New Report: Strategies for Incorporating Youth Leadership into Program Design

A wide body of research points to the importance of authentic youth participation and leadership. Identifying opportunities to cultivate these areas is critical to promote the well-being of youth individually and to prepare youth to contribute more fully as stakeholders in their communities.

However, there is often a gap between the intentions of promoting youth voice, and what is implemented in reality. Further, while some progress has been made in improving these domains, longitudinal data from both school-year and summer partners in Boston suggest that there is room for improvement in cultivating these important areas.

In response, Boston After School & Beyond commissioned a report to better understand the youth experience in the areas of youth leadership and responsibility, and choice and autonomy. Conducted by Health Resources in Action, our new Policy and Practice Brief below offers practical strategies and recommendations, detailed and stratified by age group, on engaging youth in authentic participation and leadership.

The report was derived from focus groups and key informant interviews from 40 youth representing eight program partners of Boston After School & Beyond. Many thanks to the following organizations for their leadership and help generating youth input for the practice brief: America SCORES Boston, The Boston Area Health Education Center (BAHEC), Breakthrough Greater Boston, Sociedad Latina, The Steppingstone Foundation, and UMass Boston (Project REACH, Upward Bound, Urban Scholars Program).


Headlines from Youth Feedback:

  • Youth of all ages spoke highly about their program experiences.
  • Youth seek to be active agents in their learning.
  • Youth found program staff to be caring and approachable.
  • Advanced planning by program leaders is needed to incorporate youth voice into program design.
  • Youth identified concrete recommendations for programs to promote youth leadership, choice, and autonomy in the following three areas:
    • Increasing opportunities for and awareness of youth leadership and choice;
    • Engaging youth in informing design and structure; and
    • Soliciting and incorporating youth feedback.

To read the full report and the specific age-level recommendations, please download and view the full report below.