Helpful tips to involve youth on community boards

Successful boards include youth members as a way to encourage organizational diversity in decision making.

Young people don’t have to wait until they’re adults to become active citizens. According to the University of Tennessee Extension publication Youth in Governance, young people need more opportunities to have their voices heard on governance issues. Including youth serving on community boards is one way that youth can be active citizens. It also reinforces the idea that youth have the talent and ability to be decision makers and change agents.

Successful community-based youth organizations create new pathways for youth civic engagement by involving young people in organizational decision making. These organizations orient programming to create strong, caring relationships between young people and adults, and to ensure meaningful involvement of young people in all aspects of an organization’s structures and programs.

The UT Extension publication lists seven steps to properly include youth on a community board: 

  1. Assess the readiness of the board by ensuring that board members are willing to have flexible meeting times, and that they have the attitude of working with, and not for, youth. 
  2. Prepare the board for youth members by working together to create a vision for what can be accomplished with youth members.  This can be done by discussing the positive qualities of youth. 
  3. Create a youth position on the board through By-Laws or other operations procedures and select the youth members in the same method that adults are selected.
  4. Consider consulting an attorney to determine how the board would handle youth membership in the event that confidential or matters requiring adult votes arise.  
  5. Recruit youth for the vacancies by promoting the opportunity locally at schools, other youth organizations, media outlets, and through the groups’ adult membership and/or stakeholders. 
  6. Select both adult and youth candidates by using a process that includes interviews, references, and represents diversity and a desire to advocate and provide a confident voice.
  7. Finally, using a strategic planning process, matched board responsibilities with skills of all individuals, commonly called a personal skills inventory or asset map.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension can offer board training and planning to assist in the value of incorporating youth on boards as well as parliamentary procedure basics for effective meetings for youth and adults. To learn more about this and other programs contact an expert in your area, visit people.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). 

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