[Guest Blog] Ways to involve Youth in Community Development

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March 9, 2014

By Uddy Orizu

Niger Delta Community Development & the Youth

The combined action of each community member is what defines it. Their collective actions allow residents of all ages and backgrounds to be part of in the creation and implementation of efforts to support local change. Through this interaction, an entity is created whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

While much of the attention given to building local capacities is often focused toward adults, youth are an increasingly visible and active component in community development efforts. Such involvement contributes to both the development of community and the social and psychological development of the youth involved. To encourage youth involvement in the community, it is vital to understand the influences, motivations, obstacles, and feedback that they receive from the community.

Youth Involvement Motivations

There are a variety of reasons for volunteering or becoming active in their communities. These have included practical assessments of their activities, such as: to meet school requirements or as an entry to a desired job. Some of these reasons can also be the result of more practical conditions, such as a need to develop job contacts and enhance existing skills.

In the Niger Delta region where employment opportunities are limited, voluntary activities can offer a valuable alternative to paid employment and help the individual build/ raise self-esteem, social responsibility and experience

Surely organizations working in this region can create even volunteer opportunities for young people. It is a “win-win” for the organizations as they have more hands to execute their projects and the cost is considerably lower (typically a low monthly stipend), and with time volunteers will have enough experience to be integrated in to the organization and this would result in a cost-benefit for the organization instead of the high cost of recruiting and training of a new staff.

Obstacles to Youth Involvement

Despite the influences and motivations, significant obstacles exist that inhibit, and often discourage, community activeness among youth.

The leading obstacles include not being taken seriously, not being asked, and not being assigned or having an identifiable role. Other challenges to youth involvement in communities include a lack of communication and awareness of opportunities, turf issues among organizations competing for youth participants, youth fears of speaking out, lack of diversity, and the systematic mistreatment of young people simply because of their age.

To this end, the extent to which youth can contribute to the decision making process of organizations and play an active role in program development is important in shaping youth involvement.

Youth Involvement and Feedback

The views and opinions of others, namely authority figures, can greatly influence youth community involvement. Youth report a greater likelihood of becoming involved if their participation is valued by parents, teachers, community leaders, etc.

The increasing presence of youth in the development process and the establishment of youth-adult partnerships have created an environment where communities are more receptive. The active involvement of youth highlights their value and provides an opportunity to erase negative stereotypes.

There are a lot of negative stereotypes about young people;, yes they may like loud music or move around in groups; yes they may not have as much experience as the adults but don’t forget the adults today where the young people of yesterday, and all it takes is a chance for a young person make an impression. Globally young people have made significant contributions to the world form the founders of Facebook to the founder of cell phone retailer Svyaznoy.

So let’s give the young people in Niger Delta a chance.

Source: Youth Involvement in Community Development: Implications and Possibilities for Extension M.A. Brennan, Rosemary V. Barnett, and Eboni Baugh.





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