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Youth in Decision-making: A Study on the Impacts of Youth on Adults and Organizations

NCJ Number
Shepherd Zeldin; Annette Kusgen McDaniel; Dimitri Topitzes; Matt Calvert
Date Published
68 pages
This study examined whether and how youth involvement in decisionmaking in organizations had broader impacts on adults and organizations.
The research focused on whether youth governance led to additional changes that improved conditions for youth not directly involved in decision-making, had positive influences on adults, helped youth and adults become stronger allies, and contributed to organizational effectiveness. The study used an intentional sample of 19 youths and 29 adults from 15 organizations across the country. Eight organizations had young people 12-to 21-years-old on their boards of directors for at least 2 years; 7 comparison organizations had strong histories of involving youth in program decision-making, but not at the board level. Data came from individual and focus-group interviews. Data analysis used the extended case method. Results revealed that youth can be exemplary members of governance units, and their contributions may increase with age due to cognitive maturity and accumulated experience. The mutual contributions of youth and adults can result in a synergy in terms of a new power and energy that propels decision-making groups to greater innovation and productivity. Benefits of youth involvement in decision-making included essential opportunities and support youth need to achieve mastery, compassion, and health, as well as enhancement of adults’ commitment and energy. Factors most likely to facilitate positive outcomes included commitment by the top decision-making body, an adult visionary leader, and involvement of older youth first. The analysis concluded that young people can have powerful and positive effects on adults and organizations and that when the right conditions are in place, involving youth in decision-making is a powerful strategy for positive change. Figures, appended background information, and reference notes