Focusing Your Program

Key Questions:

  • What issues are you passionate about making people aware of?
  • How does this issue affect me and others?

Mapping the Issues and Assets in your Community

Key Questions: What’s here? What’s not here?

Envisioning Community Change through Storyboarding Activity adapted from Youth Leading Community Change, pp. 4-15.

Washtenaw, Michigan discusses app creation for their project.

Proofing the Need

  • How do youth really know the issue they have identified is a need?
  • How are people affected by this?
  • Who’s already working on this issue?

Action research is a recommended approach to learn about an issue from people who are affected and in a way that will lead to action, as the name implies. You might use different techniques to learn more, including interviews, surveys, and inviting people with expertise to speak. Refer to this Action Research Handout from the Institute for Community Research’s Youth Participatory Action Research Curriculum to learn more.

Interviews and Relational Meetings are an opportunity to learn more and to build relationships with others in the community who are interested in or affected by the same issue. These could be potential partners or potential beneficiaries of your actions. To identify people to contact, you might skip ahead to the Relational Mapping activity. And, when you do interview someone, be sure to ask them who else you should talk to for more information or a different perspective.

Resources for Interviews:

  • Research Through Interviews from Mikva Challenge
  • Pages 64-66 of this online resource: Youth Leading Community Change
  • Investigating Root Causes  To consider whether the issue you have identified might be a symptom of something else and to think about where you can address an issue, try this activity from Mikva Challenge:  5 Whys
  • You could conduct an open-ended Community Survey to identify potential issues or design a more focused Issue Investigation Survey to get perspectives on a particular issues—this is another resource from Mikva Challenge.

You might also invite some in as speakers to understand the content of the issue and to learn about the local context.

Narrowing It Down – one issue in the youth niche

Brown County, Wisconsin discusses project with team.

What is the youth opportunity (“niche”) to add to existing or new efforts?

What is in youth’s realm of control?

What can they realistically impact?

Setting Priorities

  • Criteria setting– try a fun warm- up with ultimate chocolate chip cookie on pp. 18-21 of Youth Leading Community Change
  • As a group, determine your criteria for the issue you want to address. You could choose a nominal group process to make sure everyone’s opinions are included. This is a very structured exercise, but this is a big decision. One resource designed for youth  is