Foster Leadership is a young person’s experience with an adult who creates meaningful opportunities for them to take on leadership roles within activities, the classroom, or a community.

Leadership is fostered when young people are engaged in roles with authentic responsibilities and given autonomous decision-making power.


Leadership skills are not just necessary for leaders — these skills are needed for success in today’s world (MacNeil, 2000). Young leaders demonstrate higher career aspirations, increased self-esteem, strong problem solving skills, improved high school completion rates, and increased civic participation (Bloomberg, et al., 2003; O’Brien & Kohlmeier, 2003). As young people begin to lead, they not only strengthen their sociopolitical awareness, but they also experience gains in psychological empowerment, both of which contribute to civic and political participation (Christens and Kirshner 2011; Larson and Hansen 2005; Watts and Flanagan 2007). Additionally, youth participation in group decision making has been found to facilitate mastery, skill development, confidence, identity exploration, initiative, and emotional wellbeing (Dworkin, Larsen, and Hansen 2003; Mitra 2004; Youniss et al., 1997; Zeldin 2004; Zeldin, et al., 2012).


Hello Insight has found that Foster Leadership is a Focused experience that increases young people’s likelihood to take action. Taking Action encapsulates Advocating for Change, Confidence to Mobilize, and Sociopolitical participation, three interdependent capacities that are related to young people’s disposition to take action. Young people who are inclined to take action in their communities have self-confidence, understand their social and political environment, and are more apt to become civically engaged.

Download the Reflection Guide


A Framework for Effectively Partnering with Young People

Annie E. Casey Foundation
This brief report describes why partnering with young people is important and what it looks like in action.

Guiding Questions:

  • What are the benefits of partnering with young people in my organization/program?
  • What are the challenge or barriers to participating with young people in my organization/program?

Creating Safe and Support Youth Voice Environments

Free Child
This brief article highlights the elements necessary for youth voice, highlighting the need for a supportive climate in which adults value youth voice, structures to support and sustain youth voice, and a strong youth culture in which adults and youth are understood to be equal partners.

Guiding Questions:

  • How and to what extent does our organization have a supportive climate, structure and culture for youth voice?
  • What are the barriers/challenges for creating this type of climate, culture and structures?
  • Where and when have we been successful at listening to and engaging young people as partners?

Youth Leading Community Change: An Evaluation Tool Kit

This evaluation toolkit is designed for youth and adult facilitators who want to measure the impact of their community projects. However, it also has fun activities and methods to guide any youth-led evaluation project.

Guiding Questions:

  • What are the benefits of engaging young people in evaluation?
  • How can engaging young people in evaluation support our organization to improve and meet the needs of young people?
  • How can engaging young people in evaluation support their own critical thinking and leadership skills?

Youth Participatory Action Research

This online resource provides helpful tips, strategies, activities, and curricula to help you get started in a YPAR project, work with young people to define an issue, investigate the issue and take action on it.

Guiding Questions:

  • What are the benefits of engaging young people in YPAR?
  • How can YPAR support our organization to learn more about an issue affecting our young people?
  • How can engaging in YPAR help us take action on an issue?

Youth Organizing: A Model for Change

Nellie Mae Education Foundation
This issue brief is for youth and their adult allies in youth organizing groups, as well others who are interested in learning more about youth organizing. It provides a helpful framework that will allow you to map your work along a trajectory from youth development, to youth leadership, to civic engagement, to organizing.

Guiding Questions:

  • Where does your work fall along this trajectory?
  • Where would you like your work to fall along this trajectory?
  • What are the barriers to getting there?
  • How can you overcome these challenges?

Transforming Positive Youth Development: A case for youth organizing

Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing
The findings of this study show how engaging young people in organizing supports their holistic development, while fostering social justice. The report highlights the strategies they use to achieve these outcomes.

Guiding Questions:

  • What youth organizing strategies and practices can we use in our program/organization?
  • How could youth organizing strategies and practices help our organization foster diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • What are the barriers to using a youth organizing approach in your work?
  • How can you overcome these challenges?