member(s) to fill. Assess the readiness of your board to incorporate youth members. Prepare as a board to accept youth members. Recruit youth board members. Train new youth board members. Support youth board members. Employ youth board members. Monitor and evaluate the experience. Incorporate what you’ve learned from evaluation, and continue to include youth on your board.
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