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Engaging youth in meetings

By Nicole Kudrle

Youth and two adults seated, talking and working at a table in a meeting
These days I find my schedule packed with meetings. The popularity of Zoom has allowed us to meet with one another more, while traveling less. I have started to wonder if all of these meetings are really necessary. Are they productive, or are we just meeting because we want to socialize with one another? This got me thinking about my work with youth and wondering if they were experiencing something similar. 

I noticed a steady decline in youth attendance at 4-H federation meetings and I wanted to find out why. In the fall of 2022, I met with a group of youth and volunteers to discuss the decline in attendance and developed a plan to change it. Youth shared that they were attending meeting after meeting. They often had meetings during the week with sports, other youth organizations, and churches. They identified that they were burnt out because of all these meetings.

From this focused conversation, youth identified five key items that prevented them from wanting to attend meetings: 
  1. Too many 4-H meetings in a week and in a month.
  2. They wanted time to socialize with friends.
  3. No incentive to attend the meeting, like food or prizes.
  4. Adults often take over meetings.
  5. Meetings are very long and do not pertain to what they want to hear about.

After hearing their concerns, I spent time reviewing the new 4-H meeting agenda. This agenda encourages short business meetings, with more time spent on learning and socializing. Using this tool, I asked youth to brainstorm possible solutions. They came up with these five:
  1. Combine meetings with a learning opportunity or training. This will reduce the need for everyone to gather multiple times in a week or month.
  2. Create opportunities for social gatherings where there is no agenda but youth can gather to play games or talk around the campfire.
  3. Ensure there is a snack at each meeting. Ask youth to bring snacks each time.
  4. Have a parent meeting. Set up a separate area where parents can meet and ask questions. A great time to schedule this parent meeting is when youth have an opportunity to socialize.
  5. Change the name of the meeting. Have the title reflect the learning opportunity and have a short time right at the beginning to conduct business. "Meetings" have a negative connotation to youth.

By incorporating these simple solutions, the number of youth participants attending our 4-H federation meetings has doubled. Youth and adults enjoy the meetings and are engaged in the activities. 

What tips do you have to engage youth in meetings? What strategies do you use to ensure meetings are productive and efficient? What is something you are considering changing in your next meeting?

-- Nicole Kudrle, Extension educator

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  1. Encontré esta información relevante. Gracias!!

  2. Great article Nicole. I love that you are utilizing the new agenda template during Federation meetings.
    I often tell my own children that adults "play" by talking and understand how easily adults can carry away the conversation. The idea of having a meeting time for adults to talk while youth get socialization time is a win win.
    Great problem solving.

  3. "Engaging youth in meetings" is a well-written and informative article that provides valuable guidance for anyone looking to involve young people in meetings and decision-making processes. It emphasizes the importance of creating an inclusive environment and provides practical strategies for promoting youth engagement.


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