Youth-Led Community Challenge

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Engage Youth Leadership through a Community Challenge: A Community Challenge is a themed initiative that engages widely diverse participation and sparks ownership in the health and spirit of your community. In this project, youth learn about their communities as they are trusted to bring diverse people and places together with a shared vision for the good of all.

This resource was developed in collaboration with the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) Youth Philanthropy Task Force powered by Michigan youth, CMF members, and nonprofit leaders. For links to all the resources, go back to the overview. 

What Is a Community Challenge?

"There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about."  - Margaret J. Wheatley

A Community Challenge is a themed initiative that energizes the health and spirit of the community around a shared vision and engages widely diverse participation - across ages, talents, gender expressions, races, faiths, sectors, and abilities. The guide below features youth as key organizers, with the purpose of identifying and addressing community needs under the guidance of cross-sector facilitation.

Some Popular Examples of Community Challenges

Themed public art event: In Chicago, "Cows on Parade" challenged people to decorate fiberglass cow sculptures for public art (similarly, fish for Grand Rapids and turtles on Mackinac Island). To build community spirit, these painted statues were commissioned, displayed around town, and sold to support charities. This increased hometown pride, tours of the city, and fundraising for the nonprofit sector.    

Trail Tracker: in a community whose outstanding feature was the natural landscape, they challenged people to walk all of the trails in the county within a year. They provided small incentives and encouraged donations to maintain the parks and trails. They celebrated the people of all ages who walked, biked, and skied all of the trails by posting their names in a public space. 

More examples of Community Challenges

Bring the Community Together

This guide to designing and implementing a youth-service-oriented “challenge” activity may be used by foundations, nonprofits, community organizations, schools, families, youth councils, and other groups.    

The “challenge” activity has the primary purpose of involving people across all populations in taking action for the common good and may be framed as either a friendly competition or an incentive to meet a goal collectively. The goal may center on an identified community need and be measured in dollars, tasks, visitors, or other creative expressions. The challenge provides an opportunity to do the following:  

  • Bring diverse voices and people together with a shared vision for the good of all
  • Identify and address a community need by listening to those most impacted
  • Build awareness of businesses and nonprofits and pride in the community  
  • Empower and encourage youth leaders
  • Increase positive perception of youth  
  • Build new networks and lasting partnerships across boundaries 
  • Demonstrate the ways a community can work together to achieve a common goal by combining different strengths and talents 

Explore more benefits of engaging youth 

Plan the Challenge

These are the basic steps of planning and carrying out a youth-led community challenge. Each step is described in detail in the PDFs below. 

  1. Guidance for project facilitation - Link to PDF 
  2. Define and articulate "Community Challenge" - Link to PDF
  3. Form a planning team - Link to PDF 
  4. Plan the Community Challenge - Link to PDF 
  5. Implement the challenge, reflect, and evaluate - Link to PDF