Meaningful Adolescent and Youth Engagement and Partnership in Sexual and Reproductive Health Programming: A Strategic Planning Guide

This Strategic Planning Guide is intended to lead program managers, planners, and decision makers through a strategic process to meaningfully and effectively engage and partner with adolescents, youth, and/or youth-led organizations on sexual and reproductive health programs and initiatives.

Meaningful adolescent and youth engagement and partnership is defined as an “inclusive, intentional, mutually-respectful partnership between adolescents, youth, and adults, whereby power is shared, respective contributions are valued, and young people’s ideas, perspectives, skills, and strengths are integrated into the design and delivery of programs, strategies, policies, funding mechanisms, and organizations that affect their lives and their communities, countries, and the world.”1 Meaningful adolescent and youth engagement and partnership is a right for adolescents and youth2 and can improve the quality and responsiveness of sexual and reproductive health programs and policies, in turn leading to improved development outcomes.3

As illustrated in Hart’s Ladder of Participation (Figure 1),4 youth participation can range from no participation to true youth engagement or partnership. This guide focuses on rungs 4–8 of the ladder. “Youth engagement” refers to rungs 4–6 and “youth partnership” refers to rungs 7–8, when youth are afforded leadership roles and power, and decision making is equally shared with non-youth.**

This Strategic Planning Guide uses the definition of “youth” which includes all young people aged 10–29.5 “Youth-led organizations” refers to organizations primarily led by young people under age 30. This broad age range reflects the timeline for transition from childhood to adulthood that differs across contexts, and is intentionally selected to accommodate youth-led organizations. It is critical to note that there are different developmental stages as well as diverse needs within this age range, and meaningful adolescent and youth engagement and partnership strategies must be tailored accordingly.6

This Strategic Planning Guide can be used in conjunction with other High Impact Practices (HIP) briefs and Strategic Planning Guides to facilitate meaningful youth engagement and partnership in the design, implementation, and monitoring of adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive programming and delivery of Adolescent-Responsive Contraceptive Services.