XQ Youth Voice Kit


How to start a
change effort

When Elizabethton High (EHS) School board leaders scheduled a meeting about funding, students made it a point to ensure their collective voices were heard. After connecting with staff, students began to organize to learn how they could collect input from students at their high school to be shared with leaders.

Group 20260

Before changemaking begins, it is
important to understand what change is—
and your role in it. Jump to learn how to
start a change effort through these steps:

Step 01      Understand yourself

efforts in
start with

Change efforts in high school start with you.

arrow Tip:
Knowing oneself is important on this
journey, and starting changemaking
can be hard work! Remind yourself
how powerful you are, take breaks,
and be kind to yourself.

arrow Tip:
Knowing oneself is important on this
journey, and starting changemaking
can be hard work! Remind yourself
how powerful you are, take breaks,
and be kind to yourself.

Solo Exercise

Understand yourself

Every changemaking journey starts
with understanding ourselves, what
we stand for, and why we’re drawn to change.


arrow Discover where you are on your

path as a person in your high

school community.

arrow Reflect on your thoughts on

change and what makes you, you.

Step 02      Explore people and power

Change efforts are grounded in your high school community.

Key Concept

Power can take many forms—and it is often held by people differently. There is the power that people possess together (power with), and the power that others use as control (power over).

What does “people” mean?

‘People’ are those in high school communities who can take action or make decisions, or are affected by those decisions. Peers, adults, and groups you might draw from to support your change.

What does “power” mean?

‘Power’ is the ability to influence the actions of others. Power can be held and shared. Often, power isn’t equally shared, even in high school communities—which can create inequalities in access to resources and decision-making.

What does “power over” mean?

‘Power over’ is the ability of an individual or group to exert control over others. Power over might be a boss telling an employee what to do. Most of what we think of and see in daily life as power is power over.

What does “power with” mean?

‘Power with’ is the ability of groups to bring together resources to create something greater than the sum of their parts—more power together than they might have had alone.

Solo Exercise

Explore people
and power

High school changemakers ground their efforts in their high school communities, identifying the people and power they possess in order to better understand who can be an ally, teammate, or supporter.


arrow Map your world–your peers

and others in your high school


arrow Understand the resources

they have

arrow See where you’ll draw from

build a team

arrow Tip:
Even though sometimes it can be
hard to feel powerful, high
schoolers have many different
kinds of power: their voice, time,
knowledge, effort, ideas, and
participation at school.

Step 03      Build the change team

Making change means going from
“me” to “we”.

Team Exercise

Build the change team

Make the shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ by
building a team to co-create with you.
A team should be drawn from people
you can count on, with a stake in your
high school community.


arrow Find your team and

determine roles

arrow Set team commitments

on how you will

work together

arrow Plan the team’s first

meeting with

everyone’s input

arrow Tip:

When you’re building your team, consider who has the skills, knowledge, and experience to contribute. Include a broad range of voices, and consider those who don’t normally have a seat at the table, such as a teacher, advisor, or community member.

Step 04      Discover the change

Changemaking is all
about laser focus.

is all about
laser focus.

Key Concept

The high school community is a vibrant and complex system that includes you as an individual, your classroom, the school itself, and the larger community of invested parties.

arrow Tip:

Great ideas for your high school come from many places, and one of the richest sources of insight is you and your fellow students. Explore the XQ Youth Voice Cards to help inspire the the change areas your team might select.

Team Exercise

Discover the change

Explore areas of change that are motivating and connected to your school—consider what inspires each of you!


arrow Map the changes the team

wants to see

arrow Ideate and land on a change in

your high school community

arrow Share why this change matters

to you

Step 05      Research the change

In any

Key Concept

Different types of research can help you
get clearer on the change area and its
impact on your high school community.

Individual and group interviews

Individual and group interviews (focus groups) are useful methods to surface stories and voices from your school and community

Host one-on-one or group interviews within your high school or community with experts in the field and leaders or decision-makers

Look to ensure that a variety of backgrounds and experiences are represented, including voices not normally given a seat at the table


Surveys are useful methods to capture and reflect many voices

Conduct surveys to answer important questions around your change efforts or track responses and feelings over time

Try to engage at least 10% of your high school community—and include a diversity of voices

Observation & field research

Observation and field research into lived experiences are useful methods to gain insights of students and adults in your high school community to understand key needs and motivations

With permission, look to observe people, their roles, the resources they use, and the spaces they inhabit

Desk research

Desk research is a useful method to surface best-in-class examples (e.g., case studies), how others have done it (e.g., articles), statistics, and studies of other high schools or contexts (e.g., data libraries)

Aim to use authoritative sources, such as university websites, Google Scholar, etc., and consistently credit sources for information you’ve gathered

Team Exercise

Research the change

Changemaking asks us to ground ourselves in the current state of the issues we care about. Use research as a way to get clearer on the change.


arrow Set learning goals for the


arrow Understand and learn more

about your change

arrow Update your assumptions

around the problem(s) you’ll


arrow Tip:

Research should be

an ongoing effort! As

your change effort

evolves, constantly

unearth up-to-date

and relevant facts and

data to support the


Step 06      Reflect

Changemakers deserve
moments to reflect and

Reflecting on what has been learned up until this point is important, especially as a changemaker. It provides an opportunity for self-awareness, personal growth, and learning from any challenges along the way. This can enable better decision-making and cultivate a deeper understanding of oneself.

To practice self-reflection on what has been learned up until this point, think about the following:

Reflect on what you and
your team learned

Think about what you are
most excited about, and what
makes you nervous

Consider what you might need
more or less of and what might
help you moving forward

Next section

Now that you and your team know what you want to change, it's time to make it happen!