Benefits to communities in developing youth and adult partnerships

Examining the benefits to communities when youth voice is utilized.

What happens when a group of adults and youth are working collaboratively in a group?  Michigan State University Extension suggests a successful outcome is likely. Youth-adult partnership is the practice of engaging youth with adults in making major decisions and taking collaborative action in programs, organizations and communities. Other terms often used are: youth participation, youth engagement or youth voice.  When communities are open to the concept of youth-adult partnerships, the community will benefit from the fresh perspective of youth and paired with the experience and wisdom of adults.

This is the second article in a series by MSU Extension which considers the benefits of youth and adult partnerships from the perspective of how adults, youth and communities benefit from youth and adult partnerships. 

Creative solutions to critical issues or problems are something that individuals as well as communities are in search of regularly.  Communities should consider asking a youth.  Youth approach critical issues and problems with a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and creative thinking.  When partnering youth’s fresh perspective with the wisdom and experience of adults, communities benefit from the synergy of this relationship.    

Youth-adult partnerships can grow increased trust and understanding between the two age groups.  The stigmas that both youth and adults bring to the table about each other can be broken down when they utilize each other’s strengths to solve problems, recognize what each can bring to the table and expectations are in line.     

When a youth is given the opportunity to weigh in on a critical issue, they take their role seriously.  When communities give a youth a chance to express their opinion on a policy, youth that were able to provide their input are much more vested in the success of the decision.  Asking youth for their input and genuinely listening and using their feedback results in young citizens that are more committed to the success of the community as a whole. 

When embracing the concept of youth and adult partnerships, a community is strengthened because they will have citizens who are more knowledgeable and invested in the community. Why not consider getting a broader investment by bringing both youth and adults to the table?  A community that has citizens of all ages is more knowledgeable and invested in community success, resulting in a more thriving community. 

As communities attempt to be relevant in the 21st century, establishing boards and committees that involves youth and adult partnerships will not only strengthen communities, but also build leadership skills with teens in the community.  Today’s youth are tomorrow leaders, why not give today’s youth a jump start on those leadership skills?   If your group, organization or community is interested in exploring the makeup of a youth and adult partnership board or committee, the MSU Extension 4-H Leadership Civic Engagement work team has trainings that can assist you.   Next time you attend a board or committee meeting, look around and see if there are youth represented, if not, ask the question, “Where is the youth voice?”

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