This page gives an overview of what Youth Voice is and our top tips for delivering it effectively.

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Youth Voice refers to the distinct ideas, opinions, attitudes, knowledge, and actions of young people as a collective body.  The term youth voice often groups together a diversity of perspectives and experiences, regardless of backgrounds, identities, and cultural differences. It is frequently associated with the successful application of a variety of youth development activities, including service learning, youth research, and leadership training.  Additional research has shown that engaging youth voice is an essential element of effective organizational development among community and youth-serving organisations. (ref

Youth Social Action refers to activities that young people do to make a positive difference to others and/or the environment. These include volunteering, fundraising, campaigning or supporting peers.

What is it? 

Youth voice and participation can also include social action, ‘youth voice’ for short, is a process or activity where children and young people are:

  1. Listened and responded to.
  2. Actively involved in formal decision-making structures.
  3. Elevated to a leadership role.

Why do it?

There are lots of benefits to youth voice work. It gives young people a sense of agency, helps build transferable skills, knowledge and experience.

It helps organisations to be more responsive, inclusive and relevant. It’s supports the workforce to develop their practice. It’s a fun, inspiring and developmental process.

Youth participation is also a fundamental human right. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states:
“Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.”

What does it look like?

Myth busting

  • Youth voice doesn’t just apply to older and more confident young people. It is for all young people, what it looks like, however, will vary depending on the circumstances.
  • Youth voice isn’t just about student councils and youth steering groups. Youth Voice encompasses a wide range of activities, that responds to the needs and interests of the young people and the organisation.

Listening and responding to young people

Surveys, focus groups and interviews are a great way of gathering the opinions of young people to inform what you do and how you work. Perhaps you want to know if your service is meeting the needs of young people? Or whether the format, timings and venue of your programmes are accessible for people?

‘Co-design’ means working with young people to design something together. One way of doing this might be to work with young people asking them some specific questions before applying for funding.

Listening to young people and being responsive to their needs is fundamental to being inclusive. This might involve observing how young people are engaging with an activity and adapting it to suit their needs. Or finding out about their individual learning goals and building your support around that.

When it comes to listening, remember:

  • Feedback doesn’t have to be in the form of written or verbal comments, observation is a form of ‘listening.’
  • Some people might be more comfortable communicating through other mediums rather than a face-to-face conversation.
  • If you’re looking for honest feedback, it may be better to keep things anonymous.
  • You can also involve young people in the process itself, as co-researchers.

Involving young people in formal decision-making structures

Formal structures such as Trustee boards, youth panels and steering groups are mechanisms that enable young people to influence the work of your organisation. Alternatively consider having young people on your Board. In England, you can be a Trustee of a charity that is a company or charitable incorporated organisation from the age of 16.

Think about other kinds of decision-making processes happening in your organisation that young people can be involved with; Recruitment and Selection, Programme Development, and Peer Research.


Youth leadership

Peer mentors and trainee leader positions are a common way of providing development opportunities for young people. Entry level employment opportunities such as internships and apprenticeships support new routes into the workforce and bring fresh ideas into your organisation.

There are lots of opportunities and activities that young people can organise and deliver, whether it’s planning, hosting and evaluating meetings and events, marketing and promotion, a wide range of roles exist that give young people autonomy in a leadership role.

Top Tips

Some things to consider as you embark on your youth voice journey:

  1. Youth voice activity can’t be tokenistic. When planning, consider the parameters and your own restrictions, so that you can genuinely act upon what you hear.
  2. Always communicate back and let people know how you’ve responded to their input.
  3. Consider meaningful ways to reward people’s attendance and input.
  4. Whilst you can start off with small steps and develop incrementally, youth voice takes time and resource to do it well. Remember to factor this in (and allocate budget accordingly).
  5. The learning and impact of youth voice work must be two-way. When planning your activity, think about what the two-way benefits will be. Keeping it creative, fun and engaging will ensure the most inspiring impact for both parties.

Page content adapted from Youth Music Website (Source)