Adult/Youth Partnerships

Intergenerational partnerships are rare and wonderful things. They’re like pockets of oxygen where everyone can breathe and feel the expansive possibilities of working together. They’re also really important to the success of youth-driven social change efforts because youth and adults contribute in unique and important ways to the work.

Working in partnership with youth requires reflection and self-awareness on the part of adults.
We encourage you to consider what it means to scaffold youth-led social change before you begin working with youth.

But such partnernships aren’t easy to create and maintain, in large part because adults find it difficult to let go of the need to protect youth, control situations, and determine the course of events. Youth, in response, struggle to trust that adults can actually be in authentic relationship and share power with them.  

Shifting power from adult-driven to youth-led means unpacking and addressing adultism:

Acting as if an adult has more strength, wisdom, and knowledge than a young person or perpetuating the philosophy that young people are not yet capable of making important decisions or having a voice, and therefore adults can make decisions for youth without their consent.

“It’s a real partnership when everyone in the group feels like they have a stake in the conversation and what the group is doing. Their ideas are not only heard but are actually acknowledged, and if members of the group are of different ages, the age gap doesn’t act as a barrier, but instead really helps foster mutual respect.”

– Katy, Chinese American, 17

“It’s so annoying, in any sense, to have adults look down on you because you are young. I’ll listen to your ideas if you listen to mine.”

– Izzy, White, 15

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