Partner Project Ideas and Teams

These project notes were compiled and summarized from discussions with partners - this is a working document with tentative teams and project ideas in development. If there are any inaccuracies, misrepresentations, or updates, please inform Nish with edits and this page will be updated immediately.

Team: Marla Pender (City of Kitchener), Dr. Mark Pancer (Wilfrid Laurier),
and youth team hired by the City.

This team is interested in exploring youth-adult partnerships within the context of the City of Kitchener. This YAP project will contribute as part of an assessment and capacity building project to improve the City's services. The youth team will conduct a youth engagement assessment of City services and lead trainings for city staff/volunteers to build effective youth-adult partnerships and become more effective at providing youth-friendly services. This YAP project will examine youth-adult partnerships amongst Youth Service staff, etc. and the youth team. This project will be useful in documenting and building understanding about effective YAP practices in order to develop/inform their assessment and trainings.

Research questions for journalling within the co-researcher team:

  1. Power Sharing
    • Were there moments you felt you had a higher power than someone else?
    • When did you feel power was being shared? What was happening?
    • Were there moments or events that made you feel less equal?(ex body language)
    • How comfortable do you feel stating your ideas, opinions and providing input?
  2. What did you learn during the partnership?
    • What do you feel you taught adults/youth?
    • What were the times you felt safe in the partnership? And what were the times you felt unsafe? (Give specifics, what made you feel safe, what didn't make you feel safe)
  3. What makes the partnership meaningful? What was important about your experiences?
    • What assumptions did I make today? Did people meet these assumptions or not?
    • What is your relationship to each person? How do the other people make you feel? Is there a sense of power? If so, what is it? [Reflection on interaction with each person]
      1. How comfortable do you feel stating your ideas, opinions and providing input?
      2. How well did we work as a group?
      3. One thing I learned today I learned about working with youth (adults) today was...
      4. One thing that challenged me today (in the adult youth partnership)...
      5. One thing that made me feel there was equal power...

Focus group/interview questions for co-researcher team:

  1. What is a partnership to you, drawing on your experience?
  2. What are things that are essential for an ideal partnership?
    How does the ideal partnership look like? Feel like?
  3. How closely did this come to the ideal partnership? Where can improvements be made?
  4. How might it compare with other jobs you've had that weren't partnerships?
  5. What were the most rewarding parts of the partnership?
  6. What were the most challenging parts of the partnership?
    How did you deal with the challenging parts of the partnership?
  7. What are some things that get in the way of forging really good partnerships?
  8. How do you balance the role of being a supervisor with working in a more equal and participatory way? How do you balance working with your supervisor in a participatory way?
  9. How have the relationships evolved overtime?
  10. What did you get out of the partnership?
    What did you learn?
  11. If you had to give advice to young people or adults starting into a partnership what advice would you give them?
    What advice would you give to young people entering a partnership?
    What advice would you give to adults entering a partnership?
  12. Was there something else that you wanted to say that you didn't have the chance to say?

Team: Maria Cain and Isabelle LeVert-Chiasson (HeartWood Centre for Community
Youth Development, Halifax), Dr. Dave Bourgeois (St. Mary's University)

In Nova Scotia, HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development (HeartWood) explored how staff can build stronger relationships with young people within the context of the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services, Lunenburg District Office (LDO). The overall goal of this innovative collaboration between HeartWood and the LDO was to improve services to youth clients (ages 13-24) in the region, and a key factor to making this happen is to focus on youth-adult partnerships.

The emerging question that came from LDO staff was "how can we better serve youth and make sure they don't fall through the cracks?" It was observed that within community and government policy, there are few opportunities and services for youth between the ages of 16-18 years that are appropriate to their stages of development and desires for engagement and voice. There is an understanding at the LDO that more needs to be done to provide adequate services to youth clients, and that Community Services in that region is one of the few places where young people can turn to.

