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Engagement means many things from participation to active community leadership. Youth who find a spark in a program will engage with that program. Learn about frameworks, activities and research on engaging youth.


  • Jenni MarianoElizabeth BrownDevora Shamah





    The Importance of Youth Purpose and How to Support It
    Jenni Menon Mariano, Ph.D., Elizabeth (Betsy) Levine Brown, Ph.D., and Devora Shamah, Ph.D. 
    Do youth today have or need a sense of purpose in life? Does it matter if they do? This webinar examines whether youth have a sense of purpose in life and what the research shows about the importance of purpose as well as the current state of efforts to support the development of purpose in all young people.  2012.

  • Youth as Contributors: The Role of New Media & Technology
    Center for Youth Development and PEAR: The Program in Education, Afterschool & Resiliency
    New technologies and media are playing an important role in the lives of young people and offering new ways for them to learn, engage, and contribute to their communities. This webinar explores the meaning of media literacy, highlights positive ways youth can and are using new technologies, and discusses the challenges and opportunities in doing so. Guests include Leo Burd, a researcher with MIT's Center for Future Civic Media and Karen Brennan also of MIT. The discussion is moderated by Dale A. Blyth from the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. 2011

  • Priscilla M. Little

    Engaging older youth in out-of-school time: Applying research to practice
    Priscilla M. Little

    In this presentation Little describes promising research-based practices in working with middle and high school youth in out-of-school time (OST) programs, examining what programs can do to support participation, engagement, and positive outcomes. The presentation also includes a discussion of the potential role of OST systems in supporting effective youth programming. 2011

  • Dr. Christine Greenhow

    MySpace, Facebook, and Youth: What Do Social Network Sites Have To Offer Youth Development?
    Dr. Christine Greenhow

    Youth have always been peer-oriented. Has online social networking changed anything for them? Greenhow presents emerging research on youth experiences in popular online social network sites and considers their implications for the field of youth development. 2009

  • Constance Flanagan

    Youth Engagement, Social Trust and the Future of Democracy
    Constance Flanagan

    90-minute video presentation focusing on the role of youth engagement in nurturing social trust in and in fostering the future of democracy. 2008

  • Wendy Wheeler

    The Leading Edge - Exploring Youth Engagement Innovation
    Wendy Wheeler

    In this 90-minute video presentation, Wendy Wheeler highlights the practical elements and innovations that promote authentic youth engagement and collective leadership. 2008

  • Theresa K. Sullivan

    Terms of Engagement
    Theresa K. Sullivan

    Terri synthesizes what youth and adult practitioners, participants, and researchers say it takes to make the most of youth engagement opportunities to benefit participating youth, adults, organizations, and communities. 2008

  • Beki Saito

    Delroy CalhounHowland Road Trip
    Beki Saito and Delroy Calhoun

    Beki Saito and R. Delroy Calhoun, husband and wife, talk about their experience as Howland Endowed Chairs, doing action research with a group of young people in their inner-core Minneapolis neighborhood, designed to increase awareness of and participation in youth programs and opportunities. Their work resulted in a the Youth Action Crew training and toolkit. 2005

Reports, articles & documents

What's all this YAC about Youth Action Crews? (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Center for Youth Development
Youth develop maps of their communities to show high quality, youth friendly programs. 2012

Strategies for the Adult Learner in Non-Credit Classes: Building Engagement into Online Classes (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Kari Robideau and Eric Vogel
This white paper contains strategies learned by the authors, academically and through experience, about what it takes to intentionally create an engaging online experience with adults in non-credit settings. 2011

Youth Engagement: More than a method (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Theresa K. Sullivan
Authentic youth/adult relationships are more important than ever before if youth are to succeed in this rapidly changing, increasingly multicultural and interdependent world. This paper offers a framework delineating four types of youth engagement, the benefits of each, and what it takes to bring them to life. 2011

Rings of Engagement (PDF)
Produced by Extension Center for Youth Development
Research brief on youth engagement framework that includes Participation, Passion, Youth Voice, and Collective Leadership. 2010

Promoting Participation of Older Youth in Out-of-School Time Programs and Opportunities (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Rebecca N. Saito
Research focusing attention on the need for engagement of under-represented and under-served teen-agers, 13 years of age and older, in engaging and beneficial programs and opportunities that help them thrive. 2009

