Benefits of Meaningful Youth Engagement:

Helping them Thrive

January 21, 2021

Written by the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation

The Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation wants to create a world of possibility. An environment that fosters positive growth and development through active play and social participation; a world that prioritizes physical and mental wellbeing; and promotes life-long learning that fuels positive change and progress.

In a world of talented, energetic, and motivated young people, why is it important to consciously choose to facilitate meaningful youth engagement? By providing a supportive space for expression, choice, and decision-making positive behavioural, emotional and education impacts will abound. Giving young people the opportunity for active and meaningful civic participation encourages personal growth and connection to the world around them. By investing in the creativity and skills of young people, they are given the power to reach their full potential.

Their future is now.

Positive behavioural impacts

Bringing young people of diverse backgrounds, economic standing and thought together in a safe and moderated space makes room for growth through positive interactions. Together, they:

  • develop empathy for others;
  • learn valuable team building skills;
  • realize that their voice matters;
  • realize that they can make a difference;
  • develop a sense of social responsibility;
  • and are more likely to get involved in civic issues in the future. ²

As a result, they have:

  • Less problem behaviour
  • More active coping skills
  • More social interactions
  • Heathier relationships
  • Increased valuing of diversity
  • Increased leadership
  • Better physical health ¹

Positive emotional impacts

Getting involved in positive programming also creates space for young people to feel better about themselves. Through active involvement in positive programming young people are given the opportunity to:

  • discover their won voice;
  • develop their sense of self;
  • begin to understand that they have their own personal knowledge;
  • and realize that their insight is valuable. ²

This, leading to:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Less depression and anxiety
  • More positive feelings
  • More hope
  • Greater sense of energy ¹

Positive educational impacts

Thoughtful programming offers opportunities to learn new skills and to be introduced to new peers and mentors. Through collective actions and interactions, young people:

  • develop strong critical thinking skills through group discussion, and planning processes;
  • develop analytical skills by synthesizing new information, new ideas and new perceptions;
  • develop their public speaking skills and experience in a safe environment;
  • build effective relationships with mentors and other professionals;
  • access important future opportunities for work and education;
  • and develop other key skills that help them become job ready. ²

Leading to:

  • Increased school engagement
  • Higher school achievement
  • Increased job opportunities ¹


The OGYF Youth Leadership Council will be formed as a diverse group of dedicated young people from the National Capital Region who are looking to have their voices heard and advocate, as a collective, for their community. The Youth Leadership Council will help identify the needs of youth in the Ottawa and Gatineau region and champion key projects that they believe will provide a measurable impact in our community, while advising the OGYF staff and Board on granting decisions in the areas of physical wellness, mental wellness, and social justice.

Source: ¹ Youth who Thrive – April 2014, Prepared by: Social Program Evaluation Group (SPEG),

Queen’s University and The Students Commission of Canada, Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement

¹ Social Program Evaluation Group (SPEG),Queen’s University and The Students Commission of Canada, Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement “Youth Who Thrive” (2014)

² Summary of Sources:

ACT (Assets Coming Together) for Youth Center for Community: Action Youth Development and Evaluation Benefits of Youth Participatory Evaluation

which includes:

Checkoway, B., Dobbie, D., Richards-Schuster, K. (2003). Youth engagement in community evaluation research. CYD Journal, 4 (1). Zimmerman, K., and London, J. (2003).

Getting to go: Building organizational capacity to engage in youth-led research, evaluation, and planning. CYD Journal, 4(1), 19-25. Zeldin, S., Larson, R., Camino, L., and O’Connor, C. (2005).

Intergenerational relationships and partnerships in community programs: Purpose, practice, and directions for research. Journal of Community Psychology, 33(1), 1-10. Sabo, K. (2003)

Youth participatory evaluation: A field in the making. New Directions in Evaluation, 98. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research

Advocates for Youth. “Youth Involvement in Prevention Programming”, n.d.

Mokwena, Steve. “Putting Youth Engagement into Practice: A Toolkit for Action.” London: Commonwealth Youth Programme, Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006.