Cornell High School students in TV studio

Youth Voice Working Group

Working alongside Pittsburgh area youth to build a hyper-local, nationally-informed standards of practice toolkit to support youth agency and combat ageism in our region.

What's the Youth Voice Working Group?

The Youth Voice Working Group is comprised of over 20 organizations in this southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia who have a focus on the amplification of youth voice. These organizations include Education Uncontained, the Lighthouse Project, Steeltown Entertainment, the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, PublicSource, Saturday Light Brigade, Assemble, A+ Schools, UrbanKind Institute, Carlow University’s Youth Media Advocacy Project (YMAP), and more.

These organizations come together to discuss their own practice and work underway throughout the year, and they also are currently working alongside Pittsburgh area youth to build a hyper-local, nationally-informed standards of practice toolkit to support youth agency and combat ageism in our region.

Why a standards of practice toolkit?

When this group met in summer 2017, the overwhelming consensus was that in general, adults in this region aren’t listening to what young people are telling them, which creates lopsided power dynamics and unjust and inequitable outcomes for youth.When adults work with youth in ways that are engaging, honest, and co-governed, they are better enabled to combat unjust learning environments and create more purposeful outcomes for youth.

The organizations in this group have identified ageism as a powerful force that needs to be called out and counteracted in our region to the greatest extent possible. According to John Bell in Understanding Adultism: A Key to Developing Positive Youth-Adult Relationships, “To be successful in our work with young people, we must understand a particular condition of youth: that young people are often mistreated and disrespected simply because they are young. The word adultism refers to behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. These culturally-reinforced attitudes can result in:

    • an undermining of self-confidence and self-esteem
    • an increasing feeling of powerlessness
    • a consistent experience of not being taken seriously
    • an increase in ‘acting out'”

The purpose of this toolkit will be to help bring attention to ageism in our region and begin to take concrete, evidence-based, hyper-local steps to address it.

Youth Voice Resources

  • Local Publications
    •  My Brother’s Keeper Community and Stakeholder Planning Process: Initial Recommendations (UrbanKind Institute)
      Based on a series of discussions with young men about needs and gaps in out-of-school programming and ideal program attributes, UrbanKind offers recommendations for funders and service providers as they work to narrow the opportunity gap among young men in the Pittsburgh region.​
    • The Power of Transformative Youth Leadership: A Field Analysis of Youth Organizing in Pittsburgh 
      Although young people have led many of the great social movements of history, many adults still doubt that young people can lead change efforts in their schools and communities. The research is clear: Youth organizing can have a tremendous impact on individuals, schools, communities and beyond. In this document, we shared our findings and recommendations for field building in youth advocacy and organizing in Pittsburgh. The Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing and the Movement Strategy Center analyzed both research and qualitative responses from local stakeholders to develop a set of specific grant-making strategies through which the Endowments could advance a change agenda for the region.
    • Youth Voices Study: A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System
      The report, “A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: A 100 Percent Pittsburgh Pilot Project,” begun in fall 2015 by the Foundation’s Program and Policy staff, to amplify the voices of youth by gathering first-person data from those who have experienced the juvenile justice system or are at risk of being involved with it in Allegheny County.
      Study of the role in STEM Education in improving the region’s workforce.
  • National Publications
    • Grip Tape Learner Agency Framework
      We believe that when youth have opportunities to drive their own learning and growth — that is, to practice learner agency — it leads to deeper learning and positive youth development. Our beliefs are backed by research studies across disciplines and GripTape’s own rapid learning cycles.
    • Neutral Zone: Youth Driven Spaces Formative Index
      The Formative Index is a compilation of program and organizational practices that helps guide and assess the structural changes sites can implement in adopting the YDS model.
    • Youth On Board: ListeningWorks
      Grounded in Youth on Board’s Action and Support model of 25 years, ListeningWorks trains and supports movement builders and community leaders to harness proven listening, healing-based and human-centered strategies that deepen community activism.
    • Youth Organizing: A Model for Change  In 2016, Nellie Mae hired Alrgorhythm to evaluate the practices of eight Nellie Mae grantees, all focused around youth organizing. While these grantees’ organizing practices varied, there were some common findings across the groups. Overall, key practices for youth organizing include continuously cultivating a membership base, building a deep leadership pool, and taking action at multiple levels (individual, school, and community).