Telling Your Story

As your project develops, you will want to let your community know what you are doing and continue to build their engagement and support, as well as create opportunities for youth to have a stronger voice. Here are several strategies and resources to help you succeed.

Convening a Meeting of Stakeholders or the General Public

A meeting, town hall discussion, or other gathering is a highly recommended way to bring youth voice and adult stakeholders together to learn from each other and share perspectives. When young people in a community call a meeting, people often take notice because it doesn’t happen as often as it should.

As you think about creating an event, consider who can play these roles (from the 4-H Engaging Youth, Serving Communities project)

  • Facilitator: Guides the group & the process (see below for some tips on this critical role)
    • Is a neutral, positive process servant of the group
    • Supports everyone to do their best thinking
    • Encourages full and equal participation from every group member
    • Does not judge ideas or individuals
  • Recorder: Captures key points in “group memory”
    • Is another neutral, non-defensive process servant of the group
    • Honors the words of the speaker
    • Records enough so that ideas can be understood later
    • Only contributes ideas of their own when requested from group
  • Group Member: Focuses on meeting content (you need to recruit both youth and adults to serve in this role)
    • Actively engaged as a meeting participant
    • Shares comments, concerns & ideas
    • Listens to & considers ideas of others
    • Ensures that all ideas are accurately recorded in group memory
    • Keeps the group on task during discussion
  • Leader: Accountable for final decisions & results (this should be a member of your leadership team, and it could be an adult or a youth or a youth/adult pair)
    • Actively participates as a full group member in meeting
    • Plans & convenes meeting working with group members and process team
    • Gives the group direction and assists in it setting goals and making plans
    • Ensures that tasks & responsibilities are accomplished
    • Gives the group credit, encouragement, & support
    • Represents the group at other meetings

National 4-H Council has created the 4-H Tech Changemakers event planning guide to help you engage the media in your event.

Facilitating Public Discussions

If you are asked to facilitate a meeting, your job is to help the group have a successful discussion. When youth facilitate, adults and other youth often take notice and respect them as leaders.

  • A facilitator enables groups to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy.
  • A facilitator does not take sides, but advocates for a fair, open, and inclusive process.
  • A facilitator is a learning guide to assist a group in thinking deeply about its beliefs and its processes.

Some ideas for managing group discussions, dealing with silences, and other facilitation challenges are Tips for Facilitators

Tips for Facilitating Effective Discussion, offered by the American Heart Association, focuses on the facilitation of public discussions. It focuses on what makes a successful facilitator and ways to connect with your audience

Engaging Elected Officials

Elected Officials – one-on-one meetings

  • Meeting Your Representatives from the National Youth Rights Association talks about what to prepare when going to meet with an elected official and what to do during that meeting
  • Start here, it provides basic knowledge in the art of meeting with elected officials

Elected Officials – public meeting

  • This short article gives a glimpse into what a typical school board meeting looks like. It’s important to understand what a meeting looks like in order to effectively speak during one.

General Tips (from a school board member) about talking in front of a school board:

  • Have a handout/pamphlet that you can distribute to all school board members with the key takeaways from your presentation/calls to action (what you want them to help you with moving forward)
  • Have a visual presentation while you are talking
  • Leave time after your presentation to answer questions
    • Practice presenting in front of people and having them ask you questions beforehand
    • If you don’t know the answer, it’s absolutely okay to say “I don’t know the answer, but let me figure it out and get back to you.”
  • Make eye contact with the people that you are talking to
  • Be confident and have fun!

Data Visualization Resources

You’ve gathered information via surveys, interviews, and other action research in your communities. Now it is time to communicate what you have learned to others. Here are some resources to help you communicate clearly and capture your audience’s attention.

Using Graphics to Report Evaluation Results This resource comes right from Extension and explains how to evaluate your survey results. We recommend that you read pages 1-10. Pay special attention to pages 8-10 as it walks you through how to make simple bar, pie, and line graphs.

Beam Chartmaker This is our favorite for turning the results of your survey into viewable graphs. They have 4 different graph options (pie, line, bar, column) and different coloring options. The input and creation of the graphs is the simplest we could find and the presentation is professional.

AmCharts Live Editor For those looking for a bit more advanced data presentation, this resources gives graph templates for you to edit. The options for this resources exceed that of Beam’s, but beware, this is a pretty complex editor that will take time to perfect.

Canva Graphs  NOTE: THIS RESOURCE IS NOT FREE. Why did we choose to include Canva if you have to pay for it? Because their graphs are the industry standard as far as data presentation goes. You can create a free Canva account and have access to millions of graphing templates, which cost $1 each to edit. It’s worth looking into if you want to create a single handout with all of your survey results on it.

Microsoft Excel This is a resource that you all should have access to. It’s a great, easy visualizing tool to illustrate your data into graphs. This short video tutorial walks you through the basic steps needed to take to make a graph in Excel

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.

Meeting with Stakeholders 

Who is a stakeholder?

A stakeholder is anyone who has a stake, or interest, in your efforts. Typical stakeholder groups include youth, parents, volunteers, business leaders, elected officials, collaborators and funders. A list of stakeholders can be produced by answering the question, “Who cares?”

Tips for Holding Effective Meetings with Stakeholders

Before and during these meetings, all stakeholders will want to feel that they are on equal footing in shaping the action plan and making decisions about its design.

Before the meeting:

  • Set clear goals for the meeting. Be realistic about what can be accomplished in one meeting, and make sure you have enough time to accomplish these goals
  • Ask all stakeholders to contribute items to the agenda. It is helpful to have each stakeholder think about agenda items for the meeting in advance. You may want to conduct a brief conference call prior to your first meeting in order to set goals and prepare an agenda.

During the meeting:

  • Follow the agenda and keep to the times set for each item. As much as possible, the facilitator or meeting leader should try to follow the agenda and keep discussing within the time allotted, unless the group agrees that an extension is necessary.
  • Use an icebreaker at the beginning of the meeting. Starting a meeting with an icebreaker is a way for participants to become more familiar with each other and get energized to positively tackle the tasks on the agenda. Try to have youth lead the icebreakers to keep the group energized.
      • If your group is a group of students, a name game would be a good icebreaker to start with. There are lots. One is to have everyone come up with an animal that starts with the first letter of their first name (Ex: Elephant Evan) and have everyone repeat what the person’s name is along with their animal. Add a physical movement for each animal if you’re group is adventurous.
      • If your group is a group of community members or adults, a good icebreaker could be to have everyone go around the circle, share their name, and answer the question “why does this issue (the issue you’re talking about) matter to you?”
  • Use agreed-upon methods to prioritize action steps. Sometimes stakeholders find that it is easy to generate ideas for action steps but difficult to prioritize them.
  • Be clear about next steps before you leave the meeting.

After the meeting:

  • Follow up on any questions or next steps.
  • Put your plan on engaging stakeholders into action. How will you keep them informed and engaged as your project develops?

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