Youth-Adult Partnership

Youth-Adult Partnership

Youth-Adult Partnership

A Youth-Adult Partnership (YAP) is a partnership in which both young people and adults are equally involved and share power. They listen to each other, define the aims of the program or activity together, and share decision-making. Young people themselves can concretely address their issues and realities and can work on defining sustainable solutions together with adults. We believe that in positive YAPs, both the young people and the adults benefit, and that program outcomes will be more responsive towards young people’s needs – a real win-win situation for everyone involved!

Unfortunately, we live in a society that does not always give young people many opportunities to make their own decisions. Many cultures around the world have a hierarchy that puts people like parents or adults over children and young people. This gives parents and adults more power over youth and creates an uneven power dynamic that can be toxic and make it hard for adults and youth to have a prolific partnership. To be effective partners, adults must respect and have confidence in young people. If they are truly sharing the power to make decisions with young people, it means adults are letting go of their traditional roles, listening rather than telling, and working with, rather than for youth.

A youth-adult partnership is one that integrates young people’s realistic perspectives and skills with professional adults’ experience. It offers young people and adults the opportunity to share wisdom, make suggestions, and share decisions. All contributions are equally valued and appreciated in a good youth-adult partnership. It allows young people and adults to work in full partnership while envisioning, developing, implementing, and evaluating programs.

Often, tokenism (as mentioned in the Flower of Participation) is mistaken for youth-adult relationships. However, tokenism does not lead to equal partnership.


Examples of tokenism are:
  • Having youth present but with no clear role

  • Assigning tasks to youth that adults do not want to do

  • Having youth make appearances and work without previous training

  • Having only one youth on a board or council


There are different ways to approach a relationship between youth and adults:

  • Youth as Objects: Adults know what is best for young people and control situations in which they allow youth to be involved in.

  • Youth as Recipients: Adults allow young people to take part in decision-making because they think the experience will be “good for them”.

  • Youth as Partners: Adults respect young people as having something significant to offer, recognizing the greater impact youth bring to a project. Youth are encouraged to become involved.


You have the right to be involved in decision-making processes which concern your life. It makes programs more relevant and sustainable, and helps you develop personal skills, like:

  • Social competence

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Autonomy

  • Sense of purpose and future

Difference between YAPs and MIYP

A term that is often confused with Youth-Adult partnerships, is meaningful and inclusive youth participation (MIYP). While MYP and YAPs go hand in hand, they are not the same thing. See here how CHOICE defines MYP and why MYP is important.  

So, what is the relationship between YAPs and MIYP? Basically, YAPs are a form of MIYP, and embody a partnership between young people and adults, where both parties have equal decision-making power (they are partners). Importantly, young people and adults are seen as equal partners, who mutually recognize the value and contribution of both parties. Both young people and adults are meaningfully involved at every step of the way, each bringing in their own unique expertise and skillset. Sticking to this definition, a YAP would always be associated with a MYP. However, as you can also see in the Flower of Participation, a YAP is one of six existing forms of MIYP. 


Watch this Ted talk by Mae Thompson on creating youth-adult partnerships! 


The CHOICE Youth-Adult Partnership Toolkit

In the programs CHOICE works on, YAPs form a key strategy to ensure MIYP and in turn, successful program outcomes. However, research shows that even though structures are created to meaningfully involve young people in programs, young people do not always feel trusted by adults. They often also miss a safe space in which they can have open discussions and dialogues with adults, when it comes to YAPs.   

Motivated by these findings, CHOICE commissioned an explorative study to gain greater insight into the overall picture of YAPs within SRHR. One of the most relevant results from the study was that trust is crucial in the implementation of YAPs. In the Youth Adult Partnership Toolkit, we want to provide some tips that can help you in the setting up or improvement of a YAP.  

Download the English version of the CHOICE Youth-Adult Partnerships Toolkit.

Download the French version HERE. 

Visit our resource hub You(th)DoIT!