Joseph Quesada’s talk this afternoon was a generous buffet of ideas and insights into youth leadership. And of the many slides that zipped through the screen, one with the Ladder of Youth Voice stood out.
First used by UNICEF to provide instructors with a framework to understand how involved the youth are in various organizations, institutions, and communities, the Ladder of Youth Voice was presented by JQ to make us teachers and administrators think about the kind of leadership environment we provide Pisay students. Having worked extensively in developing leadership programs, Mr. Quesada was on hand to catalyze our own thinking process as we begin the exciting work of designing the PSHS’s own.
Rungs 1 to 3 present non-participation. When the youth are simply made to do tasks, are asked to simply be there, or to act as a props in creating the perception of youth involvement, then they’re pretty much non-participants in the process.
Rung 4 is a little better. Think of the last time you were tasked by a teacher or authority to do something. But that’s it. You really don’t get to contest or suggest, but at least you’re involved in the most basic level.
Rung 5 upwards is where we can see more participation. Youth consultation occurs when the authorities draft a policy but with valuable inputs from the youth. Rung 6 is similar, but there is more working together between youth and authority from drafting to implementing the policy.
Rung 7 is when the youth themselves dictate the agenda. Think of a student leader coming to the administration to put forward a proposal he is willing to fight and work for — that’s what youth-driven means.
The highest, Rung 8, isn’t just about working together. It’s about the institution actually integrating youth participation in its daily procedures and processes. The Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) in its idealized form is an example of this.
So what do these all mean?
If you’re someone from age 11 to 30, take a look at the place you study or work. Which Rung do you find yourself in?
While we do our best to not find ourselves anywhere from Rungs 1 to 3, different communities may calibrate themselves from Rungs 4 to 8 depending on their need.
Some set ups will require more top-down instruction — perhaps a basic education class — but youth clubs and organizations may benefit from a more equitable and collegial approach. There will naturally be institutions that are more traditional vis-a-vis some that are more progressive. Just know where you are and fully understand the mandate of the place you are in. It’s always great to push for more involvement, but do so at the right time and with the right purpose.
Your place in the Rung may also depend on you — your age, maturity, skills, talents, and personal drive. After all, before you lead others you must first lead yourself.
(Read more about The Ladder of Youth Voice here.)