"We are working with young people, rather than for young people.” Peter Poit (director United Nations Programma on HIV/AIDS)

A true partnership exist when each person has the opportunity to make suggestions and decisions, and when everyone’s contribution is recognize 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 are hierarchical, which means that people considered to have a ‘higher rank’ like parents or adults, have more power over those with a ‘lower rank’ like children and young people. 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 is mistaken for youth-adult relationships. However, tokenism is not 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 without 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 is good for your personal development too:

  • Social competence
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Autonomy
  • Sense of purpose and future

You practice!

Think of an example where you have been working together with adults. Write down how you perceived that experience, which role you had, how you felt about the partnership, etc.
Also write down what you would do different next time you work together with adults.