What Boards Can Learn From Youth Programs

Published on February 14, 2017

Michael Davidson

Board Coach
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Thoughts from the Coach Boat: What Boards Can Learn From Youth Programs

I recently attended a presentation by Youth INC on a five-year study of the characteristics of programs that are most successful in engaging the active participation of young people. Effective engagement is achieved by creating an environment where participants experience being valued as individuals and are genuinely engaged in decision making about matters that are important.

The four practices that effectively engage young people are directly applicable to engaging board members.

1. Building relationships

  • Having one-on-one conversations where time is invested by staff to communicate interest in the lives of each participant

2. Discovering interests

  • Incorporating their interests in the design of group projects

3. Providing opportunities to make decisions

  • Engaging participants in decision-making about the goals and methodologies of their work and in the monitoring of progress

4. Communicating high expectations

  • Creating an environment and culture that communicates high-quality work, and providing stretch assignments

What can boards do to become effective teams?

  • Create opportunities for board members to find time to get to know one another informally
  • Engage board members in determining concrete objectives for their individual and collective work
  • Assure that the board is an honest partner in addressing the significant challenges for the organization: the good, the bad, and the ugly
  • Establish high expectations for the contributions of the board to add value to the achievement of the mission


We may be older but, in some ways, we are not really that different.


To learn more about Michael and his many accomplishments in the field, check out his Asking Matters Expert page and visit his website, boardcoach.com.

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