How can leaders in industry include young people in the decision-making processes that will shape their futures? What might it look like for businesses and government agencies to regard the next generation as key to long-term strategy and sustainability? What does it take to build partnerships with youth that are both reciprocal and insightful? And what do young people themselves have to say about the ways in which they want to contribute?
Leaders in both the public and private sectors have increasingly acknowledged not only the responsibility they have to ensure youth are represented in decision-making, but also the promise youth engagement holds for bridging generational gaps in perspective. As the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society has found, youth engagement offers a wealth of insight for companies hoping to design more relevant and inclusive innovations, navigate a complex and dynamic technological world, and identify organizational blind spots. Likewise, young people themselves have expressed a growing interest to be actively consulted on issues that are of importance to them. From climate change to diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, youth are increasingly voicing their questions, concerns, and hopes about the future.
This raises the question: What does meaningful youth engagement look like in practice? What types of models, programs, spaces, and methodologies do youth find most valuable, and which might be most appropriate for a given company’s specific context? Research from the Youth and Media team has identified fifteen models of youth engagement, each with its own goals, purposes, levels of commitment, durations, and modalities.
Results from Youth and Media’s work shows that, across models, youth are interested in participating and sharing their perspectives and ideas with others, but the findings also make clear that engaging youth is not a simple undertaking; most engagement models require a great deal of investment, thought, and energy both from the company (and its employees) and the young people involved. While no one model is a panacea, this report serves as a starting point for business and government leaders to thoughtfully experiment with engaging youth – building, iterating, and expanding upon their efforts over time.