8 Top Tips to Engage Young People with Your Social Mission
20 February 2014 at 10:08 am
CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Jan Owen AM – the AFR and Westpac Group Woman of Influence in 2012 – shares her insights into what the community sector can do to encourage and engage young people.
Through a diverse and rich portfolio of initiatives, FYA helps unleash the brilliance, and potential of young people as changemakers for the social and economic benefit of our communities.
1. Find the Personal Connection
Ask what drives an individual young person – most people have a personal experience which feeds their desire to make a difference. It could be their school, parents, or peer group that supports and enables them. Connect with that desire and the support system that will mobilise a young person to take action.
2. Create Compelling Content
Through the click of a button, young people have access to infinite amounts of information across a variety of digital channels: websites, YouTube, social media among them. With vast waves of arresting material competing for a young person’s time and attention, community organisations should consider how to work with young people to create content that ignites hearts and minds and draws people to your work.
3. Help Them to Find Their Tribe
Being a part of something greater than oneself rarely means doing it alone. Whether as an employee, campaigner, or volunteer, young people want to find like-minded people who pursue an ideal with passion and purpose, and where there is a place for meaningful contribution. Creating a tribe of young people who want to work with you means welcoming new ways of thinking, operating and communicating.
4. Respond to Their Sense of Urgency
Immediacy is part of the DNA of today’s youth. Massive ideas that take too long to realise don’t appeal. Young people want to make real and positive change in the here and now, and move on to the next important issue. Even small actions that harness their hope and allow them to make a difference means they can add their footprint to the journey. If they love what you do, they’ll keep walking with you (but they might prefer to run!).
5. Get Out of the Way
This means being willing to disrupt the status quo and let young people lead the way. With the blessing of Rotary Australia, 22-year-old Holly Ransom was given authority to re-envision a rotary club to appeal to under 30s. She became the world’s youngest Rotary president, of Western Australia’s largest club, now a prototype for Rotary clubs around the world. Backing young people and giving them the tools AND resources enables them to make real change.
6. Add to their Portfolio of Skills
The next generation of workers are amassing skills and a capabilities, not long service leave. They will experience a number of careers and organisations over their lifetime. Their stop with you should be rewarding because they have been enriched by new knowledge, skills and networks.
Aviva Leitch chose the graduate program at Westpac as her entry point to the corporate world. “I wanted to experience a range of projects, broaden my experience, test my skills, and work in a business with values that aligned with mine.” Now Aviva has taken on the opportunity of co-ordinating Westpac’s Graduate Community Consulting Program, a voluntary role in addition to her employment.
7. Get Your Staff Up to Speed
To keep up with the rapidly changing environment in which young people meet, interact, design, communicate and operate, staff in your organisation may need retraining to work with, and alongside, young people more effectively. Start by finding a young person to mentor you. As well as employing a large number of under 30s at FYA, Jan also has younger mentors for herself, who help her lead the community she serves.
8. Develop Meaningful Partnerships
Your organisation won’t deliver everything a young person is looking to engage with. Organisations who collaborate and partner can create more pathways for youth engagement, and importantly greater social impact.
The great news for Not for Profits is that the 4 million young people in Australia are unleashing their potential and finding their social purpose at an earlier age than ever before. That’s 4 million reasons to open the doors to them.
Jan Owen was awarded The Australian Financial Review and Westpac Group overall Woman of Influence 2012. Jan was also a judge for the inaugural Westpac Community Leaders Awards 2013.
For more on Foundation for Young Australians
For more on Westpac Group Graduate Programs