How to Ensure the Most Vulnerable Youth Participate in Your Program

How to Ensure the Most Vulnerable Youth Participate in Your Program

youth outreach
Youth participants invite other youth to participate in program activities

The goal of Global Communities’ Sowing Futures program in Brazil is to “build the capacity of communities and local institutions to prioritize needs and mobilize resources that improve socio-economic conditions, particularly for at-risk youth.” The program, which is carried out in partnership with the John Deere Foundation, is tasked with reaching the most vulnerable youth in its target communities. A major component of this outreach entailed determining ways to ensure that the program is reaching out to and engaging at-risk youth effectively.

To begin to answer this question, we started by first defining what we mean by “vulnerable” or “at-risk” youth. We established specific parameters of vulnerability apt for our program context and focus. Those parameters included household income and access to basic services, family cohesion and community dynamics. Sowing Futures youth development activities center on two pillars: civic engagement and personal development.

Six steps to recruiting vulnerable youth

  1. Define youth vulnerability criteria for your program
  2. Develop youth profiles that align with vulnerability criteria
  3. Share youth profiles with institutional and community
  4. Conduct home visits and make pitch to youth to enlist their support in program activities
  5. Include youth in design of program activities
  6. Work with youth participants to continue to reach out to vulnerable youth throughout the program

Within the civic participation pillar, for example, we are looking to identify and train youth with leadership potential to mobilize fellow youth to identify youth priorities and engage public and private actors in securing resources and programs that fulfill youth demands. For these sets of circumstances, therefore, we developed youth profiles targeting youth who meet our vulnerability criteria and possess the non-cognitive skills and executive functions typical of leaders.

We recognize that open calls for youth to self-enroll and participate in leadership training and civic engagement activities will probably not draw the most vulnerable youth. So we shared the “youth civic leadership” profile with school officials and community leaders asking them to recommend youth who fit the profile.  From there we conducted home visits and engaged youth directly. We asked for their support and whether they could commit to attending the first of our youth meetings.

graphWe made it clear in those first meetings that youth participants prioritize youth goals, help decide how to direct program activities towards reaching those goals, since including youth in participatory planning builds credibility and motivates youth as a call to action.

While not all youth commit to participating up front, we know that those who do participate meet the conditions of vulnerability as defined by our program. We are also optimistic that we will be able to generate additional youth participation as Sowing Futures begins to generate results and as our youth participants become program ambassadors.

Global Communities, along with the John Deere Foundation and the John Deere Brazil Foundation, has identified opportunities for expanding community development activities that catalyze meaningful change for communities in need located near John Deere’s Brazil operations. The mission of this three-year program is to build the capacity of communities and local institutions to prioritize needs and mobilize resources that improve socio-economic conditions, particularly for at-risk youth.