Youth role in decision-making: Benefits to adults, organizations and communities

Youth-adult partnerships provide opportunities for youth to develop life skills and many benefits to adults, organizations, and communities.

Youth who are given the opportunity to work in a partnership with adults to make important decisions gain valuable life skills in planning, teamwork and leadership; build their confidence and increase their level of community investment and participation.  A detailed explanation of these benefits is outlined in a previous article, “Benefits to Involving Youth on Decision-Making Boards and Committees.”  In addition to the many benefits to youth, Michigan State University Extension says both adults and organizations can benefit by participating in partnerships with youth to make decisions. 

The Michigan 4-H Youth Development program offers a safe environment to establish youth-adult partnerships.  4-H clubs are based on a youth driven leadership model where youth officers work in partnership with adult leaders to build agendas and keep the clubs focused.  At a county programming level, many counties utilize 4-H councils and advisory committees where youth and adults can work together to guide programming at that level. 

The Innovation Center published a training manual on how to establish and sustain youth-adult partnerships in organizational decision making. This also outlines the important benefits gained by all parties involved in the partnership.  Nebraska 4-H Youth Development expands on these principles in their 4-H Volunteer Information Series. 

Adults that work in partnership with youth to make decisions can benefit from the energy and new ideas that youth bring to the table.  Often, adults work within existing framework to solve problems.  Youth are usually less entrenched in a particular way of operating and are able to look at organizational problems with new eyes and provide new perspectives to problem solving.  Sometimes youth offer suggestions and solutions to problems that adults may have never considered.  Adults that serve in partnerships with youth can also benefit personally in the satisfaction of knowing that they have worked to make a positive impact in the lives of youth.

Organizations can benefit from the perspectives youth bring to the table around programs of interest for their age group and can leave organizations better prepared to serve a wide range of ages.  Organizations can also benefit by increased news coverage and fundraising power that can occur when youth are on board advocating for their organizations.

Finally, communities benefit from youth-adult partnerships because youth that have practice engaging with adults in decision making are often more invested in their communities and interested in making a positive difference.  Youth-adult partnerships provide a framework for future community service activities.

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