Form a Partnership and Make It WorkForm a Partnership and Make It Work

How Do You Develop Youth-Adult Partnerships?

When forming a community partnership, be sure to consider how youth can be involved. Young people will strengthen your partnership’s understanding of youth perspectives on community issues.

A woman shows data collected on a laptop computer to several young boys.Don’t underestimate what young people can contribute. Adults often believe that involving youth only means having a young person sit in on a meeting, but there are many ways to develop meaningful partnerships between adults and youth. Consider inviting youth from local organizations such as 4-H, a Boys & Girls Club, Girl Scouts, or Boy Scouts. Other places to find youth members include youth sports teams, student government associations, parks and recreation centers, and faith-based organizations. Try to include youth who are from the community but who may not be involved in any organized youth activities, such as youth who have dropped out of school or who don’t attend school on a regular basis.

Youth and adults can both benefit from these meaningful partnerships. Youth can develop leadership skills and gain a better understanding of people in different age groups and community roles. They also can obtain valuable experience that will help them prepare for the future. Adults can rethink stereotypes or negative attitudes about youth and share the responsibility for community change.

Here are some tips on involving youth:

  • Include partners who respect youth, who are willing to share their power and responsibility, and who are willing to work with teens to sustain their engagement.
  • Involve youth early in the planning of program goals and activities, such as creating a mission statement.
  • Let teens help guide the group’s understanding of how young people think and feel about an initiative or strategy being developed.
  • Provide youth with the training and guidance necessary to promote meaningful participation in the group.
  • Encourage and train youth to be media and community spokespersons.
  • Offer incentives, awards, salary, or recognition for the work teens do for the community partnership.
  • Consider what teens can do to reach their peers, their families, their schools, and their communities. Could they be peer educators? Work on policy changes in the community?
  • Consider the logistics of involving youth in meetings. Do they need transportation? Are meetings held after school, in the evenings, or on weekends so that youth can participate in them? Is child care needed?

Tips on Involving Youth were adapted from the following two sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Adolescent and School Health; Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Office of Adolescent Health; National Adolescent Health Information Center, University of California, San Francisco. (2004). Improving the Health of Adolescents and Young Adults: A Guide for States and Communities. Atlanta, GA.

The Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development and National 4-H Council. (2001). Building Community: A Tool Kit for Youth and Adult in Charting Assets and Creating Change. Takoma Park, MD.