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Five Elements of Successful Youth Commissions


In studying Youth Commissions and Youth Advisory Councils all over California, the Collaborative Governance Initiative has identified five elements that successful youth commissions and advisory councils share in common:

  1. Motivated adult staff with time to support youth leadership, development, and empowerment and to connect youth to local decision makers.
  2. Diverse members who represent all the different geographic neighborhoods, ethnicities, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds in the community. This makes the youth commission more credible to decision makers and gives people valuable experience working with others from different backgrounds, an important skill notable to colleges and employers.
  3. An appropriate budget- for training and skills development, projects and activities, to pay staff, and, where possible and appropriate, to give youth members stipends.
  4. Youth ownership- the budget, project selection, and meeting agenda should be “owned” by the youth members. The best results happen when youth decide themselves what to do and they carry it out with the support- not direction- of staff.
  5. Access to decision makers- youth commissioners need access to information and decision makers in order to be able to give useful input. Staff and officials working on youth related issues may wish to attend youth commission meetings, and youth commissioners should be invited to participate in council or commission meetings.

Over 100 Sacramento area youth commissioners and advisory council members were presented with this list of essential elements at a Teen Leadership Summit on April 25th. They discussed some additional key elements that they considered essential to their success as youth commissioners:

  • Talk to others to get outside opinions
  • Involve local youth who are passionate about helping their community
  • Have enough members – 15 might be a good number?
  • Public support- from organizations and individuals in the community
  • Good outreach – a way to let people know what is going on

Look for a more developed list of elements of successful youth commissions in CGI’s upcoming Local Official’s Guide to Developing Effective Youth Commissions, due out by early 2010.

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