Youth Empowerment

Take a moment and think about what score you would give yourself between 1 and 8 for youth empowerment

Ok… what score did you give yourself five, six maybe even a seven.

Back in 1994 Professor Roger Hart a sociologist for UNICEF developed a Ladder. The first three rungs represent forms of non-participation.


Since Roger Harts work, Adam Fletcher of the Freechild Project as developed the idea. To describe very neatly what each of the rungs is:

  1. Adults manipulate youth – Young people are forced to attend without regard to interest.
  2. Adults use youth to decorate their activities – The presence of young people is treated as all that is necessary without reinforcing active involvement.
  3. Adults tokenise youth – Young people are used inconsequentially by adults to reinforce the perception that young people are involved.
  4. Youth inform adults – Adults do not have to let young people impact their decisions.
  5. Adults actively consult youth while they’re involved – Young people only have the authority that adults grant them, and are subject to adult approval.
  6. Youth are fully equal with adults while they’re involved. This is a 50/50 split of authority, obligation, and commitment – There isn’t recognition for the specific developmental needs or representation opportunities for young people. Without receiving that recognition young people lose interest and may become disengaged quickly.
  7. Young person-driven activities do not include adults in positions of authority; rather, they are there to support young people in passive roles.
  8. Youth have full equity with adults. This may be a 40/60 split, or 20/80 split when it’s appropriate. All are recognised for their impact and ownership of the outcomes.

Now having read those statements think back to your score on does your position on the ladder change.

I would suggest that we in scouting are probably generally around the rung 4 or 5. I have seen many situations of rung three, with the same young people being rolled out to say the same things to show they are doing scouting.

If we in scouting really want to show we are empowering the young people of today, we need to move towards rung 6 and 7. Who knows maybe the next UK Chief Commissioner will be a young person.

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  1. Ben
    26 September, 2012

    I’m a 4 or 5, and I don’t think it should really be more than that either. It all depends upon your young people. Some you probably could trust to use 6 or 7, but then other groups of youngsters I wouldn’t go as high as 4. Why is it in society do we have to let kids have everything? Why shouldn’t kids do as their told? after all they are kids. I’ve spent 15 years running sections, all with 98% retention rate and waiting list. Whilst it might sound big headed, I know what works well and what activities and the type of program that will appeal to the young people. So a 4 to 5 suffices.

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