Youth-Adult Power Sharing


  • To develop a working model of the youth and adult relationships for your program or project
  • To increase awareness of power and who makes decisions


  • “Structures of Organizations Scenarios” worksheet (1 copy)
  • Butcher paper
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Two sets of prepared index cards with words for Pictionary Race with words such as leader, community, student, activist, principal, park, friend (see Warm Up)

Prepare Before

Copy and cut out the different “Structures of Organizations Scenarios” worksheet.

Warm Up

Have each participant share: Where in my life do I have the MOST power to make decisions?

Pictionary™ Race:  Divide the group into two teams, and have each team go to a different side of the room. Each team should have a few sheets of butcher paper and markers or pens. Stand in the middle of the room with two sets of index cards (about five cards in each set), each card labeled with a secret word. When the facilitator says “go,” each team sends a representative to see the secret words. The representative then returns to the group, draws (without talking), and the team has to guess the word. Once they guess it, they send another team member to read and draw the next word. If you are using the same sets of words for both teams, remind them that if they don’t want the other team to hear their answers! Whoever finishes first, wins.


Youth and adult power distribution exercise:

STEP 1: Remind participants of the three styles of youth involvement:

  • Youth as Objects: Adults know what is best for young people and control situations in which youth are involved.
  • Youth as Recipients: Adults allow young people to take part in decision making because they think the experience is good for youth.
  • Youth as Resources: Adults respect young people as having something significant to offer, and youth are encouraged to become involved.

STEP 2: Explain that there is a range among the three frameworks. Many organizations are not just one of the styles but a combination. Describe three common styles of youth and adult organizations:

  • Youth led: Youth make all of the decisions and run all aspects of the program.
  • Youth and adult partnerships: Youth and adults make decisions together and share responsibilities of the program.
  • Adult led: Adults make all of the decisions and run all aspects of the program.

STEP 3: Hand out five slips of paper with the example organizations from the Structures of Organizations: Scenarios and have participants read the slips out loud. Tell participants that they will be forming a line, with the program that is most youth led on the right and the program that is least youth led on the left. Have participants without slips help others line up. Once participants have begun forming their line, encourage them to double check with the person to the left and right to make sure they are where they think that they should be. After everyone has lined up, ask them to go down the line and read the slips of paper.


Ask the following questions:

  • Why did you line up in that order? At what point does it turn into a youth-led program? Youth-adult partnership? Adult-led?
  • Which organizational structure do you like best or think would work the best for this group? Why?
  • In what ways does this group currently match this structure of organization? In what ways is it different?


Refer back to the objectives and how youth-adult power sharing relates to YPAR. Highlight the following definition and points if you see fit:

  • Youth-adult partnership is the practice of: (a) multiple youth and multiple adults deliberating and acting together, (b) in a collective [democratic] fashion (c) over a sustained period of time, (d) through shared work, (e) intended to promote social justice, strengthen an organization and/or affirmatively address a community issue.
    • Experience vs. age
    • Youth culture validated and respected
    • Shared decision-making and accountability
    • Commitment to learn from one another
  • Examples:
    • Public action
    • School hiring committees
    • Governance council for youth organization
    • Program evaluation
  • The assignment of roles and division of labor is not determined by age, but instead, is based on the specific motivation, skill, and network that each individual brings to the endeavor.


Have each participant share: “I would like to see more youth involved in…”