Youth at the helm - youth participation through the systematic use of strength-based methods

In the public health project “Youth at the helm” (Ungdom ved roret) the aim is to let the youth set the agenda and actively participate from their perspective and context.

People’s vulnerabilities change over their lives and disadvantages early in life create gaps that worsen over a lifetime. Discovering young people’s resources and give them faith that they can make changes to what they care about, is crucial to meet complex challenges.
Following Roger Hart’s ladder of participation, the municipalities of Askøy and Bømlo both recognized that the youth council was most likely to be described as informing and consultation. The representatives described that they didn’t really know what topics they wanted to engage themselves in. Hence, the youth councils mostly responded to cases initiated by the administration. Over the last two years Bømlo and Askøy have tested out methods and processes, in order to navigate towards a participation with partnership, delegated power and citizen control.
The members of the youth councils represent different ages, schools and communities. We experienced that they didn’t get to know each other or the coordinator until the end of the school year. We therefore initiated a kick off where young people gather for two days: The activities are based in the ABCD-method (Asset Based Community Development), focusing on getting to know each other’s assets, resources and most important: What they care about and how they can start doing something about it. Alongside the young people is a team of adult resource persons to give a secure frame to the activities, but more important to support projects initiated by the young people. The main principle is that as much as possible of the activities should be initiated and lead by the young people themselves. We experience that the kick off created a good platform for the youth council activities, enabling the reciprocal feeling of trust and generosity.
We create arrangements throughout the school year to mobilize more young people, fertilize ideas and make the processes and results visible. Theme based working groups follow up the different topics, and the youth council gets a coordinating role. This allows a bigger number of young people to engage and participate. The resource people connect them to relevant processes and as we get to know each other, we develop a generosity towards each other’s needs and roles. The young people report that they feel that they are listened to and that the methods motivates them. Both politicians, schools and others acknowledge the projects and results. Yet to be explored is how the work give a long term effect on young people’s engagement and community development.
We need different crew members to sail safely with a steady course. The resource-based focus helps us discover who wants to work with different topics, connect them to different resources and mobilize to get things done – letting the youth rule the rudder.


Lene Borgen Waage, Bjørn-Tore Bystrøm


Livskvalitet, mangfold og inkludering - Fritid og kultur




Askøy kommune, Bømlo kommune



Presenterende forfatter(e):

Bjørn-Tore Bystrøm

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