n Commonwealth Youth and Development - Putting youth engagement into practice : a toolkit for action

Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1727-7140



The purpose of this toolkit, Putting youth engagement into practice: a toolkit for action, is to assist organisations and institutions to find ways of bringing in young people as genuine partners in their work. The aim is to open up a dialogue as a way of assessing where we are and where we can go. In doing so, we will be able to create opportunities for young people to play meaningful roles at an operational level as well as in the decision-making structures of organisations by making young people part of their governance.

Terms such as 'youth engagement' and 'youth participation' have found widespread acceptance but they are not straightforward: there is no agreement about who is covered by the term 'youth'. There is no universally agreed definition of youth and the age definitions differ from one society to another. Nor is there agreement on what 'youth participation' entails and so it can range from tokenistic efforts of consultation to youth-led projects. The expectations of what young people are capable of also differ from one organisation to the next.

In this contribution, we have adopted a pragmatic approach, based on the understanding that most established organisations do not have young people under the age of 30 in leadership roles. People under the age of 30 do not participate meaningfully in the operational and governance structures as equals (in this context, 30 is an arbitrary cut-off point, used simply as a representative guide to help us identify young people whom we want to bring into our organisations). For many organisations, this may be higher, and for others, the emphasis may be on much younger groups. In some cases, depending on the work that an organisation does, this group involves young people who are categorised of children. With the right support, they too can be brought into the culture and the institutional structures of our organisations.

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