In order to better understand youth-adult partnerships within this context, the LDO and HeartWood partnered to map the best practices, and areas for growth for the entire office, involving almost 70 staff and management. The goal was to hear and collect staff's approaches and practices towards engaging and providing youth with services they require, in ways that are empowering, respectful and effective to help youth live independent fulfilled lives. Staff participated in a three-hour mapping session where they were asked to identify promising practices that encouraged positive youth-adult partnerships between staff and youth clients as well as barriers. Through the support of the Centre of Excellence on Youth Engagement and the grant it received from SSHRC, this data was transcribed, categorized and clustered in themes. The main themes were than further analyzed in a research paper submitted to the Centre of Excellence and Saint Mary's University. This goal of this research was to explore how staff can build strong relationships with young people in a system where the power dynamic between "staff and clients" is typically unbalanced.

The results of this youth-adult partnership research were shared with the Lunenburg District Office, youth clients and community members through a report written by HeartWood as well as a video co-created with youth connected with the LDO, LDO and HeartWood staff. Funded in part by a SSHRC grant received through the Centre of Excellence, this youth-adult partnership video, Splash of Colours: Youth & Adults Working Together, will be used as a training tool for all staff within this office.

A group of 6 youth researchers (that are also youth clients of the LDO) along with 2 youth facilitators created this video with the support of a LDO and HeartWood staff. The youth researchers were involved in analyzing the data that emerged on youth-adult partnerships research by reviewing the themes and identifying key words to cluster these promising practices that would be featured in the video. The themes identified were:

  1. Space (asking youth where to meet, having social workers meet youth outside of the office at their school or in a coffee shop, etc.),
  2. Relationships (getting to know youth as individuals, building trust in a limited time, maintaining contact, etc.)
  3. Connections (connecting youth with practical resources and others outside Community Services)
  4. Sharing (staff sharing their passions and interests with youth)
  5. Taking action (creating opportunities for youth and staff to share experiences together)
  6. Empowerment (providing a non-judgmental, relaxed, fun yet structured and consistent setting, create spaces for youth voice to be heard)

As a narrative, this video showcased the importance of creating a youth-friendly space within a government office by taking action and painting a room that will be used for youth clients at the LDO.

Team: Susan O'Neill (John Howard NB), Dr. Susan Reid (St. Thomas University),
Sylvia Caissie (Population Growth Secretariat, NB)

This team is interested in exploring youth-adult partnerships in John Howard's mentorship program, which is aimed at underserved youth that live in risky situations. John Howard's mentorship program is based on a strengths-based approach, which builds capacity for youth to participate in various opportunities and youth-adult partnerships (e.g. leadership programs, youth governance, conferences, etc.). This project could contribute to understanding John Howard's strengths-based approach for building partnership capacity, best practices for counselors, and key components of youth-adult partnerships. This project will build on the team's existing research that is examining impacts of John Howard's Quantum Opportunities program. This project also offers the opportunity to document the academic-organization relationship.

Focus Group Questions:

