The Challenge of Youth Engagement in Local Government: Exploring the Use of Youth Councils in Amherst and Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia
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Youth councils are an increasingly popular tool that both government and non-governmental organizations use to inform policy and program development, to increase the participation of young people, and to improve the connection of youth to their communities and to civic life more broadly. In this thesis, the youth engagement experiences of local governments in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia are examined. Both municipalities initiated youth councils in recent years in an attempt to consult on issues affecting youth in their communities. The two communities have experienced varied degrees of success in implementing these strategies. In broad terms, youth councils operated more successfully in the smaller, more self-contained community of Amherst than in the more sprawling urban municipality of the Halifax area. The divergent experiences of these two municipalities inform a discussion about the merits of youth councils as a tool for engagement for local governments. It is concluded that while youth councils can be both effective in terms of achieving immediate objectives, success is not easily reproduced in all scenarios and depends to a large extent on the characteristics of the community itself, the level of support from adults and facilitators, and the ability of the councils to meet their objectives and thus achieve legitimacy among stakeholders, creating a positive feedback look which engenders further effectiveness.