Children, Youth and Environments
Vol. 16 No. 2 ( 2006)
Action, BlastOff, Chaos: ABCs of Successful Youth Participation
This paper presents a case study of a youth-led organization initiated in an Australian capital city to facilitate improvements in an area with poor social infrastructure. The project clearly demonstrates that young people are able to design and implement collective action change programs to improve their local areas, particularly when they have access to advice from a supportive adult. Food, informality and fun in the weekly meetings helped the young people forge strong bonds and contributed to their participation. The original goal set by the group changed substantially over time, but the outcome still benefited the local area. There were some difficulties, including negative attitudes from external agencies about the capacity of youth to manage their own affairs. The project highlights the success that can be achieved with a group of young people using a devolving decision-making approach balanced with respectful adult guidance. Adult mentoring made a significant contribution to the success of BlastOff. Similar groups would benefit greatly from access to capable and resourceful adults who provide appropriate mentorship, facilitation, leadership advice and access to resources. Adults working with groups of young people need to be respectful of their capabilities and able to work responsively with the enthusiasm, excitement and chaos of youth.