Benefits of Youth-Adult Partnerships: Working together at the table

Developing Youth-Adult Partnerships is a collaborative group process that uses small successes to achieve long-term positive change. The benefits to youth, adults and communities is well worth the time and energy required.

According to a study done by Search Institute, 25 percent of youth feel that their community’s adults value them, and 28 percent of youth feel that they have useful roles in their community. These are alarmingly low numbers considering the youth of our communities are the future of our communities.

Youth-Adult Partnerships (YAPs) refer to collaborative relationships in which youth and adult equally share decision-making power. Other benefits to youth in these partnerships, as identified by the Innovation Center for Community Youth Development, include increased civic awareness and commitment to their communities as well as a desire to help positively improve the lives of others.

According to Michigan State University Extension  it is easy for adults to say we want to help youth develop and become active citizens in our communities, but sometimes admitting we don’t know everything and relinquishing control can be scary. While this action and the development of these partnerships takes intentional trust building, group skill cultivation and some positive risk taking, the result can be liberating for both youth and adults. The Innovation Center for Community Youth Development identifies additional benefits to youth-adult partnership stakeholders outside of youth. Benefits for adults surface on a personal, programmatic and broader levels.

On a personal level, adults who participate in Youth-Adult Partnerships gain personal satisfaction in helping youth grow and succeed. Working in equal collaboration with youth allows adults to have a hand in fostering the active citizens of the future. Then on a programmatic level, working with youth helps adults understand the basic needs, concerns and issues identified by the young population. Also gleaning direct feedback, and being open to youth’s creative ideas, energy and enthusiasm can help adults develop programs with youth rather than for youth, better meeting their needs and staying relevant to a rapidly evolving generation.

On a broader level, Youth-Adult Partnerships create unique benefits for the community overall. There are diverse, representative perspectives at the table to make decisions and problem solve. Mutual understanding and increased trust between youth and adults makes idea sharing and cooperation for common causes easier. All in all, Youth-Adult Partnerships help bring historically unheard voices to the table, giving youth a valued community role, and in the long term, creates a citizen population who is more knowledgeable and invested in their community. 

Remember, developing Youth-Adult Partnerships is like merging two similar-businesses, and that relationship building takes time and trust. These partnerships aren’t one-time projects, youth as consultants, or one-on-one mentoring.  Developing Youth-Adult Partnerships is a collaborative group process that use small successes to achieve long-term positive change.

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