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Building a Youth-Inclusive Space

Our intergenerational youth-focused network is made up of high schoolers, young adults, early- and mid-career Mainers, and retired folks. Here are our tips on how to best support a space that is inclusive of youth.

  1. Be clear. When there are people with a range of experiences in a group, it’s helpful to clearly share information, and make no assumptions about the knowledge that others may have. For example, lots of work within education and nonprofits uses acronyms. Introducing an acronym, and sharing a bit about its context, goes a long way. 

  2. Share information. Make sure that all members are on the same page and ready to contribute by providing context, necessary background information, and using clear language, so that everyone is ready to contribute. Plus, incorporating space for questions (there are no bad questions!) is a crucial piece of knowledge-sharing that can ensure that all participants feel ready to contribute. It’s helpful for many members, youth or otherwise! 

  3. Make space for humanity. Many youth-centered spaces invite the sharing of emotions and time for games and activities as a way to allow people to show up as their full selves and create the conditions for positive working relationships. Icebreaker activities, music, and affirmations are some ways to build a culture of shared humanity, with space for real emotions as well as fun.

  4. W.A.I.T. Are you an adult who has been talking a lot in a meeting? Next time you have something you want to say, step back and ask yourself Why Am I Talking (W.A.I.T.)? Check out the handy guide below.

  5. Allow space. In meetings, it is great to have a little quiet space in between people talking—it gives time for thought and reflection, from which important questions can arise. Don’t speak just to fill space.

  6. Be aware of power. Pay attention to how often you are speaking, and step back to let others, who might be less outgoing or experienced, have room to talk. Dynamics related to race, age, and gender are important to keep in mind, so that we can work together to create spaces to counterbalance unequal power.

  7. Break out! Small groups (i.e. breakout rooms) can be a useful tool to make speaking in a group less intimidating. Sharing ideas first in smaller groups before a larger discussion can ensure that everyone gets a chance to have their voice heard.

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