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The Power of Youth Work Associations


Youth work associations are powerful and I’ve come to the understanding that who you associate with really does matter, especially if you want to create change. When you associate with people that share your passion, they will energize you and help you to see new possibilities.

If we want to bring about meaningful change in how we support our young people, we need to understand and use the power of associations. That old adage, “Birds of a feather flock together” is true.

People have an innate desire to be around like-minded people and feel a sense of belonging. This has been true since the beginning of time and that is why there have been trade guilds and other associations for centuries.

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    Associations can be powerful influencers of change

    One of the best examples is the Civil Rights Movement. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. united and led like-minded people to advance changes that would ensure individuals are judged on the merits of their character rather than the color of their skin.

    Dr. King did more than ‘hope’. He got individuals and numerous organizations with shared goals to work together. Professional associations have that same power.

    There are numerous professions (e.g. physicians, teachers) that use the power of associations to bring about the change they want to see. But individuals and organizations working with young people have not fully capitalized on the power of youth work associations.

    It’s no secret that people working with youth have not yet come under one unified umbrella and the field remains segmented. In youth work, we still lack a common language and the end result is that too many of our young people remain marginalized.

    Youth work associations will help empower young people and here’s why:

    • They affect beliefs. Staying true to personal beliefs is difficult in this information age when there is so much noise. Associations help you form and confirm your shared beliefs.
    • They affect behavior. Actions speak louder than words. To create positive change, you have to behave in a manner that is consistent with your beliefs. Associations give you multiple opportunities to act.
    • They affect attitude. The world is full of naysayers that will tell you what is impossible. By surrounding yourself with people who share your dreams, you see the possibilities.
    • They affect work. Associating with people doing the same work as you feeds your drive and passion. Associations offer a place to learn from your peers and become a more skilled youth worker.
    • They affect organizations. In order to gain the acceptance and support your program needs, you need a movement that is bigger than your organization alone and that is the power of an association.
    • They affect the bottom line. Sweeping reform and society-wide acceptance of the need to support at-risk youth will improve your agency’s bottom line. Good associations set out to create this mass acceptance.

    Leaders know that to make any organization great you have to develop your team of individuals. Youth work associations develop a team of organizations and works together with them to reach a common goal.

    When becoming part of an association, you become part of the team that works toward making your vision a reality. Connect with an association and use that power to change the lives of the young people we all care about so deeply.

    About the author

    Paul Meunier is the executive director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Paul a question or share your feedback about this blog, email

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