As the Coordinator for the Youth Engagement Initiative at the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health, my job involves working with a team of Youth Engagement Facilitators to ensure the youth voice is incorporated into projects and proposals that aim to influence the lives of youth and their peers. Our youth engagement facilitators are casual team members at CAMH, creating and implementing youth-led mental health projects, and engaging youth across Canada through their national committee. Projects include research studies related to youth mental health services and systems, as well as creating resources that better inform youth about the mental health and addictions services that are available and best suited to them.
What is youth engagement?Youth engagement is the meaningful inclusion of youth into conversations about policies and practices that affect the lives of youth and their peers, and it acknowledges that youth are key stakeholders in these discussions. Youth engagement provides meaningful outcomes not only to the participating youth, but also to adult allies, the organization and local communities.
Outcomes of youth engagement:
• Brings a new perspective to the work
• Increases effectiveness of programs
• Increases community connectedness
• … and many more!
It isn’t always easy to incorporate youth engagement principles into projects or events, and youth may be involved in varying levels depending on the opportunity. Let’s say you wanted to involve youth in a youth-focused conference you were planning. You could ask youth to help determine the agenda, select presenters, promote the conference, create content or even present material. Depending on the nature of the conference (target audience, timeline, stakeholders, resources, etc.), it may not be possible to do any of these. In this case, simply inviting youth to attend can be an important step in the direction of integrating youth engagement practices, as it can help facilitate knowledge exchange between youth and conference presenters and attendees.
Next in our series: We talk about our approach to youth engagement at the November 2016 #CundillatCAMH conference.
For more information on the Youth Engagement Initiative, please contact Samantha at email@example.com
Read the entire series:
Part 1: Youth Engagement at CAMH
Part 2: Youth Engagement at a CAMH Conference
Part 3: Youth Engagement in Research
Part 4: Knowledge Translation: A cornerstone of youth engagement work