Valuing All Voices When Decision Making

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While conducting interviews for this project, I became deeply interested in how groups make decisions. What I heard across the board was when everyone’s voice was heard and their opinions were valued decisions were stronger. 

As youth organizers, we often argue that our voices should be valued in community decisions, especially the ones that affect us directly. Of course as young people our opinions aren’t always valued by adults. Perhaps that's why it's so important that we value each other as youth.

How do groups make decisions?  

Youth organizers are faced with a multitude of decisions like what issue to work on, how to structure a campaign, who to partner with... the list goes on and on. How groups make decisions is generally agreed upon (before things get heated) and often decision making models both reflect and shape group culture.

Ayo, a former Boston Student Advisory Council member, talks about decision making. 

When it’s crunch time and decisions need to be made, groups should: 

  • Stay grounded in your values of inclusion. A crucial part of decision making is the inclusion of diverse insights and opinions, especially when there is disagreement. Establishing this value ahead of time encourages people to dissent honestly. 
  • Know the practices you can turn to. Whether it’s consensus or voting or any other decision making practice, having a clear, practiced routine ensures that when it’s time to make a decision everyone is on the same page.
  • Share ownership of the decisions. When the whole group is involved in making decisions, there is a stronger sense of accountability to the results.

Making decisions can be tough, but it's critical to value everyone’s opinion, especially when there’s disagreement. When young people come together from different backgrounds with their own unique experiences, the freedom to dissent from the majority without fear of judgement assures that the work is a true representation of the groups’ voices and experiences. 

Working in a group with diverse opinions not only strengthens the project at hand, but it strengthens the organizers too. When challenged to lean into curiosity by asking questions to truly understand where everyone is coming from, organizers gain the ability to think beyond just our own experiences and make better informed decisions.

by Becca Folkes-Lallo