Maximize the effect of advisory groups in youth-serving organizations

Using 4-H as an example, explore suggestions to maximize impact of youth-serving advisory groups.

4-H programs across the United States utilize local 4-H advisory groups to guide local programming efforts. Advisory groups connect staff with clientele, advise on community needs and assist in raising awareness and funds to support local programming efforts. Given the increased pressure on 4-H programs to become more current, relevant and open to all, these advisory groups must adequately represent communities and be positioned to discuss program growth to new audiences.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development utilizes seven guiding principles to shape the work of our programming. These guiding principles put a high value in involving youth in their own development and decision making. The third and fourth Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles reads, “Youth are actively engaged in their own development,” and, “Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.” By involving youth in 4-H advisory groups, we are equipping them with skills for their future, helping them establish relationships with adults and giving them a voice in programming created with youth in mind.

In cooperation with 4-H staff, advisory groups, councils and committees should:

  • Support the mission and policies of 4-H programs at state, national and local levels
  • Have a stated purpose and defined responsibilities
  • Be comprised of at least equal membership of youth and adults, emphasizing youth in decision making roles
  • Identify needs to enhance county programming
  • Set goals for the county program
  • Raise and allocate resources for the support of programming objectives
  • Publicize and advocate for 4-H
  • Represent the local community demographics by participation of people of various ages, genders, ethnicities, etc.

In order to accomplish these goals, advisory group leadership or 4-H staff might consider the following suggestions:

  • Engage stakeholders in a dialogue that establishes support for change
  • Establish bylaws outlining the structure and purpose of the advisory group
  • Develop job descriptions for roles of members, officers and committee members
  • Provide an orientation to the purpose of the advisory group annually or when new members are brought on board
  • Implement term limits to encourage the introduction of new members and ideas
  • Train members in youth-adult partnerships to maximize youth voice
  • Include members without first-hand experience in 4-H in order to better connect to the broader community and bring in new ideas
  • Include members without first-hand experience in 4-H in order to better connect to the broader community and bring in new ideas

While these best practices were designed for 4-H programs, the principles may be applied to any youth-serving organization advisory group. For assistance in implementing any of these ideas with your youth-serving advisory group, please contact Michigan State Univesity (MSU) Extension, or specifically .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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