It can be hard to make your voice heard when you’re just one young person... but when lots of youth get together to show that they care about an issue or want to see change happen, they can make a real difference!
A youth forum is an organized event that gives young people the chance to express their ideas, opinions and needs to decision makers (like elected officials, the staff of community organizations or other people in positions of power).
How do you plan a youth forum?
Planning a youth forum is a big job. You’ll want to break the project down into steps, and give yourself at least a few months to get it all done. You’ll also need to reach out for help and support from other youth and from community organizations.
Step 1: Get Focused
Your first step will be to decide what you want your forum to be about. What are the main issues you want to talk about, or changes you’d like to see happen? Next, think about who might be able to help you. Is there a local organization you can partner with that might be able to offer you space to host the forum? What date and time do you want to have it? Who do you think should attend and participate?
Step 2: Have a Planning Meeting
Once you’ve figured out who will be able to help you, it’s time to have your first planning meeting. Set a date, time and location that will work for most people involved and prepare the agenda (including any handouts). When you’re all settled comfortably, it’s time to brainstorm ideas and assign tasks. You’ll also want to make sure somebody is taking notes. It may take several meetings to get all the details worked out, so set the next date before everyone leaves.
Step 3: Reach out to the Community
Once most of the details are in place, you’ll be ready to start inviting youth and decision makers to your forum. Contact the decision makers directly (either by phone or with a formal letter or email) to let them know you’d like them to attend. As for your youth participants, you can reach them by putting up posters near schools or publicizing the event in your local newspaper.
If you want the media to cover your event, this is also a good time to send a press release to your local paper or TV station. (See the Extra Resources section for information on how to write a press release).
Step 4: Hold a Meeting with the Youth Leaders
It’s a good idea to have another meeting a day or two before the forum. Gather everyone who has an important role to play and go over any last minute details about timing, transportation, food and who will take notes.
Step 5: Set up Your Space
On the day of the forum, be prepared to get there early to set up chairs and tables, put out the food, prepare handouts, put up signs and take care of anything else that needs doing.
Step 6: It’s Forum Time!
Welcome your participants and any media, then go over the agenda for the event. Depending on how many people you have, you might decide to break participants into groups for focussed discussions or to talk as one big group.
No matter how you do it, make sure to set some ground rules to keep the discussion on track and to make sure everyone is being respectful. Again, don’t forget to take notes, and finish the forum by deciding what the next steps will be. For example, when it’s all over, you might want to create a written report that you can submit to the adults who attended. That way, they’ll have a reminder of the issues that were discussed and the next steps the youth participants think should be taken.