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consulting on the
Ladder of Youth Voice.
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Ladder of Youth Voice
For a long time, the only
formal position every young person held in society
was that of young person. That
has changed. Today, young people increasingly
have more important positions, including that of
decision-makers, planners, researchers, and more.
The following Ladder of Youth Voice was
created to encourage youth and adults to examine
why and how young people participate
throughout communities. Think of specific activities
youth are involved in, and measure them against this
It is important to recognize
that the Ladder is not meant to represent the whole
community at once. Instead, it represents each
specific instance of youth voice. That means that
rather than say a whole classroom is rung 4, several
youth could be experiencing that they are at that
rung while others are experiencing that they’re at
rung 6. For a long time, determining which rung a
young person is at was left to perception and
position: If an adult believed the youth on their
committee were at rung 6, and the youth believed
they were at rung 8, they simply agreed to disagree.
The following rubric can help provide a clearer
explanation of what youth voice looks like.
By Adam Fletcher
forced to attend without regard to interest.
involving youth and rational for continuing
2. Adults use
youth to decorate their activities
of youth is treated as all that is necessary
without reinforcing active involvement.
outcome demonstrating thinking about youth
people are are used inconsequentially by
adults to reinforce the perception that
youth are involved.
youth attendance without requiring the work
to go beyond that.
Adults do not
have to let youth impact their
impact adult-driven decisions or activities.
actively consult youth while they’re
have the authority that adults grant them,
and are subject to adult approval.
substantially transform adults’ opinions,
ideas, and actions.
6. Youth are
fully equal with adults while they’re
involved. This is a 50/50 split of
authority, obligation, and commitment.
recognition for the specific developmental
needs or representation opportunities for
youth. Without receiving that recognition
youth loose interest and may become
experience full power and authority, as well
as the experience of forming basic
person-driven activities do not include
adults in positions of authority; rather,
they are they to support youth in passive
in a vacuous situation where the impact of
their larger community isn’t recognized by
them. young person-driven activities may not
be seen with the validity of co-led
complete ownership of their learning allows
youth to drive the educational experience
with a lot of effectiveness. Youth
experience the potential of their direct
actions upon themselves, their peers, and
their larger community community
8. Youth have
full equity with adults. This may be
a 40/60 split, or 20/80 split when it’s
appropriate. All are recognized for their
impact and ownership of the outcomes.
conscious commitment by all participants to
overcoming all barriers.
structures to support differences can
establish safe, supportive learning
environments, ultimately recreating the
climate and culture in communities.
Roger Hart, a sociologist for
UNICEF who originally developed the Ladder, intended
the first three rungs to represent forms of non-participation.
However, while the first rung generally represents
the nature of all youth voice in communities with
the threat of “attend or fail”, there are more roles
for youth than ever before throughout the education
system. Rungs 6, 7, and 8 generally represent “young
person/adult partnerships”, or intentional
arrangements designed to foster authentic youth
engagement in communities.
Today, youth are increasingly
engaged as researchers, planners, teachers,
evaluators, decision-makers, and advocates. With
this knowledge in mind, the rungs of the Ladder can
help youth and adults identify how youth are
currently involved in communities, and give them
goals to aspire towards.
2011. Adam Fletcher owns the copyright
for this material on behalf of The Freechild
Project. You are welcome to print out
this material for educational purposes
only - you cannot make any financial
gain from them without the explicit
permission of the author. You may not
photocopy any part of this material
without explicit permission of the
author. For more
information write info [at] freechild.org