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.
Design and Facilitate Youth-Led Workshops for Peers and Community
This guide provides helpful tips and insights on how to develop effective philanthropy workshops and train youth as co-planners and facilitators. Youth-led interactive workshops equip young people with skills and ownership to lead change with their time, creativity, collaboration, and passion. The guide highlights the "Train the Trainer" model.
What is the role of a workshop facilitator?
- The facilitator is responsible for the logistics and content of the workshop, making sure it is aligned with the audience.
- The facilitator, whether adult or youth, keeps the discussion focused on the topic, clarifying (or asking for clarification) when something seems confusing.
- They collaborate with co-presenters and experts and plan ways to engage participants meaningfully.
Procedure for Building a Youth-Led Workshop
To make the workshop truly youth-led, make sure youth involvement and leadership are central to the planning process from gathering a team to the evaluation at the end. Welcome and encourage youth to take on as much leadership as they want while the adults act as guides on the side.
Recruit Workshop Leaders
While recruiting youth workshop leaders, keep the following in mind:
- Identify and invite diverse youth as workshop leaders, with the goal of making the workshop equitable and engaging for all participants. Include people of diverse ages, sexual orientations, gender identities, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, faith and values. Make sure you invite youth who aren't already highly engaged to participate in leadership and training.
- Observe barriers to participation and work to overcome them.
- Meet people where they are. This means you vary the meeting times and location to fit the schedules and transportation needs of the youth participants. Listen for the physical, emotional, language, and nutritional needs of participating youth to make sure these are not barriers to participation.
- Connect with experts or community partners to enhance the quality of the workshop and expand the networking potential.
- Include young people who are interested in the topic and people closest to the outcomes of it.
Identify Workshop FocusThe focus or issue area for the workshop should be determined with youth and based on community needs and interests. Some issue areas relevant to youth may include mental health, drunk driving, bullying, community blight, and lack of safe spaces for youth.
Explore and identify the topic with some of the following methods:
- Conduct a Needs Assessment – Send out a survey requesting community, or peer, feedback on options for workshop topics. Include open-ended questions for community members to contribute their input.
- Focus group – This is a research method that brings together a small group of people to answer questions in a moderated setting. The group is chosen by predefined demographic traits, and the questions are designed to shed light on a topic of interest. (See references below.)
- Townhall meeting – Hold an informal public meeting around shared subjects of interest.
With youth facilitators, use the collected information to determine the goals and expected outcomes you would like to see for the workshop. It is helpful to plan the evaluation early so you are sure to teach what you want to measure.
Build the workshop agenda:
- Youth work with a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who has deep experience in the topic(s).
- The SME trains the youth in the content and workshop techniques. They give them sufficient information about community needs and community assets.
- The SME provides the facilitator content in a digestible structured format. They train the youth step-by-step as the youth practice mastering parts of the workshop at a time.
Keeping the audience in mind, youth and the SME write a workshop agenda to achieve the outcomes. The SME may help adjust the content to the group’s needs and personality.
Promote and Market the Workshop
- Promote the workshop through several networks – youth, churches, community partners, schools, parents, and nonprofit organizations. Use social media, word of mouth, flyers, newsletters, and posters.
- Include the location, time, purpose, and outcomes on your marketing materials.
- Provide a meal or refreshments at the workshop, if financially possible.
- Review with the workshop facilitator how the workshop went, did you meet your goals, and what you can do differently next time.
- Request feedback at the time of the training and follow up with participants after a week, a few months, and a year later.
Tips and Tools
- Maintain flexibility to allow for listening to the strengths of your facilitators and the needs and experience of the participants. Leaders can lead from any seat.
- Listen, engage, and include: stay alert, listen actively, and remain interested and engaged. This sets a good example for other participants. Is everyone engaged? If not, how can you bring them in? How can you get better participation?
- Monitor checkpoints, and summarize: keep in control of the agenda, tell people what they've achieved and what's next; summarize often.
CMF and Learning to Give provide tools to use in training and youth empowerment. Here are some samples:
- Professional development - Learning to Give mini-courses and white papers
- Activities and philanthropy lessons - Youth Group Facilitator Guide
- Stories of service - What youth are doing in service
- Film activity guides - brief videos with discussion
- Cultural competence - facilitator guide and Inclusive Communities
- Identity in community activities - Culturally Responsive SEL for Social Justice
- Activities and types of meetings - Respectful Meetings guidelines
- Lucid Meetings. "What Is a Workshop?" https://www.lucidmeetings.com/glossary/workshop
- Mind Tools. "Active Listening." https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm
- Portions of the “Role of the Facilitator” section were adapted from “A Manual for Group Facilitators.” A publication of The Center for Conflict Resolution. Madison, WI.
- Chron. "What Is the Train the Trainer Model?" https://work.chron.com/train-trainer-model-5463.html
- Fearless Presentations. "How to Create a Train-the-Trainer Course." https://www.fearlesspresentations.com/train-the-trainer-model-how-to-create-a-train-the-trainer-course/
- Scribbr. "What Is a Focus Group?" https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/focus-group/