Sunday, October 19, 2008

Open Mics/Booksignings 2008

What's In It For Us?

The following is an excerpt from my piece on how to motivate younger people to get involved in neighborhodd and community partcipation....

In addressing youth neighborhood and community participation, theory and practice can work well together when both the researcher and practitioner (youth advocates, counselors, activists, etc.) focus on application and relevance. Urban communities already have a distrust for outsiders who come in only to exploit their social dilemmas, so it is crucial that we not only form strong, lasting bonds with potential youth participants, but that we also place our theories directly in line with their agendas or mission while offering them the support they need. Theories about youth development can drive decisions about their level of involvement. It is therefore worth keeping in mind that youth participation relates to youth development and autonomy; that having a strong sense of self equals a strong, self-reliant neighborhood. Language is another important factor. The researcher must remember to keep the message plain and direct, so as to avoid intimidating or confusing his or her populace for ethical considerations are not limited to theoretical standards. They also point to the respecting of cultural and economical realties, along with the need for young people to have a say in the manner in which they view community participation. Just as they ought to open their minds to the process of gathering information, studying patterns then forming an hypothesis, theorists should identify potential young leaders and their adult supporters, point to the specific obstacles that tend to block youth participation, look for untapped resources that are right in the community, encourage schools and community colleges to join in on the participation, become more creative in matters regarding neighborhood involvement and compensation, and expose these same young people to neighborhoods and communities that already have a success rate of youth participation as a kind of blueprint they can work from or towards. Our youth already know what to do. They simply need our help in showing them how to go about it. And we already know what outcome we want. We simply need their help in showing us how to get there. On their terms!