The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions has released a new report, Advancing Youth Voice and Changing the Narrative About Opportunity Youth, based on roundtable discussions and interviews with young leaders and their adult allies from four communities in the Opportunity Youth Forum network.

OYF collaboratives work to transform narratives about youth and young adults who are disconnected from school and work by (1) creating an asset-based frame by using the term “opportunity youth” (as opposed to “vulnerable youth,” “dropouts,” etc.), and (2) elevating recognition of the systematic — rather than individual — nature of challenges these youth and young adults face. These collaboratives are seeing their efforts pay off, with most finding that partners are beginning to focus on opportunity youth and young adults’ contributions and addressing the barriers to their success. In some communities, OYF collaboratives are intentionally focusing on promoting youth voice as a strategy for both fostering youth development and changing the narrative about opportunity youth and the challenges they face.

This roundtable discussion addressed strategies to promote youth voice, the potential healing power of storytelling as well as pitfalls of encouraging young people to tell their stories, and ways young people are influencing public narratives to promote a greater understanding of the issues opportunity youth face. To learn more about these intergenerational efforts, read the report here.