Youth protesting climate change

Youth voice refers to the distinct ideas, opinions, attitudes, knowledge, and actions of young people as a collective body.[1] The term youth voice often groups together a diversity of perspectives and experiences, regardless of backgrounds, identities, and cultural differences. It is frequently associated with the successful application of a variety of youth development activities, including service learning,[2] youth research,[3] and leadership training.[4] Additional research has shown that engaging youth voice is an essential element of effective organizational development among community and youth-serving organizations.[5]


Many youth organizations and community activities cite youth voice as an important factor to their successful operations.[6] Many organizations, for example, consult young people when developing programs, products, or services designed for young people, or ensure that young people serve on decision making boards. In addition, youth serving organizations often provide opportunities and platforms to elevate youth voice--inviting young program participants to share their perspectives on institutional websites or social media channels.[7] The field of positive youth development also promotes youth voice by striving to inspire confidence and social engagement for young people.[8] Examples of school-oriented youth voice efforts include the VicSRC, an Australian student voice organization.[9]

Other examples include:


A broad international movement exists to promote youth voice, born from earlier youth service and youth rights movements.[17] The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first international mechanism to stipulate the systemic engagement of youth voice. Specific aims are stated in Articles 5 and 12 that clearly acknowledge the youth have a voice, that youth voice is constantly changing, and that all areas of our society are morally responsible for engaging youth voice. Annual events which center on youth voice include Global Youth Service Day and the National Service Learning Conference.


Ephebiphobia and adultism have been identified as the factors preventing widespread recognition of youth voice throughout communities.[18] Additionally, it is commonly acknowledged that "little quantitative research has been conducted regarding the issue of youth voice",[19] while the qualitative research on youth voice is often seen as minimally effective, as well, due to a limited scope focused on youth participation in decision-making and opinion-sharing.[20][21]

Other common pitfalls associated with youth voice are tokenism and unethical storytelling practices that use the voices, ideas, and stories of young people in exploitative ways. Though not focused specifically on youth voice, Hart's Ladder of Participation provides an illustration of youth engagement—from the bottom rung of "manipulation" to the top rung where "decision making is shared between youth and adults working as equal partners."

Youth voice also faces criticism from the youth rights movement that it does not go far enough, or that it is using youth. Critics claim that youth voice advocates only advance a shallow analysis of ageism and propose solutions that do not go far enough to give youth any substantive power in society. Coupled with youth service this can lead to young people being pressured to help fix adult problems without ever addressing the problems youth face.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Fletcher, A. (2006) Washington Youth Voice Handbook: The what, who, why, where, when, and how youth voice happens. Olympia, WA: CommonAction.
  2. ^ Garvey, J., McIntyre-Craig, C., & Myers, C. (2000). "Youth voice: The essential element of service-learning," In C. Myers and M. Bellener (Eds.) Embedding service-learning into teacher education: Issue briefs. Indianapolis, IN: The Center for Youth as Resources.
  3. ^ Kirshner, B., O'Donoghue, J., & McLaughlin, M. (2005) "Youth-adult research collaborations: Bringing youth voice to the research process," In J. L. Mahoney & R. W. Larson (Eds.) Organized activities as contexts of development: Extracurricular activities, after-school and community programs. (pp. 131-156): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
  4. ^ Bruce, J., Nicola, S. & Menke, T. (2006) "Listening to the Youth Voice in Planning Leadership Development Programs," Journal of Extension. 446. December 2006.
  5. ^ Zeldin, S. (2004) "Youth as Agents of Adult and Community Development: Mapping the Processes and Outcomes of Youth Engaged in Organizational Governance ," Applied Development Science. 8(2), pp 75-90.
  6. ^ Fletcher, A. (2006) Washington Youth Voice Handbook Olympia, WA: CommonAction(2006)
  7. ^ "Give Young People a Platform—They Have Insights to Share and Stories to Tell". International Youth Foundation. 2020-02-25. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  8. ^ Lerner, R.M.; Almerigi, J.B.; Theokas, C.; Lerner, J.V. (2005). "Positive Youth Development". Journal of Early Adolescence. 25 (1): 10–16. doi:10.1177/0272431604273211. S2CID 145603300.
  9. ^ Fletcher, A. (2005) Stories of meaningful student involvement. Bothell, WA: HumanLinks Foundation.
  10. ^ Tackett, W. (2005) "A new perspective: an evaluation of youth by youth," Reclaiming Children and Youth. 14(1). pp 5-13.
  11. ^ Campbell, S. (1996) Youth Issues, Youth Voices: A guide for engaging youth and adults in public dialogue and problem-solving. Washington, DC: Study Circles Resource Center.
  12. ^ Driskell, D. (2002) Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth: A Manual for Participation. Earthscan.
  13. ^ Boudin, K., et al. (2005) Letters from Young Activists: Today's Rebels Speak Out. Nation Books.
  14. ^ Mandel, L. (2005) "Youth voices as change agents: moving beyond the medical model in school-based health center practice," Journal of School Health. 75(7) pp 239-243.
  15. ^ Chasnoff, S.& Wheeler, J. (2009) "[Youth media against violence "Youth Media Reporter: Youth Media against Violence". Archived from the original on March 10, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2010.]" Youth Media Reporter
  16. ^ Gillen, D., Johnson, M., & Sinykin, J. (2006) Giving Voice to the Leader Within; Practical Ideas and Actions for Parents and Adults Who Work with Young People. Syren Book Company.
  17. ^ Fletcher, A. (2004) "The Youth Voice Movement: A New Vision for the Future, or a Lost Dream of the Past?" Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine The Generator, Spring 2004.
  18. ^ Felix, A. (2003) Making Youth Voice a Community Principle Archived February 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Youth Service Journal, October 2003, Youth Service America.
  19. ^ Ellis, J., & Caldwell, L. L. (2001). "Increasing youth voice through participation in a recreation-based teen center" Archived December 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. College Park, PA: Author.
  20. ^ Beilenson, J. (1993). "Looking for young people, listening for youth voice." Social Policy, 241, pp 8–13.
  21. ^ Jones, K. & Perkins, D. (2005) "Determining the Quality of Youth-Adult Relationships Within Community-Based Youth Programs", Journal of Extension. 43(5).
  22. ^ Koroknay-Palicz, Alex. "A Critique of the Youth Service Movement" Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. [Weblog entry.] One and Four. 14 Feb 2006. 4 Feb 2007.