Youth-adult partnerships empower and develop leadership skills in youth – Part 1

Developing youth-adult partnerships takes time and requires adults to respect and value the opinions, skills and talents of youth.

Youth-adult partnerships (Y-AP’s) are cooperative efforts between youth and adults where young people can build and enhance their leadership skills. In addition to youth building life skills, Y-AP’s can benefit the adults involved as well as the organization of which they are a part.

Youth-adult partnerships can be established when adults make an intentional effort to share their power and group decision making with young people. The youth in the partnership need to believe that their voice will be heard and they will have equal say in decision making. It takes time to develop a successful Y-AP.

Establishing trust and building a positive meaningful relationship with one another takes effort by both the youth and adults. Each needs to be treated with respect and dignity by the other group. Adults should look for and encourage the special gifts and talents of the young people with which they work. In addition, the youth need to respect the experience and the talents of the adults in their group.

According to the Innovation Center for Youth Development and Community Change, a few conditions must be in place for your partnership effort to succeed:

  • Adults need to be willing to share their power and responsibility.
  • Young people need to be willing to gain power and take on responsibility.
  • Both youth and adults need the skills to work successfully together.
  • Everyone needs to forget everything they have ever thought about youth and adults as separate groups and start treating them the way they would treat their peers.

In a successful Y-AP, youth build self-esteem when feeling valued and listened to. They have the opportunity to practice their leadership skills including decision making, problem solving skills and voicing their opinion in a group. They can also increase their commitment to civic engagement by experiencing positive involvement in their group and community.

In future articles, the benefits of youth-adult partnerships, tips for developing them along with the barriers to getting there will be explored.

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