Volunteers and Your Partnership - Giving Young People a Go

If your partnership is lucky enough to have involvement or interest from young people, it is important they are given a chance to meaningfully contribute to your arrangement.

Often, when community groups or those in partnership arrangements look around for people to help out – for example, in leadership positions, in volunteering or in other situations - they overlook young people.

That can be a big mistake, as young people can make up some of the most enthusiastic talent pools you can work with to benefit your partnership.

Some of the assets of working with and involving young people in roles in your partnership include:
  • It can strengthen and regenerate your partnership through the injection of young people.
  • It can bring in new ideas, new energy and the enthusiasm only young people can bring.
  • It can result in a new perspective on the partnership – where it is currently and where it could go in the future.
    • Through this, it can see young people challenge the "traditional" ways of your partnership's operations – and often with good reason if your methods of operation haven't evolved or moved with the times.
  • It can have a snowballing effect – attracting young people can see more young people become interested in your partnership activities and operation. This can further multiplying the benefits.
  • It can also prepare a new generation of leaders, young people who are prepared to stand up and get involved in community activities.
Having input from young people becomes especially important when your partnership services a youth-orientated market, or holds projects or events attractive to young people in particular. In these cases they need to have input from the people they are aiming to help to assist them in setting priorities and solutions.

Ways to Foster and Improve Youth Involvement

As with any volunteers, staff or members there are certain responsibilities and requirements involved in recruiting, screening and training young people so they can perform a valuable role and best utilise their skills.

But there are also some extra, youth-specific measures you may want to consider:
  • Ensure your partnership and its members are welcoming to young people and that marketing and recruitment initiatives include or target young people.
  • Consider appointing a youth coordinator/young person's representative to take responsibility for any younger members of your partnership and to provide feedback and address concerns.
  • Work with young people, or the youth coordinator, to identify the areas where their involvement would be best utilised.
  • Set clear goals and guidelines so young people better understand what your group is about, its duties and responsibilities.
  • Think about budgeting for any extra training to prepare and expand their leadership skills.
  • Be flexible - allow scope in your organisation and procedures to back new projects and suggestions.
  • Make sure there is feedback and encouragement to maintain enthusiasm.
  • Set in motion proper planning and information sharing procedures, including making sure there is awareness of health and safety, risk management and any emergency systems or plans. Also make sure parental or guardian consent is forthcoming when needed.
  • Ensure young people are not just categorised in the "youth section" of your partnership. Consider giving them broader involvement and responsibilities across all sections of your partnership.
  • Value young people's input as you would any member of your group. Don't talk down to young people, or treat them with a lack of respect because of their youth. Treat them and their constructive opinions with the respect afforded to older members.
  • Consider providing a mentor to a young volunteer for an initial period of time (ie. three months) to add to their learning experience.