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Youth/Adult Partnerships

This article looks at the components of creating a youth/adult partnership and what needs to be in place for a partnership to develop into a sustainable relationship.

There are eight elements of successful youth/adult partnerships: attitudes, learning, logistics, involvement, analysis, outreach, commitment and exchange.


Youth and adults need to assess their own attitudes and behaviors. Some key questions that should be addressed individually by each member are:

  • Do I appreciate different perspectives?
  • What stereotypes do I have about others?
  • Why should I be open to working with youth/adults?
  • Could I share power with a(n) youth/adult?
  • Do I hold preconceptions about youth/adults? What are they and why?

Respect also plays a major role in one’s attitude/behavior towards others.

  • Each person in the group deserves the same respect given to others.
  • A culture of respect provides all people the opportunity to act on their dreams and learn from their mistakes.


Create opportunities that foster mutual learning.

  • Provide for orientations and trainings that are beneficial to support both youth and adults.
  • Make sure that the trainings are relevant to the group’s purpose and will enable them to get things done effectively.
  • Consider trainings on: problem solving, action planning, how to read budget reports, etc.
  • Be sure to get suggestions on trainings from members and utilize youth trainers.


  • Determine roles and responsibilities for both youth and adults: How will young people fit into the organizational structure or overall plan? Who will be responsible for what?
  • Be conscious of youth and adult schedules when planning meetings and gatherings.
  • Account for transportation of youth and be aware of food and beverages served at meeting (i.e., if serving alcohol to guests offer youth a non-alcoholic alternative).


Count us in: Decisions about young people should be made with young people.

  • Involving young people from the beginning builds ownership.
  • Adults need to support young people in taking on responsibility based on what they can do, not what they have done.
  • Young people and adults must hold each other accountable for all their decisions and actions.
  • Provide financial and moral support.
  • Create situations which foster mentorship between youth and adults.
  • Push your organization/project/team to challenge the boundaries; How could this Youth/Adult Partnership be even more successful?
  • Encourage creative and new ideas.
  • Acknowledge time, effort, and successful partnerships with recognition and celebration activities.
  • Have fun!


Reflection helps everyone appreciate the importance of their work — for themselves, for their program, and for their community.

  • Both youth and adults should reflect on strengths, weaknesses, and personal practice they observe through their partnership.
  • Reflection can be facilitated through on-going discussions about:
    • What have we learned through this interaction?
    • Should anything be changed?
    • What are some areas in which I can improve?
    • What have we gained?
    • How can we do things better?


Find out who is doing the same thing:

  • Invite other youth/adult partnership groups to functions.
  • Ask youth or adults from other groups to give workshops/presentations
  • Let other groups know your availability for trainings.
  • Help to build sustainability in your group by reaching out and having others become involved.
  • Encourage people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to participate.
  • Sell your program or idea: What will new participants help accomplish?
  • Determine the benefits of participation: Youth — How will you benefit from participating in a project or program?; Adults — What does your program/organization have to offer? (experience/skills/stipends)
  • Involve young people in the recruitment process. Program alumns are oftern most effective at attracting new members.
  • Young people and adults should continually challenge the impact of their programs on the community.


It takes time: Investing in the future is accepting young people as leaders today.

  • Both youth and adults should be honest about the expectations they have of each other and the level of commitment they are able to contribute to the partnership.
  • Young people and adults must set their fears aside and take a chance on each other.
  • Each person must develop their own ability to work with each other.
  • Both parties must be willing to commit their time and energy to do the work and be willing to learn from each other.
  • Strong partnerships require patience, understanding, and courage.


Listen up: An honest and open exchange of ideas is crucial.

  • Open the door to communication-often times both young people and adults avoid genuine communication with each other.
  • Young people are best heard when adults step back and young people step up.
  • Adults are best heard when they are straight up and explain where they’re coming from.
  • All people’s ideas and opinions are valuable and must be heard.