April 2014 / Volume 2, No. 2

Youth groups: Who does what?

So you’ve started a youth group and have recruited some members. Congratulations! Now you need to make sure that your group will achieve its goals. You need structure! Establishing roles and responsibilities and clearly communicating who does what will help keep members engaged and go a long way towards ensuring your activities are successful.

The structure of a youth group

If you are affiliated with a National Member Organization (NMO), they may have an organizational structure for you to follow. If not, you will need to agree on a structure for your group.

The structure is not definitive; it will vary depending on the number of youth involved and the focus of the group. In larger groups several people may share a set of responsibilities, while in a smaller group one individual may take on a number of roles. Remember that you can always restructure if you need to, for example if needs change over time, or if the current structure is not working well.

Regardless of the level of formality, the youth group structure can be broadly divided into three levels based on the responsibilities of the volunteers: organizational leadership (e.g. president, executive committee, youth leaders), group management (e.g. working group or project leaders, youth managers), and general youth members. One example of an efficient youth group with a formal organizational structure is the youth group of the Hemophilia Federation of India (HFI). We will look at examples from this group as we explore each of the three levels.

Organizational leadership
Youth at this level work closely with the formal governing body of the NMO to represent the youth perspective and to ensure that the youth group operates within the vision and aim of the organization. Volunteers may sit on boards or committees of the NMO (with full or limited membership), or participate in an advisory capacity. They also relay information from the larger organization to the rest of the youth group. For example, a Youth Member sits on the HFI Executive Committee. He or she organizes national youth initiatives, motivates youth managers from various chapters, and coordinates youth contributions to HFI periodical communications.

Examples of other positions at this level of the organization may include:

  • President: leads the local youth group, directs the group management to ensure that the parent organization’s vision and aims are being followed, and that appropriate activities are being undertaken.
  • Vice President: works with the president to ensure that the youth group has the resources necessary to carry out its activities, and helps to identify and implement priority initiatives.
  • Treasurer: oversees the finances of the youth group and reports back to the Executive Committee of the organization.

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Group management
These are the youth who run the actual youth group activities, who are in charge of a specific issue or who are responsible for an area of long-term involvement. They receive guidance from the leadership regarding the organization’s values and priorities and the objectives of the project they have been tasked with. Drawing upon the rest of the youth group, they gather the resources and put in place the structure necessary to carry out the group’s activities. Importantly, they also report back on activities and member views to the youth leadership. In the HFI youth group, Regional Youth Representatives coordinate activities and youth members in each region, and provide status reports on their region’s group.

Other examples of positions at this level of the organization may include:

What’s next?

Team building

How do you go about turning a group of people into a team working enthusiastically towards a common goal? How can a team ensure that morale stays high? In the next Young Voices article, read more about the power of a great team.

General membership
All members, whatever their level of involvement in the group, should be proud to be part of the bleeding disorders community, feel valued for their contributions, be respectful of other members, and help make the group a fun and friendly place to be. They should have opportunities to participate in the group’s activities, whether volunteering to organize a particular project or taking part in activities organized by others. Members should feel welcome to suggest new ideas and projects to the group. As you plan for the future of your youth group, you will want to identify potential leaders and encourage them to take on more responsibility, to ensure the success of your youth group continues into the future.

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What do you think? Was this information useful to you? What are the strengths of your youth group’s organization?