Strengthening Communities Through Youth Participation (PDF)
Center for Nonprofits, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Lessons Learned from the ACT for Youth Initiative. 2009

Core Principles for Engaging Young People in Community Change (PDF)
Forum for Youth Investment
Includes the Continuum of Youth Engagement and Eight Principles of engaging youth in community change. 2007

Framing the Issue in Youth Engagement: A celebration across time and culture (PDF)
Wendy Wheeler
The author discusses what it takes for youth and adults to "learn, listen, dream and work together as they unleash their collective potential to build the common good and to advocate in the community for the needs of both young and old, as defined by themselves, and address root causes through policy change." 2007

Pushing the Envelope on Youth Civic Engagement: A developmental and liberation psychology perspective (PDF)
Roderick J. Watts and Constance Flanagan
The authors present a typology of civic engagement that includes 1) community service; 2) work within organizations; and 3) sociopolitical activism aimed at changing organizations and society. 2007

Toward an Understanding of Youth in Community Governance: Policy priorities and research directions (PDF)
Shepherd Zeldin, Linda Camino, and Matthew Calvert
Reviews the context, rationale and research related to youth in decision-making positions and provides recommendations for changes in adult expectations and support. 2007

Beyond Access and Supply: Youth-led strategies to captivate young people's interest in and demand for youth programs and communities (PDF)
Produced by Extension: Rebecca N. Saito
Working on supply and access are necessary but not sufficient for the task of increasing young people's engagement in positive youth programs, activities, and informal opportunities. Youth are the marketing experts in this endeavor to increase participation in youth programs particularly by those who typically do not participate. 2006

Intentional Youth Programs: Taking theory to practice
Produced by Extension: Joyce Walker
The author puts forth a theory of developmental intentionality, proposing that "when there is a good fit between young people and the intentional supports and opportunities they take part in, engagement is high, and the chance of positive outcomes for learning and development are greatly improved." 2006

Moving Beyond Youth Voice
Joyce Serido, Lynne M. Borden, and Daniel F. Perkins
The authors present research findings that suggest a connection between positive youth/adult relationships and youth voice in promoting positive youth development outcomes. 2006

Toward a New Paradigm for Youth Development
Produced by Extension: Dale Blyth
A diet-and-exercise analogy is proposed to provide a new way of understanding the complexity of youth development and the increased role of youth in shaping that development during the middle years. 2006

More Than Just Being There: Balancing the participation equation
Heather B. Weiss, Priscilla M. D. Little, and Suzanne M. Bouffard
Understanding participation as a three-part construct of enrollment, attendance, and engagement can help stakeholders maximize participation in and benefits from out-of-school-time programs. 2005

The Power of Youth and Adult Partnerships and Change Pathways for Youth Work (PDF)
Search Institute
This piece describes six activities through which youth and adults partner to impact organizations and communities: youth service, youth leadership, youth in decision-making, youth philanthropy, youth civic and political engagement, youth organizing, and youth research and evaluation. 2005

Youth Engagement Brief (PDF)
The Innovation Center
Describes the many goals and purposes of youth engagement. 2004

Moving Youth Participation Forward
Jennifer L. O’Donoghue, Benjamin Kirshner, and Milbrey McLaughlin
The authors discuss four myths that are barriers to the full participation and engagement of young people in programs and partnerships. 2003

Supportive Frameworks for Youth Engagement
Jeanne Nakamura
This issue explores the phenomenon of engagement in adolescence and early adulthood. 2001

Youth Civic Engagement in the 21st Century
James Youniss, Susan Bales, Verona Christmas-Best, Marcelo Diversi, Milbrey McLaughlin, and Rainer Silbereisen
The authors outline social and political dynamics of the 21st century that necessitate a redefinition of civic competence, asserting that youth must be prepared to collaborate with adults in new ways to identify and address social and political issues within ever-changing realities. 2001

Related organizations

Forum for Youth Investment
Information, services, and opportunities for increasing the quality and quantity of youth engagement.

Harvard Family Research Project
Research on more effective youth development practices, programs, and policies.

Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development
Engages youth and adults in creating a just and equitable society.

Minnesota Alliance with Youth
The leading convener, collaborator and capacity-builder for youth development in Minnesota.

National Youth Leadership Council
NYLC creates a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world with young people, their schools, and their communities through service-learning.

A core group of young people who facilitate group meetings, plan, develop, and implement activities and projects with support from a youthrive adult.

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