Typical classroom-based and adult-led community “youth engagement” activities are done to or for young people, meaning that adults conceive of these activities, design them, institute them, and evaluate them afterwards. There are many problems to this approach, the main one being that oftentimes they actually serve to disengage the very young people they are intended to engage. Freechild advocates actively engaging young people as partners with adults by intentionally working with them in every part of the project creation, implementation, and assessment cycle. However, Freechild does not singularly insist that young people lead activities for themselves, either. There are a number of scenarios where this approach is important and meaningful, particularly for the young people involved. However, more often than not the approach of having young people create, lead, and evaluate activities for themselves or other young people is a deceiving gesture, as well. Many “forward thinking” adults dismiss the validity of young peoples’ need for guidance by simplistically calling for youth-led action. This effectively robs young people of connections to adult wisdom, experience, or reflections. Such action often segregates youth action which allows it to be further marginalized and delegitimized. The instance of this Guide, “by and with” is intended to include all of these concerns.
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