Innovation and Action: Strengthening Real Time, Real World Youth Leadership

Wendy Wheeler, President and Founder
Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development
Takoma Park, Maryland

Leadership can be experienced in diverse contexts in a number of different ways, but at its core, true leadership is about learning, listening, dreaming, and working together to unleash the potential of people’s time, talent, and treasure for the common good. Although many people have come to recognize that young people have an important voice to share in their communities, too often young people are excluded from community leadership roles or relegated to age-segregated opportunities such as service-learning and youth commissions. Young people are not only key stakeholders of a community, but they also represent a huge and often untapped reservoir of human energy, talent, and vision.

This experiential workshop will highlight the practical elements that promote authentic youth leadership. Drawing on the experience of youth and adult community leaders from across the country, participants in this workshop will explore a variety of successful methods, tools, and program innovations that build the capacity of youth and adults to work together in community leadership.

About the Presenter . . . .

Wendy Wheeler seeks out, nurtures, and brings to scale exceptional strategies to support young people, strengthen communities, and promote social justice. A leader of youth-oriented organizations and a sought-after international expert in training and organizational development, she has held management posts in the YMCA, YWCA, Girl Scouts of the USA, and National 4-H Council. As President of the Innovation Center, she has worked with domestic and international organizations, universities, and philanthropic organizations in training and advisory roles, including a recent invited paper and presentation at the Education and the Civic Purpose of Schools in the Americas conference, San Jose, Costa Rica, sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Fundácion Oscar Arias para la Paz y el Progreso Humano. She serves as an advisor and board member for a number of organizations. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Applied Developmental Science, and has written numerous articles for dissemination to practitioner and academic audiences.

Through the work of the Innovation Center, Wendy is committed to exploring and surfacing new understanding regarding the complex link between youth leadership and social justice. In this work, the Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development connects thinkers and leaders of all ages to develop fresh ideas, forge new partnerships and design strategies that engage young people and their communities. The Innovation Center helps innovative programs become strong, sustainable ventures while using what is learned from community organizations to inform research, funding, and policy. As a result of the Innovation Center’s work, theoretical knowledge is turned into practical know-how that advances the field of youth development and promotes social change. For more information about the Innovation Center, visit The Innovation Center.


Laboratory for Community and Economic Development | College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois Extension | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign