Publications: The Role of Youth Organizations and Youth Movements for Social Change
As a part of its collaboration with the Born This Way Foundation,
the Berkman Center is publishing on this website a series of papers that synthesize
existing peer-reviewed research or equivalent scholarship and provide
research-grounded insight to the variety of stakeholders working on
issues related to youth empowerment and action towards creating a
kinder, braver world. This series, called the The Kinder & Braver
World Project: Research Series (danah boyd, John Palfrey,
and Dena Sacco, editors), is presented by the Born This Way Foundation & the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
This set of papers involves topics related to the Role of Youth Organizations and Youth Movements for Social Change.
The Value of Youth Organizing
by Jerusha Conner
Across the country, adolescents have become deeply involved in struggles for equity and social justice, as they work to promote a kinder, braver world. Although youth have long been leaders in social change efforts, today’s young people are increasingly supported in this work through youth organizing programs. This paper explains what youth organizing is, identifies four ways in which it benefits the young people involved, offers suggestions for mitigating any downsides of participation, and addresses barriers that youth organizing groups may face.
Youth and Social Movements: Key
Lessons for Allies
by Sasha Costanza-Chock
have much to learn from young people who are already engaged in mobilizing
their peers, families, and communities towards positive social transformation. This
paper discusses challenges, and provides recommendations for educators and
adult allies of youth movements.
Cultivating Young Women’s
Leadership for a Kinder, Braver World
by Anna Rorem and Dr. Monisha Bajaj
There is not much research
exploring leadership development and civic participation among youth, and even
less among young women. Policymakers and others seeking to
better serve youth in pursuit of a “kinder, braver world” should take into
account the research that does exist. This research indicates that
youth who engage in service to their communities learn leadership skills
through civic action and may be more likely to vote and be civically engaged as
adults. Youth who demonstrate leadership skills can, and should, be considered current assets to their communities.
Action Research Can Promote Social Change and Help Youth Development
by Cara Berg Powers and Erin Allaman
Action Research (PAR) is a process through which people investigate meaningful
social topics, participate in research to understand the root causes of
problems that directly impact them, and then take action to influence policies
through the dissemination of their findings to policymakers and stakeholders.
Like other types of youth organizing, PAR promotes youth’s involvement in their
communities and the development of leadership skills. It emphasizes the
development of young people’s knowledge, skills, and abilities to be experts on
issues of importance to them, and catalyze systemic change in collaboration
with their peers and supportive adults.
Engaging Youth, Serving
Community: Social Change Lessons from a 4-H Rural Youth Development Program
by Donna J. Peterson, Barbara A. Baker, JoAnne Leatherman, Michael E. Newman, and Sally Miske
Social change targeted at empowering youth requires
youth and adults to work together as equals. Youth-adult partnerships create a
platform to amplify youth voices. To succeed, youth-adult partnerships must be
built on open communication and equal voice. Using
a case study, this paper shares six broadly applicable
lessons learned through the Engaging Youth, Serving Community (ESYC) program.
Based on evaluation and understanding of the EYSC experience, it highlights
examples of how youth-adult partnerships can promote social change and civic
and Positive Development: Lessons Learned from a Century of Girl Scouting
by Kamla Modi, Judy Schoenberg, and Kallen Tsikalas of the Girl Scout Research Institute © 2012 Girl Scouts of the USA
its inception in 2000, the Girl Scout Research Institute has employed a
research-to-action approach so that insights from our work with girls and young
women can directly inform Girl Scouts of the USA’s program and policy
development, as well as impact the larger youth development field. In the last
decade, GSRI’s research and evaluation work has touched numerous organizations
in the public and private spheres, making a practical impact on the lives of
youth and providing other organizations with evidence needed to make a case for
their own work.
From early childhood to adolescence,
the arts can foster youth movements for social change through positive
development. Students who experience high levels of arts enrichment show
greater academic performance, enrollment in and graduation from high school and
college, civic and community service, news consumption, and engagement in local
politics. Moreover, participation in the arts—even as a spectator—predicts
increases in civic engagement, tolerance and altruism, regardless of age, race,
How to Engage Young People:
Lessons from Lowell, MA
by Sopheap Linda C. Sou, Darcie DeAngelo, Masada Jones, and Monica Veth
A youth organization’s success depends on young people’s participation within the local community. Many of the issues facing young people today reflect a poor engagement with community politics, cultural identity formation, and risk-taking behaviors based on that identity formation. The Teen Block was founded in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1990 with the goal of addressing these issues. Since that time, it has served over 8,000 young people, integrating social, behavioral, mental, and physical health.