The shift in working with youth as clients to engaging them as decision makers can at times seem overwhelming. In order to succeed, youth, adults and the organization as a whole must be open and willing to take risks, think outside the box and develop new attitudes towards youth—not as problems that need fixing, but rather resources to be tapped into.
Roger Hart’s “Ladder of Youth Participation” highlights eight different levels of youth participation and decision making power. It is a useful tool that challenges us to reflect on the level of participation that is wanted, needed, and possible, as well as to identify barriers to meaningful participation and how they can be overcome. In Hart’s model, the top rung is achieved when adults and youth share decision making as partners and work together (in synergy).
The YMHAC Initiative encourages the creation of opportunities with high levels of participation and decision making power so youth can make change, direct their own activities, and assume shared responsibility with appropriate levels of support. When working with young people, it is important to involve them as partners as early as possible in the decision making process for an issue, activity or initiative.
For more information, see Roger Hart’s Ladder of Youth Participation.