Exploring Youth Voice

One of the ways that we can demonstrate that youth voice is valued is by creating youth-adult partnerships. The term partnership implies shared power between youth and adults. In a partnership, both the adults and the youth are treated as equals. A young person brings the lived experience of being a youth as well as an in-depth understanding of youth culture. Lived experience is understood to be a critical component of all decision making and is valued at the same level as the professional experience and formal education that adults bring.

When incorporating youth voice, it is important to consider how to involve youth in all levels of decision making, including, but not limited to, their own services and organizational assessment, planning, service delivery, evaluation, and communication. Youth are given the needed resources for initiating and executing ideas, and they are fairly compensated for the contributions and expertise that they have provided.

Hart’s Ladder

The following model, adapted from Roger Hart, provides clarity on how to authentically engage youth and avoid tokenizing their experience.1

Read more about Hart’s Ladder in “Children’s Participation: From tokenism to citizenship.”


  1. Hart, R. A. (1992). Children’s participation: From tokenism to citizenship (Innocenti Essay No. inness92/6). UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
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