A true partnership exists when each person has the opportunity to make suggestions and decisions, and when everyone’s contribution is recognized and valued. A youth-adult partnership (YAP) exists when adults see young people as full partners on issues facing youth and the programs and policies that affect youth.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that does not always give young people many opportunities to make their own decisions. Many cultures around the world have a hierarchy that puts people like parents or adults over children and young people. This gives parents and adults more power over youth and creates an uneven power dynamic that can be toxic and make it hard for adults and youth to have a prolific partnership. To be effective partners, adults must respect and have confidence in young people. If they are truly sharing the power to make decisions with young people, it means adults are letting go of their traditional roles, listening rather than telling, and working with, rather than for youth.
A youth-adult partnership is one that integrates young people’s realistic perspectives and skills with professional adults’ experience and wisdom. It offers young people and adults the opportunity to share wisdom, make suggestions, and share decisions. All contributions are equally valued and appreciated in a good youth-adult partnership. It allows young people and adults to work in full partnership while envisioning, developing, implementing, and evaluating programs.
Often, tokenism (as mentioned in the Flower of Participation) is mistaken for youth-adult relationships. However, tokenism does not lead to equal partnership.
Examples of tokenism are:
Having youth present but with no clear role
Assigning to youth tasks that adults do not want to do
Having youth make appearances and doing work without previous training
Having only one youth on a board or council
There are different ways to approach a relationship between youth and adults:
Youth as Objects: Adults know what is best for young people and control situations in which they allow youth to be involved in.
Youth as Recipients: Adults allow young people to take part in decision-making because they think the experience will be “good for them”.
Youth as Partners: Adults respect young people as having something significant to offer, recognizing the greater impact youth bring to a project. Youth are encouraged to become involved.
You have the right to be involved in decision-making processes which concern your life. It makes programs more relevant and sustainable, and helps you develop personal skills, like:
Sense of purpose and future
Watch this Ted talk by Mae Thompson on creating youth-adult partnerships!
Want to learn more about YAPs?
On the website of 4-H Youth Development Program you can find another source that provides information on creating successful youth-adult partnerships: "Making it work - A guide to Youth-Adult Partnerships".
Download the English version of the CHOICE Youth-Adult Partnerships Toolkit here: DOWNLOAD
Download the French version HERE.