Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

The youth are an asset: speak to them as such.

Detroit Horse Power, a youth-enrichment program that uses horses as a vehicle for character development, saddled up next to metro-Detroit youth leaders with one question in mind: how could program messaging better describe young leaders? 

Nicole Byrd, managing director of Detroit Horse Power, was looking for authenticity and honesty, two traits also valued by Generation Z. A select handful of young people were ready to advise her.  

Asset-based language is a must 

Gen Z strategists meeting with Detroit Horse Power

Outlining areas of improvement for youth-focused organizations means amplifying youth voices first.  

This is the focus of Gen Z design sessions, a string of youth-led discussions created by The Skillman Foundation and moderated by The Steen Foundation.  

In each session, the youth consultants hear what organization leaders believe is a challenge facing the organization. Byrd asked the group how Detroit Horse Power’s communications and messaging can better describe young leaders. She is a fan of asset-based language, a communication framework that focuses on the positive attributes of those being described rather than their shortcomings. It is currently missing from the organization’s way of speaking.  

Nicole Byrd, managing director of Detroit Horse Power, participating in the Gen Z Design session (pictured second from right)

One young person advised Byrd to incorporate positive verbiage into the organization’s mission statement. Specifically, he suggested Detroit Horse Power leverage the five core traits taught to members: perseverance, empathy, responsible risk-taking, confidence, and self-control. 

“The key to asset-framing is what are the person’s goals, what are the person’s skills and mentioning that twice as often as you’re mentioning their deficits,” said Jelani Stowers, a youth leader and graduate of Wayne State University. “I think an easy answer would be to emphasize those assets and character traits that they already have and I didn’t see that [in the mission statement].” 

In addition to placing a larger focus on asset framing, the youth leaders encouraged Detroit Horse Power to have youth as the nucleus of the mission statement.  

Graphic notes for Gen Z Design session by Jasmin Smith

Recommendations included: 

  • Youth participation in a revising the mission statement 
  • Increased emphasis on youth experiences and contributions 

As young people continue to create change and inspire new thinking, The Skillman Foundation will be here to share its profound knowledge on 

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