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Youth Leadership Resources

Leadership is a multifaceted concept that is understood and practiced in many different ways in various places and countries and regions. For young people, taking leadership can bring many opportunities and challenges, but most importantly, it can enrich the learning experience.

The MyCOE program is set up to encourage youth to develop leadership by supporting them to address globally important issues of sustainable development in their own local communities. There are at least three fundamental principles of leadership that explicitly and implicitly underlie the MyCOE approach and the integration of youth leadership into themes of sustainable development:

These principles also happen to align well with the National Standards for Youth Development and Youth Leadership as published by the National Alliance for Secondary Education and Transition.

Read on to learn how past MyCOE participants have demonstrated these three principles of youth leadership.  See also Additional Resources, below.

Leadership and Decision-making

Leaders have to make tough decisions sometimes. However, making the right decision, or a decision that would lead to effective solutions, should be based upon information and knowledge. It should be science-based, not politics-driven. Particularly spatial information and geographic knowledge can aid decision-makers to visualize problems in new ways, which can lead to finding better solutions. One example of this principle of leadership can be seen in the following MyCOE project:

UGANDA: Deterioration of Agricultural Land and Implications for Biodiversity and Food Security in Kampala

Theme: Food Security

A MyCOE Fellow studying at Makerere University used geographic technologies, including remote sensing, to classify and measure changes in land uses in this part of Africa. High rates of urbanization in the area has led to the loss of critical agricultural production and caused land fragmentation which has affected food production and gives rise to a state of food insecurity for rural and city residents alike. Knowing the scope and nature of the deficit as well as the locations for intervention can inform decision makers about options for improving food security, such as support for urban agriculture and land planning policies that minimize fragmentation. (Special thanks to AAG and NASA.) Read more.

Leadership and Action

Leaders are called upon to take action, although the types of action may vary greatly depending on the context, situation, place, and needs at different points in time.  They respond, take responsibility, and often inspire others to take action, too, be it by quiet example or by enthusiastic motivation, and everything in between. This implies that they are willing to share with others the results of their actions in thoughtful and respectful ways.  Good leaders also act ethically.  See the MyCOE Guidelines for Digital Citizenship to learn more about appropriate online behavior.  See the action principle of leadership at work in the following MyCOE project: 

JAMAICA: Making Economic Development Work in Socially and Environmentally Beneficial Ways  

Theme: Green Economy

Downtown Kingston suffers from the social and economic consequences of high unemployment urban decay in the city’s core. A team of students from Wolmer’s High School for Girls conducted a MyCOE project to study the possibility of using derelict buildings in downtown Kingston as space for job creation programs, particularly those in which street vendors receive training. The students mapped derelict buildings, interviewed city officials as well as residents, and collected publically available demographic data. From their analysis, they took action to share their results with officials, offering several recommendations, including establishing a rehabilitation program for former criminals who seek legal employment and focusing more on rural development initiatives to slow the negative environmental impacts of urbanization. Read more about their project and watch a video about their work. (Special thanks to the InterAmerican Development Bank and National Geographic Society.)








Leadership and Community Building

Good leaders know how to create and maintain good relationships.  They can attract and nurture partnerships, and mobilize others to reach their common goals.  Leaders are tolerant of differences and encourage groups to come together and act in harmony.  They promote inclusion to the communities they build. Effective leaders use communication effectively and are good listeners, respectful of diverse opinions, cultures, languages, backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences.  The following two examples of MyCOE projects exemplify this principle of leadership and community building and how geographic perspectives and technologies can be used as a unifying tool for community-based projects.

HONDURAS: Preparation, Mitigation, and Adaptation along the Mosquito Coast

Theme: Climate Change

In the wake of the devasation of Hurricane Mitch, the second most deadly Atlantic hurricane in history, communities in Central America were awakened to the need for planning to respond to extreme climatalogical events, which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in this region due to global climate change. Two MyCOE students led a project in tandem with local communities, government and university researchers to apply geographic technologies and concepts to understanding risk issues at the watershed level in Honduras. The team set up a comprehensive geodatabase for spatial modeling of water quality and related watershed risk issues --including for flooding, which was responsible for most of the casualties--within five municipalities that belong to a high-poverty and high disaster prone region along the Mosquito Coast. These datasets became the basis for both impact analyses of the current watershed system as well as for modeling risk scenarios under possible future natural hazards events.  (Special Thanks to USAID.)

“Now I’m beginning to understand how important working with the community is, and the link that is necessary to make between science and the community in order to have successful, effective sustainable projects. It’s not just words on paper; the communities involved can benefit directly.”


TEXAS, USA: Children’s Health and Safety in Low-income Neighborhoods in East Austin 

Theme: Vulnerability and Hazards

A large MyCOE team of one dozen young people designed and implemented a community-driven and participatory research endeavor, involving qualitative methods such as interviewing, participant observation, mental mapping, and participatory GIS. By incorporating formal, scientific knowledge with local perspectives on urban space, the team used concepts of environmental justice as a powerful approach to understand and engage the sometimes conflicting interests of activist groups, neighborhood organizations, policy makers and corporate interests. The group collaborated with neighborhood organizations, activists, and city planners to investigate concerns in East Austin, specifically health and safety concerns associated with industrial HazMat sites near schools that served marginalized, low-income and ethnic neighborhoods.  Read More(Special Thanks to US Department of Agriculture.)

Additional Resources

National Youth Leadership Council's Youth Leadership Toolbox  and Library of Project Examples that use mapping  

Youth Leadership Institute's White paper on Education Change and Youth Engagement

YouthLeadership.Com's Online Bibliography of Leadership

Download MyCOE Posters about the Scientific Method to print and post in your classroom, size 8.5 x 14; also El Método Científico available in Spanish.






Please report any abuses or concerns about inappropriate online behavior to  Users of MyCOE webpages for the purpose of classroom exchanges, commentary, and sharing are encouraged to follow proper guidelines for digital citizenship.