Adult-Driven Youth Voice

Youth Voice is any expression of any young person anywhere, all the time, about anything. It doesn’t depend on adult approval, it doesn’t need specific spaces or energies, and is always present wherever young people are. The question generally is whether adults want to hear what’s being said.

If a young person is talking in front of a group sharing their beliefs or experience, ideas or knowledge, they’re sharing youth voice. The same can be true of leadership, community service, and teambuilding activities. However, young people who cut themselves are sharing youth voice, just like youth graffiti artists, students who text answers during tests, and gang members. The question isn’t whether they’re sharing youth voice, because they always are – the question is whether adults want to hear what’s being said.

This leads to the phenomenon of adult-driven youth voice.

Characteristics of Adult-Driven Youth Voice
Adult-Driven Youth Voice is when adults motivate, inspire, inform, encapsulate, and generally make youth voice become convenient for adults. Adult-Driven Youth Voice is Convenient Youth Voice. Here are five characteristics of adult-driven youth voice.

  • WHO: Youth who adults want to hear from are selected to share their voices. All young people are members of all the communities they occupy, both in a literal and metaphorical sense. However, adult-driven youth voice selects specific young people who may not jostle adults’ opinions or ideas to share youth voice. 
  • WHAT: Young people say what adults want. They usually echoing or parroting adult beliefs, ideas, knowledge, and/or experience. If they share their own, adults largely agree with what young people have said.
  • WHEN: The calendar is determined by adults for youth. Young people are listened to when adults have the interest or ability to hear them, and not necessarily when children or youth want to be heard.
  • WHERE: Youth voice happens in places adults want it to be shared. Whether on a graffiti wall in a forgotten alley downtown, in a boxing gym for teenagers, in debate class, or at a city-run forum for youth to share their opinions about something, youth voice happens where adults approve of.
  • WHY: Adults solicit youth voice about specific issues. Young people have a variety of perspectives about all kinds of subjects. However, adult-driven youth voice allows only perspectives on issues that are important to adults or that adults pick for young people. If young people move outside adult-driven boundaries, they are either re-directed or expected to stop sharing their voices.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the above characteristics. However, this article isn’t meant to share those judgments; instead, I want to encourage you to think for yourself about what matters and why it matters. After you’ve done that, visit The Freechild Project Youth Voice Toolkit to find tools, examples, and other resources to help you with youth voice.

Special thanks to my spectacular friend and longtime comrade Heather Manchester. Her critical thinking and willingness to kick my butt inspired this post (and many others!) and I stand indebted to her genius, patience, and energy she shares with me.

PETS: People-to-People Partnerships

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When we interact as neighbors, parents, coworkers, children, students, lovers, customers, or supervisors, we’re engaging with others, person-to-person.

People-to-people partnerships are ways that we experience Personal Engagement in intimate, intentional connection with others. Intentionally formed, they can enhance, stabilize and deepen relations between people of all ages, in many different kinds of situations, from every background.

Beginning with a commitment to co-developing a people-to-people partnership, two or more people can identify common ground between themselves, throughout their lives, and within their currently existent Personal Engagement.

Fostering these partnerships throughout our lives helps us trust others and ourselves more. They also build self-respect, personal communication, and self-sustainability. You are the powerfully creative force behind your own life, and developing people-to-people partnerships can help show you that reality. As the real catalyst for change in your own world, sometimes having conscientious, deliberate partner to understand that can allow you to live remarkably engaged within yourself. You know your life better than anyone else; people-to-people partnerships can help you turn your passion for living into a strategy for engagement.

3 Tips to Build People-to-People Partnerships
Building meaningful people-to-people partnerships requires intention and action. Here are three critical points:

  1. Acknowledge Personal Engagement. Nobody is alive without having sustainable connections within themselves and throughout the world around them. Create a definition or share the Heartspace Teachings definition of Personal Engagement. After you have a shared platform to work from, acknowledge the Personal Engagements your partners have and share what you experience with them.
  2. Examine Commonalities and Differences. Your People-to-People Partnerships don’t have to be based on similarities alone. Difference is good, despite the people who preach sameness when it’s obviously not true. The question is really about how we behave towards and treat differences, and People-to-People Partnerships show how to embrace those differences.
  3. Embrace New Engagement. Embracing new engagement means that you understand your own and others’ Personal Engagement and holds engagement as valuable. Create an inclusive space for your People-to-People Partnerships so everyone feels valued for their skills, and emphasize the differences that our individual diversity brings to the partnership. Finally, recognize things that happen that are a result of differences. By seeing the tension within ourselves and our partnerships instead of trying to get rid of it, your People-to-People Engagement will be able to produce more imaginative and creative Personal Engagement.

These tips are meant to build our Personal Engagement within intentionally formed people-to-people partnerships. We can have these types of relationships throughout our lives, using these tips as a starting point.