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Youth development through youth participation

“Youth participation isn’t difficult,” asserts Anne Carter, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Youth Affairs. “All it takes is the will to make it happen.”
Anne says we can all contribute to the positive development of young people by creating opportunities for them to influence, inform, shape, design, and contribute to, an idea or activity. “Getting people and organisations enthused about and committed to youth development is Youth Affairs’ goal."
Being involved in decision-making and learning by doing allows young people to positively contribute to communities. Opportunities to partner with adults on real issues shows young people that they, and their skills, ideas and views, are valued. Their contribution also helps ensure that policies, services and programmes meet their needs. Adults as well as young people can gain new skills and experience through youth participation.

Keepin' it real

To help government agencies and community-based organisations involve young people, Youth Affairs has produced Keepin’ it real. This is a how-to guide to youth participation, particularly in decision-making.
“ We developed Keepin’ it real for organisations who want to start or increase youth participation,” says Anne. “It’s an easy-to-read guide with practical examples, and is suitable for a wide range of audiences.”
This youth participation guide stems from the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa, which was launched by the Minister of Youth Affairs in February 2002 as New Zealand’s first comprehensive youth strategy. It was developed as a policy platform for government so that initiatives and programmes that work with and for young people are shaped with youth development in mind.
Anne affirms that the Strategy is government’s pledge to young women and men aged 12 to 24 years inclusive that it will support them to develop the skills and attitudes they need to take part positively in society, now and in the future.

Developing youth

Youth development is about young people gaining a:

  • sense of contributing something of value to society
  • feeling of connection to others and to society
  • belief that they have choices about their future
  • feeling of being positive and comfortable with their own identity.

It’s about building strong connections and active involvement in all areas of life including:

  • family and whänau
  • schools, training institutions and workplaces
  • communities (e.g. sports, church and cultural groups)
  • peers.

It’s also about young people being involved and having a say in decisions that affect them, their family, their community and their country, and putting into practice and reviewing those decisions.
“ The Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa holds real promise for young New Zealanders, and Youth Affairs has a great role in leading its implementation," Anne says. “Our ongoing policy work and new initiatives will help advance the youth development approach to government decision-making and service delivery. When all of government implements youth development we will start to see real gains in well-being for the young people of Aotearoa.”