Young People Have Great Ideas
Young people’s unique perspectives and sense of urgency are valuable assets for communities and can help generate new and innovative solutions. At MYAN, we collaborate with young people to develop their voices and support them to be a part of the decision-making process.
Community Research for Policy Change
We pilot a series of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) programs—a model where young people research deeply into issues they care about, identify possible solutions and present their findings to lawmakers, school boards, and other decision-making adults. Rooted in the same positive youth development principles that inform all our programming, YPAR recognizes that youth are competent and their perspectives are important for building knowledge and solutions to social or public health issues. The last step of the YPAR model has young people translate their research into social action—presenting their findings and solutions to community leaders.
Young people are trained to conduct research that improves their lives, communities, and sometimes the institutions serving them. These projects identify unmet community needs and use qualitative methods to gather the stories and perspectives of those directly impacted. This work defines “policy” and “change” broadly, spans a wide range of topics, and results in a variety of recommendations to improve existing structures or enact new approaches.
MYAN directly facilitates several demonstration projects using the YPAR model. Learn more about Portland-area youth interested in educational equity here.
Across the state, MYAN’s network partners facilitate youth-driven research projects focusing on schools, towns, and even entire public health districts. Referred to as Youth Policy Boards, these projects focus on topics related to adolescent mental health, substance use prevention, and bullying/harassment prevention.
Youth Health Council
Through statewide representation, the Youth Health Council leverages a Youth Participation Action Research (YPAR) model to investigate public health issues, generate solutions and implement initiatives. Youth members research community health needs through a variety of methods while partnering with adults who work and/or live in the communities. This collaborative approach targets the root causes of public health issues and develops solutions to inform future policy decisions.
Community building is central to this process. Every team member brings valuable experiences to the Council. Through an intentional investment in relationships, the group ensures opportunities for individual expertise to surface. Combined with the team’s research work, this process primes us for collective problem-solving and action.
The team will lead with curiosity to determine the root causes of the issues, who are being most impacted, what are the barriers to addressing it, and what could help solve the problem. By investigating the root causes of public health issues, young people can develop innovative, upstream solutions to challenges they, and their peers, are facing. Mental health, commercial tobacco use, substance use prevention, and food insecurity persistently and negatively impact the wellness of communities across Maine. The Youth Health Council is determined to create the solutions they know are needed!
Young People’s Caucus
The Young People’s Caucus is the result of a partnership between Maine state representative Victoria Morales, YCE, and MYAN. The Young people’s Caucus (YPC) was created as a response to the under-representation of young voices in state policymaking, with the goal of helping lawmakers and decision-makers be more aware of the value in youth perspectives—their beliefs, insights, solutions, and ideas—as an essential piece to creating policies that address everyone’s needs.
The YPC is facilitated by the Youth Leadership Group—young people passionate about social justice and making change within their communities and the state of Maine. The Youth Leadership Group hones their skills in facilitation through short training workshops focused on building communication and elevating the voices of other young people.
At each Young People’s Caucus event, groups of young people with distinct lived experiences from across Maine join the Youth Leadership Group to present on the issues that matter most to them, such as juvenile justice, child welfare, education, and dozens more. Together, they provide their expertise, policy suggestions, and unique insights to major decision-makers such as the Department of Education, Governor’s Commissioners, legislators, representatives, lobbyists, and community members.
We are delighted to share the 2020/21 Young People’s Caucus Report! Authored by Cutler Institute’s Youth & Community Engagement (YCE) team at the University of Southern Maine, this report features a brief history of the initiative, program insights, and the achievements of youth and adults who led the work. Learn about the critical role young people play in shaping a better tomorrow – including through continued work with the Maine Children’s Cabinet!
Champion Youth Voice in Your Community
Connect with MYAN staff to learn more about bringing this Restorative Practices model to your school or community!