Core Components for Authentic Youth Engagement Identified

A growing number of organizations are hiring youth with lived expertise to work on research, policy, and advocacy projects. At Chapin Hall, engaging youth with lived expertise as partners is a crucial part of our efforts to prevent youth and family homelessness. However, there is limited understanding of how organizations can engage youth in an authentic, empowering, and equitable manner. We launched the Empowering Youth Study to better understand what authentic youth engagement means and how it can be best practiced at Chapin Hall and other youth-centered organizations. This study was done with partners Point Source Youth and True Colors United. 

What We Did  

  • Assessed programmatic materials on the roles, responsibilities, and wages of youth consultants within youth-centered organizations. 
  • Examined literature on the benefits and barriers to authentically engaging youth with lived expertise within organizations. 
  • Conducted six small-group interviews with 12 youth consultants at Chapin Hall, Point Source Youth, and True Colors United to learn what youth identify as potential barriers and recommend as strategies for authentic youth engagement. 
  • Conducted four small-group interviews with nine staff members at Chapin Hall and True Colors United to learn what staff identify as potential barriers and recommend as strategies for authentic youth engagement. 

What We Found 

  • Empowering Youth Study youth consultants and staff identified the following five core components to authentic youth engagement: 1) equitable compensation, 2) accommodations and supports, 3) respect for youth skills and leadership, 4) transparency, and 5) rapport building. 

Youth Components graphic-01

  • Equitable compensation involves paying young people fair, timely, and consistent wages that are informed by research and market compensation guidelines.  
  • Accommodations and supports are resources that address youth financial, housing, health, professional, and personal needs.  
  • Respect for youth includes valuing youth skillsets and leadership abilities beyond their lived expertise.  
  • Transparency requires clear and open channels of communication between adult leadership and youth consultants. 
  • Potential barriers, recommended strategies, and examples of how organizations can practice each authentic youth engagement component are explored and described.  

What It Means

Authentic youth engagement requires organizational effort to not only address youth needs and incorporate youth perspectives, but also to actively work to dismantle divisive and oppressive practices within the workplace and systems at large. To authentically engage youth, organizations can:

  1. Promote equitable compensation practices.
  2. Provide accommodations and supports tailored to the diversity in youth.
  3. Respect youth skills and leadership by designing meaningful decision-making and professional development opportunities.
  4. Be transparent with organizational developments and challenges and involve youth feedback in the continuous improvement of organizational behavior.
  5. Build rapport by establishing a culture rooted in empathy for the lived experiences of youth and by creating opportunities for youth and staff to interact within and beyond the workplace.

The research team who developed the brief includes Dr. Jasmine Olivier McGregor and Je’Lia Russell. For more information on this work, contact Je’Lia Russell.

Download the brief

Recommended Citation
Olivier, J., & Russell, L. (2023). Authentic youth engagement within organizations: What does it look like in practice. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.