  1. Part 1 - Describing relationships in the Organization
    1. a) Have participants fill out three cards which has the word "adult" on one and "youth" on the other and a third with adult-youth relationships. Ask the participant to consider describing the role of an adult, role of a youth and role of adults and youth working together
    2. b) The participants are then asked to share their comments on the cards in a large group
    3. c) The quote cards will be posted on the wall to refer to as the discussion continues. No identifying marks will be placed on any of the cards to signify the participant but the cards will be colour coded to distinguish youth responses and adult responses.
  2. Part 2 - Identifying qualities of positive adult-youth interactions in the organization
    1. All of the participants will brainstorm a list of qualities that are needed for positive adult-youth relationships in their organization by writing them on a piece of paper
    2. The individual participants will then read out their list and the items will be recorded on a flipchart at the front of the room. Duplicate qualities will be demarcated by the number of times the quality was listed.
    3. When the list is compiled, participants will be asked to review the flip chart and add any additional qualities that may be missing. These will be written in a different colour to indicate that they were collected after the brainstorming activity
    4. Participants will be asked to rank order their top five qualities from the posted list by writing them on a piece of paper. The sheets will be distinguished by colour to signify youth or adult rank ordering, but no other identifying information will be provided.
    5. Participants will be asked to comment on way(s) that these qualities are found within their experience of adult-youth interactions in the organization and sharing these with other focus group participants
  3. Part 3 - Defining Adult-youth partnerships
    1. Participants will consider how much they agree with each of the four bullet points which will be posted on the wall and provided in a hand out for each member of the group to look at.
      • Some people think that youth-adult partnerships mean that young people and adults work together to make decisions that affect their lives.
      • Some people think that true youth-adult partnerships are collaborative and mutual relationships (for example involving give and take, a two-way street).
      • Some people think that in a true youth-adult partnership young people and adults teach each other, learn from each other, and act together.
      • Some people think that in a youth-adult partnership the focus is on nurturing with an emphasis on youth and what they contribute rather than what problems the might have.
        The comments raised about the types of partnerships discussed in the bullets will be recorded by the youth co-researchers.
        The participants will have a general discussion about whether or not they view the adult-youth relationship in their organization as a partnership or not and give reasons in a general discussion. These comments will be recorded by the youth co-researchers and projected on a screen at the front of the room.
  4. Part 4 - What challenges are there for this organization in establishing positive-adult youth partnerships? General Discussion of Challenges may include these questions:
    1. What are the challenges of youth/adult partnerships?
    2. Does the partnership ever break down? How do things break down? Are there possible negative outcomes when partnerships break down? What are they?
    3. What are some ways that you have experienced of re-establishing a positive youth-adult relationship when things have broken down?
  5. Part 5 - Summary and Conclusion
    1. Do you think there are positive outcomes associated with youth-adult partnerships (if so, why and what are they)? This will be discussed as a general group and the comments made will be recorded by research team.

Each participant will be asked to write a short paragraph of a situation they had that was a positive youth-adult partnership in the organization. All of the responses will be read aloud by the participants and co- researcher to the group without identifying who said what.
Participants will be asked if there are any additional comments that might be added to the group discussion that have not been raised. Participants will also be asked to review the notes which have been projected on the screen throughout the focus group.Following this, participants will be thanked for their participation and told when they will receive a summary of the results of their participation.

Team: Robin Swets (Ministry of Children and Family Development, BC), Dr. Gord Miller (UVic), Kaeli Rose (UVic), youth researchers from an existing participatory research team (Victoria, BC).

This team is interested in implementing their youth engagement indicators resource toolkit (of which youth-adult partnership is an important indicator) as well as a youth engagement strategy within the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). This project will explore youth-adult partnerships within the context of MCFD, with a focus on outcomes for youth, MCFD practitioners and the Ministry.

Currently, the team is planning to pilot the toolkit in 2 sites on Vancouver Island. In addition, they are planning for a symposium scheduled for the fall of 2012 to share resources such as the toolkit, build capacity, and continue systemic momentum for youth engagement through youth-adult partnerships. The team is also collecting an inventory of what is currently in place at MCFD regarding youth engagement and youth-adult partnerships across Vancouver Island and has completed a focus group within the co-researcher team.

Focus group questions for youth and adult co-researchers:

  1. What makes Youth-Adult Partnerships (YAPs) work?
  2. What is so effective about YAPs?
  3. Why are YAPs important for youth, adults, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and community partners?
  4. What can be done to cultivate and maintain these relationships?
  5. What are some obstacles?
  6. What doesn't work?

Sample of Youth-Adult partnership indicators from the toolkit:

Please indicate the degree to which the following indicators accurately describe your work environment. (1 = Does not describe my work environment at all, 2 = Somewhat describes my work environment, 3 = Moderately describes my work environment, 4 = Describes my work environment well, 5 = Very accurately describes my work environment)

  1. Youth and adults work together to establish roles and responsibilities.
  2. Youth have access to decision makers who can address their concerns.
  3. Youth and adults make decisions collaboratively.
  4. Through working with adults, youth gain skills for their own personal and professional growth.
  5. Through working with youth, adults gain skills for their own personal and professional growth.
  6. Mentorship opportunities exist so that adults and youth can share their knowledge and abilities in an empowering way.
  7. Youth are provided with opportunities to access training and skill building workshops to build their capacity to effectively engage and lead in youth-adult partner ships.
  8. Adults are provided with professional development on utilizing youth-adult partnerships within the youth engagement practice.

