Youth Speak Out: Facilitating Youth-Led Action Research Projects in DC

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

John Ungerleider


This paper explores the dynamics of youth-led social action projects through the lens of the organizations and adult facilitators who supporting young people in this project. It seeks to better understand the role of organizations in setting up the structure for youth-led social action projects. This paper addresses the following questions:

  1. What is the role of youth-serving organizations in supporting youth in making change in their communities and on a national and global stage?
  2. What is the programmatic design that youth-serving organizations employ to support youth through social action projects?
  3. What are some of the common obstacles for young people in carrying out their social action projects? How do adults support youth in overcoming these challenges?

To build on the researcher’s own personal experience in supporting youth in creating social action projects, the paper includes interviews from youth-development practitioners from the Washington, DC who work in organizations whose mission includes supporting youth to make change in their communities. These organizations- Critical Exposure, Many Languages, One Voice (MLOV), LearnServe International and Global Kids each approach youth action projects through unique frameworks and modalities.

This paper outlines best practices for youth-serving organizations including program design that includes: knowledge and understanding of a specific issue; leadership and teamwork; conflict analysis and action planning; implementation; and reflection. The paper also explores the unique role of adult facilitators in mentoring and supporting youth as they encounter obstacles for completion in the future. Overall, this paper makes recommendations to youth development professionals on how to establish a critical pedagogy framework, fluid program, and healthy relationships to meet the needs of youth who are seeking to make a difference in the world around them.


Civic and Community Engagement | Educational Leadership | Service Learning

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