The Skills

Youth organizers will develop a lot of different skills simply out of necessity to ensure the success of a campaign. But what are those essential skills?

  • Facilitation. Across the board, young people talked about how learning to facilitate a workshop or meeting was a crucial skill in engaging their peers and community.
  • Youth Participatory Action Research. Surveys. Interviews. Listening Sessions. Before even starting a campaign, many organizers methodically build up their understanding of community issues. The process has lots of benefits like having local up-to-date data to support action and increased community involvement and buy-in. 
  • Event Planning. By throwing community events organizers are able to bring people together for collective action.
  • Public Speaking. Whether it’s talking to a group of 8 people or 800 people being able to convey a message is crucial.
  • Fundraising. In this work where resources are often limited so being able to raise the funds for campaigns is crucial. Grant writing is an invaluable skill for youth organizers. 

In the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) January 2018 report, they discuss youth organizers’ learning process around skills like these, “A learning process that includes cycles of preparation, rehearsal, performance, and feedback” (Shaw, Buford, Braxton, 2018). Speaking from experience, it’s really easy to get caught up in the preparation and rehearsal. Whether it’s perfecting a workshop or a survey, the only way to know if it works is to try it. It’s not gonna be perfect the first time, and that’s okay. But once it’s been tried, it’s much easier to figure out how to do it better next time. 

Constanze, a youth organizer from Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) in Charlotte, NC, talks about what going through the learning is like. 

Even with this project, we spent a bulk of the time figuring it out as we went along and if you’re reading this we must have done something right. It’s also easy to get stuck when what comes next isn’t clear, especially since the issues that many organizers work on are so complex. 

But here’s a little piece of advice, phone a friend.  

... it’s not a bad thing to ask questions, you got to know something, you got to know it.
— Reuben, youth board member at Youth As Resources in Baltimore, Md.

Youth organizers rely on partner organizations, more experienced organizers and adult allies to provide training and coaching to hone the skills they need. Having a strong, diverse network of partners who specialize in the areas mentioned above can be a life saver.

A lot of organizing is just learning as you go. It’s messy. But through the mess young people figure out how to grow as organizers and leaders. 

Darrin from Milwaukee, Wisc., talks about his experience after leaving Urban Underground and how he felt prepared for the future.


References:

Shaw, S., Buford, W., & Braxton, E. (2018) Transforming Young People and Communities: New Findings on the Impacts of Youth Organizing. Retrieved from https://fcyo.org/resources/transforming-young-people-and-communities-new-findings-on-the-impacts-of-youth-organizing 

by Becca Folkes-Lallo