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Using Design Thinking to Empower Youth

A growing body of research has documented the benefits of school-based youth and adult decision-making partnerships. Schools that use these types of frameworks have recorded enhanced student-teacher relationships, improved school climate, and improved instruction and curriculum. Student and adult decision-making partnerships remind teachers, administrators, and parents that students possess unique knowledge and perspectives that can bring to light issues that may otherwise go unnoticed and often provide the most effective strategies for addressing those issues.

Research has shown that giving youth a voice results in increased feelings of engagement and school connectedness. For example, students who believe they have a voice in school are seven times more likely to be academically motivated than students who do not think they have a voice; school connectedness is viewed as a protective factor for helping adolescents overcome self-esteem issues. Many schools struggle to move beyond giving voice—occasionally asking students for insights on decisions that adults are considering making—to more meaningful engagement of young people in authentic decision-making, where students partner with teachers, and school leaders to address real school or community problems.

Gathering and using feedback from student participants to improve programming is a best practice for all youth-serving organizations. However, that only scratches the surface. Out-of-school time programs and community-based organizations can all benefit from the intentional inclusion of youth in their policies, programs, and structures. The use of empowering practice is a core competency for youth workers, and youth participation in decision-making is an essential indicator of youth program quality.

The talented staff at IINII use a revolutionary Design Thinking process to create a synergy where both adults and young people contribute their perspectives towards creating a vibrant school community that promotes positive self-esteem. By working with IINII, your young people will develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions they need to be active and engaged community members that bridge the empowerment gap.

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