Telling Your Story

Resources for marketing and telling your story are under development and expected in winter 2018. Stay tuned.

Action Planning

Action Planning for Youth-led Change

A living plan and record of your project should be kept using the Action Planning Template. The problem statement and evidence of need will be one of the products of the steps you take to focus your program and engage with the community to learn about the issue.

As you fill out the objectives of the action plan, be as specific and simple as you can.

One technique is to set SMART Objectives.

SMART Objectives are:

  1. Specific: Set detailed objectives. (for example, “8 teens will teach internet safety to after school program students” rather than “more youth will take leadership roles”)
  2. Measurable: Set goals with objectives you can quantify to monitor your success. (a number or percentage is better than a general statement like “more”)
  3. Agreed to: Important if your goals impact or involve other people. Sometimes SMART goals have “attainable” here, but for these youth-led community projects, checking with stakeholders is a critical step.
  4. Realistic and Relevant: Think about your strengths and skills, and set mini-goals to help you get to bigger ones.
  5. Timely: Put a timeline on achieving your goals so you know when to measure your success.

Transfer each objective to the planning section and use that to identify activities that will help you meet that objective. Think about training, marketing, recruitment, logistics, and evaluating your impact and break your plan down into manageable pieces that take advantage of the different strengths on your team. There is another section to help you think about communicating with stakeholders and sharing success.

Integrating Technology into your Action Plan

Technology is not the driver of this project, but a tool to address community needs. You need to think carefully about the digital literacy of your audience and the technologies they have available as you consider options. Stay tuned for more resources from Microsoft and others about how other communities and projects have used technology to make change.

Monitoring Progress

You can use the action plan to monitor progress on each of your steps–both the big ones like assessing community needs and the smaller steps in carrying out your project. You can move the status of each line from Red (Stalled or not yet begun) to Yellow (In process) and then Green (Completed or on track.) If you want to try a more detailed project check-up, there are four different tools available on pages 28-37 of the Youth Leading Community Change Toolkit. They vary in complexity, so you can pick the one that fits your project best.

Building Your Team & Connecting with the Community

Key Questions:

  • Who else could we involve?
  • Who are my allies?
  • How can I motivate my peers?

Identifying Partners

People and organizations who can provide information, resources, expertise, access to participants, and much more is an essential part of project success. Relational Mapping from Building Community Toolkit is a process to map different people and organizations in your community from different sectors (public, private/business, non-profit, religious etc.) and to consider how closely they might be involved in your work.

Youth/Adult Partnerships

Youth/Adult partnerships are critical to the success of community efforts involving youth, since many of the spaces and resources required for success are dominated by adults. Many of these adults may not be accustomed to working together with and sharing power with youth. Spending time periodically to build youth/adult partnerships can improve group dynamics and improve communication.

A simple activity to create norms for communication is to separate youth and adults into two separate rooms. Have the youth generate a list of “Benefits of Working with Adults” and “Challenges of Working with Adults” and have the adults generate similar lists about working with youth. Then come together and share the lists. Process the activity by identifying areas that showed up for both youth and adults and ways the lists are different. Then consider creating some practices or norms that will maximize the benefits and minimize the challenges.

These two free resources contain many activities for different purposes:

Creating Youth-Adult Partnerships: Training Curricula for Youth, Adults and Youth-Adult Teams

and Youth-Adult Partnerships: A Training Manual

Focusing your program

Key Questions:

  • What issues are you passionate about making people aware of?
  • How does this issue affect me and others?

Mapping the Issues and Assets in your Community

Key Questions: What’s here? What’s not here?

Envisioning Community Change through Storyboarding Activity adapted from Youth Leading Community Change, pp. 4-15.

Each community or small group introduces themselves to the full group with a visual depiction of their community and a representation of a vision for change. For this introduction to thinking about community, we draw only storyboard #1, depicting the current community (defining characteristics, demographics, assets, problems…) and #4, depicting their community with changes to solve problems or enhance assets.

Materials: Large flip charts and markers or enough white board space for each group.

Reflection Questions:

  • Looking at all of the representations of community, what are some assets in this community? What are some problems? (Keep a list on a separate sheet for later use in defining areas to work on)
  • What are changes we would like to see?

This activity builds energy and is a good way to bring people together who may identify their communities differently. The Storyboard Activity can be used in full (including the action steps in #2 and 3# when you are moving to the action planning stage. To explore community before identifying a particular issue of interest, have the youth create a visual representation of their current community and another of their envisioned or changed community.

Defining Community can be a challenge. If your group has not had much opportunity to reflect on what community means to them, you could use Community Mind Map & Dimensions of Community from the Building Community Toolkit pp. 116-118.

Identify issues and assets in your community

  • Listing possible issues on a whiteboard and visually representing connections between issues – Identify all possible topics they might want to address
  • PhotoVoice-type project of the good and bad in the community
  • Neighborhood walk – mapping & discussion of what they saw
  • Conduct a survey about top issues in the community. Here’s a guide to doing an Issue Identification Survey from Mikva Challenge.

Proofing the Need

  • How do youth really know the issue they have identified is a need?
  • How are people affected by this?
  • Who’s already working on this issue?

Action research is a recommended approach to learn about an issue from people who are affected and in a way that will lead to action, as the name implies. You might use different techniques to learn more, including interviews, surveys, and inviting people with expertise to speak. Refer to this Action Research Handout from the Institute for Community Research’s Youth Participatory Action Research Curriculum to learn more.

Interviews and Relational Meetings are an opportunity to learn more and to build relationships with others in the community who are interested in or affected by the same issue. These could be potential partners or potential beneficiaries of your actions. To identify people to contact, you might skip ahead to the Relational Mapping activity. And, when you do interview someone, be sure to ask them who else you should talk to for more information or a different perspective.

Resources for Interviews:

  • Research Through Interviews from Mikva Challenge
  • Pages 64-66 of this online resource: Youth Leading Community Change
  • Investigating Root Causes  To consider whether the issue you have identified might be a symptom of something else and to think about where you can address an issue, try this activity from Mikva Challenge:  5 Whys
  • You could conduct an open-ended Community Survey to identify potential issues or design a more focused Issue Investigation Survey to get perspectives on a particular issues—this is another resource from Mikva Challenge.

You might also invite some in as speakers to understand the content of the issue and to learn about the local context.

Narrowing It Down – one issue in the youth niche

What is the youth opportunity (“niche”) to add to existing or new efforts?

What is in youth’s realm of control?

What can they realistically impact?

Setting Priorities

  • Criteria setting– try a fun warm- up with ultimate chocolate chip cookie on pp. 18-21 of Youth Leading Community Change
  • As a group, determine your criteria for the issue you want to address. You could choose a nominal group process to make sure everyone’s opinions are included. This is a very structured exercise, but this is a big decision. One resource designed for youth  is