Team: Zhen Zhao, Kim Charteris (YMCA GTA), Moira McDougall Youth Advisory Council
(YMCA GTA), Versailles Nair, Dr. Linda Rose-Krasnor (Brock)

This team has begun to think about youth-adult partnerships in governance at the YMCA of the Greater Toronto Area. The Youth Advisory Council began in the fall of 2010, and has since been developing terms of reference for youth and young adults to be involved in organizational governance. The Youth Advisory Council has considered the project and as an important first step, they have made the decision to take it on, exploring youth-adult partnerships in the context of their Council's work. This team has already tried out one of the tools (the Centre's Snapshot survey), which will help to describe the context of the Youth Advisory Council and how they have been engaged in their group so far.

Team: Jan Vesna (Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada), National Youth Advisory

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCCAN) has had National youth advisory since the 1990s. They are interested in rebuilding/revisioning youth engagement in the National Youth Advisory, considering other roles of the Advisory (e.g. organizational decision-making) in addition to their current predominant role of organizing the national youth conference. The timing for this revisioning is key at this juncture as some members are leaving and new ones are being recruited in the fall/early spring.

Team: Sandra Morris (Boys and Girls Club ON), Provincial Youth Council

At the provincial level, the Boys and Girls Club of Ontario's Youth Council has just held their annual provincial youth conference. They are interested in assessing and debriefing the conference and their successful youth-adult partnership approach throughout the year as they plan the next conference in Fall of 2012. This project will be useful to rigorously assess and document their approach and learnings, identify ideas and plan to test out in the next conference, and evaluate the outcomes. The timing is ideal because the Council is currently debriefing and they are experimenting practically to identify best practices. The involvement of both the provincial and national levels of the Boys and Girls Clubs will provide a rich exploration of youth-adult partnerships within the organization at both levels. The Boys and Girls Clubs are being currently matched with an academic partner in Toronto.

Team: Bonnie Heilman (Youth Launch, Saskatoon), Nutana Collegiate
(Phyllis Fowler, Cole Kirby), Dr. Patti MacDougall (St. Thomas More College)

This team will be exploring youth-adult partnerships within the context of Nutana Collegiate, a community-based high school. Nutana is a unique context that provides various community partnerships and opportunities for students that have been underserved or pushed out of mainstream schools. This project will be useful to describe to others that are interested in Nutana's model about how youth and adults partner in learning contexts and across various programs and opportunities. Since many youth experience a variety of these opportunities, they will be able to compare and contrast how youth-adult partnerships function across different programs. This team is interested in bringing diverse lenses to this project based on the various life experiences, perspectives and situations that students bring: e.g. students that are upgrading, student parents, adults returning to Nutana, Aboriginal students, etc. This project will build upon existing feedback from their team of staff.

Potential Research Questions:

Potential research questions:

  • What do you believe youth adult partnerships are about?

  • How does the youth know they are in a good relationship with the adult?

  • Is it possible for youth & adults to partner in the classroom?

  • How does the environment change the relationship?

  • Describe your relationship...

  • Specific relationship you think you might have an ally in Nutana...

  • Do others have the same partnerships I do?

  • Does everyone think the same? The teachers and students? Do they value the relationship?

  • Is it a certain pathway or group of people that have good relationships? How do you get on that pathway? Wouldn't everyone want on that pathway?

  • Question for teachers: What students to you partner with? Why? Are there some you don't? Why? What makes a student an ally in a classroom?

  • What works with our school? What makes a difference that other schools could instill in their school?

  • What makes an adult a good partner? A good ally?

  • Do true partnership exist in school settings? Can true partnerships exist in the school? Can you be in a partnership with the teacher if they're responsible for setting their grades? Is it reciprocal?

What role does power have?

  • Do you feel like other people have the same sort of access to those partnerships that you do?


The Students Commission