Youth Engagement

Engaging Youth in IPV Prevention

“Allowing them to have the freedom to move forward with the project, with a workshop, or whatever, a brainstorming activity, or organizing activity and just having trust that they’ll do it well… sometimes we feel like we have to be overseeing them or on top of them. Even though we do need to provide that guidance, at the same time just making sure that they know we trust them and what they’re doing [is key to their success].” 
(Los Angeles Community Coalition staff)

This story features lessons from five community coalitions funded by four DELTA FOCUS domestic violence coalitions. One of the community coalitions is located in Sitka, Alaska; two in Ohio: Warren County and Knox County; and one each in Los Angeles, California and Cranston, Rhode Island. Informed by healthy behavior and social norms theories, these stories suggest that prevailing attitudes, culture, and social expectations related to IPV can change through efforts to foster adult-youth mentoring opportunities, a focus on youth leadership development, and support for youth-led media and marketing campaigns. Their approaches focus on building youth’s leadership skills, engaging them in shifting norms related to violence, and strengthening community-level protective factors for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).


Key Lessons Learned & Highlighted Strategies

Key Lesson #1: Cultivating youth leadership requires a balance of providing support and giving youth the opportunity to lead.
  • The Warren and Knox County Community Coalitions in Ohio used a consensus method to help youth prioritize project areas, and assisted students in breaking larger concepts into smaller, manageable steps and activities to help set them on the path to achieving their goals.
  • Sitka Community coalition members in Alaska supported skill-building by supporting youth in facilitating conversations on their key issues of concern with through role-playing, teaching them to train other youth, and therefore preparing them to undertake leadership activities independently.
  • Youth Over Violence in Los Angeles emphasized the importance of trusting youth to lead: “Making sure that they know we trust them and what they’re doing [is key to their success].”
Key Lesson #2: To build connectedness and a sense of belonging, youth should be authentically engaged through meaningful relationships.
  • Sitka Youth Leadership Committee members continued to participate in activities over time because of the strong sense of community that developed in their groups, saying that it felt different than other youth groups because there was no competition – that everyone had a voice and a place there.
  • Adult staff at Peace Over Violence took every opportunity to demonstrate their respect for the youth and commitment to supporting them, showing up for meetings and underscoring their availability regularly. As a result, participating youth indicated that “there is at least one adult team member they feel connected to.” They also utilized structured team-building activities to foster a sense of connectedness among youth participants.
  • Sitka staff balanced structured activities with time for fun, noting, “It’s work but it’s also fun and it’s relaxed and it’s a place for them to be themselves… There’s space to share and laugh and be silly and let your guard down and get to know each other.”
Key Lesson #3: Given the diversity of youth backgrounds and experiences with trauma, it is important to be attentive to their comfort level and sense of safety.
  • The Los Angeles Community Coalition addressed different levels of comfort ranging from basic (how the room is physically set up to facilitate activities) to complex, less tangible considerations (checking in each day on how youth were feeling using a “feeling thermometer”).
  • The Sitka Community Coalition intentionally focused on resilience – highlighting protective factors and building connectedness –noting that this approach generated more buy-in and changed the way participants thought about building community. Warren and Knox County Teen Councils echoed this approach, noting that it also increased youth’s motivation to share.
  • In response to youth expressing concerns about being viewed negatively by their community, both the Los Angeles Community Coalition and the Cranston Community Coalition brought outside attention to the positive impact they are making – by inviting law enforcement and local reporters to engage in dialogue with the youth and learn about the ways they are making a difference.

Tools for Adaptation

Highlighted Projects

Related Resources from DELTA FOCUS Grantees


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Notice of Federal Funding and Federal Disclaimer: This website is funded through Grant #90EV0410-03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, Family Violence Prevention and Services Program [which incorporates funding provided by the National Center on Injury Prevention and Control/Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCIPC/CDC)]. Neither the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse this website including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided.

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