P-PG/Prev-CF (2005)2

Youth participation in drug prevention programmes

By Amanda POOLE

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participation, n. /pär-"tis-&-'pA-sh&n/

1 : the act of taking part in an activity

2 : the state of being related to a larger whole

3 : community; fellowship; association

“Youth participation is about the development of partnerships between young people and adults across all areas of life so that young people may take a valued position and role in our society and so that the community as a whole (as well as young people) can benefit from their contribution, ideas and energies.”

The Australian Youth Foundation

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Contents

1. Introduction
2. Youth
3. What is drug prevention?
4. What are the benefits of youth participation in drug prevention programmes?
5. What is the value of youth participation in drug prevention programmes?
6. What would drug prevention programmes be like if youth were not participants?
7. Understanding adults and youth
8. Participation
9. Creating an appropriate framework in which to participate
10. Guidelines for consultative processes
11. Conclusion

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3

References

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1. Introduction

“Young people are not problems to be solved, but problem solvers themselves.”

International Youth Foundation

Today’s young persons are undeniably an integral part of society. At times, they seem to possess boundless energy and enthusiasm, and they often offer fresh perspectives on relevant issues. With their unique experiences, viewpoints and vitality, young people are capable of making extremely important contributions to society.

Young people also face a variety of challenges. They are growing up in a rapidly changing environment that continually offers them new knowledge and discoveries. They must make sense of this dynamic environment while at the same time establishing their own unique identity. During adolescence, young persons confront difficult choices with respect to drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sex and sometimes respond by experimenting or by rebelling against traditional sources of authority. These days, drug abuse is becoming an increasing trend and playing a larger role in youth culture. Normally associated with economic and social factors, drug abuse has become more prominent among youth, as drugs have become increasingly varied and accessible. Today, there is a clear need for effective drug prevention programmes directed toward youth.

Traditionally, young people have been exposed to drug prevention programmes during their school years. Schools have been considered ideal places to communicate drug prevention because they are natural places for youth to congregate and learn. Unfortunately, this method of prevention has proven to be ineffective. The first problem is that limiting drug prevention programmes to schools excludes a significant number of young persons, among them those with irregular lifestyles who perhaps dropped out of school and began working. Furthermore, the school setting too often lends itself to outdated pedagogical approaches, in which young people are expected to passively absorb the lessons of life transmitted by their adult superiors. This approach, in which the listener is unable to voice a response to the lecturer means that no true exchange of understanding occurs, and the lesson is not internalized by the listener. It is ineffective for young people, who search for recognition as individuals who are capable of making the choices that affect their own lives. The disconnection is further emphasised by the fact that during their school years, young people begin to look for role models among their peers, rather than among their teachers or parents.

Lack of youth participation in drug prevention programmes has other negative implications. Consider the following:

In a survey conducted by Euronet, a rights network for children and young people living in Europe, young people expressed their frustration with respect to the adult world. Time after time, they felt as if their views were either being ignored or not taken seriously by adults.

In a survey carried out by UNICEF in 2001 in South-eastern Europe, 60% of young people claimed they had little or no information about preventing drug abuse within their communities. Many young people, regardless of where they lived, declared that they were being denied access to vital information that was important for their well-being.

(Adapted from Global Priorities for Youth: Youth Participation in Decision-making)

 

The first quote is indicative of a general problem in our society: young persons are often marginalised by adults. The view that is often perpetuated and reinforced by the media is that young people are lazy and incompetent. In fact, this is a stereotype that is unjustly founded and even pernicious: the generalization not only discredits positive contributions that youth make to society, but it also discourages communication from taking place between youth and adults.

The second quote reveals a serious consequence of the marginalisation of youth: youth feel that they cannot access information central to their needs. Lack of information can be very damaging because it denies youth the ability to make informed decisions about their lives and to become empowered by their decisions and choices. This can spell disaster later down the road.

Drug prevention today calls for new tactics. Existing approaches that target youth in schools are ineffective and sometimes even backfire when youth rebel against the adult authorities with whom they feel no connection. What is needed are more creative methods that do not necessarily include hierarchical structures. Consultative processes are appealing because they include the voices of both youth and their adult counterparts. They ensure youth participation, which is a fundamental quality of any drug prevention programme. Young people are assets to the community who can make positive and long-lasting contributions when the opportunity arises. Society is beginning to recognise and appreciate their capabilities, but it is still hesitant to accept them as active citizens. Through effective consultative processes, though, this recognition will become a reality.

This paper works to identify reasons why young people should indeed have a voice. The beginning of the paper provides an overview of youth participation in order to present a general understanding of a somewhat complicated subject. It has been written with the intention to prompt the community to recognise the benefits and values of youth participation in drug prevention programmes. The impact of young people is greatly unnoticed, but when realised it is evident that young people are active and reliable citizens of society. When given the opportunity, young people are able to deliver with such ability that others find themselves inspired by their unflagging energy and commitment.

This paper also works to establish communication between young people and adults. Their cooperation is essential for drug prevention programmes to reach their goals and objectives. The paper focuses on stereotypes attributed to youth and stereotypes attributed to adults. The intent is to bring awareness to the misconceptions that can sometimes prevent young people and adults from working together. Once these have been established, the paper works to identify effective methods for building partnerships in order to create successful working environments for consultative processes. The examples given provide concepts for what young people and adults should take into consideration when working together. This paper has been written with the intention of bringing young people and adults to communicate and collaborate with each other in order to bring awareness to the prevention of drugs.

Definitions

Throughout this paper, ‘adults’ will refer to experts, decision-makers, professionals and other specialists in all the respective fields relating to drugs. These individuals are considered to possess expertise in the area of drug abuse, drug treatment and drug prevention. However, ‘adults’ will be used interchangeably with ‘experts,’ ‘consultants,’ ‘specialists,’ and so forth, depending upon the relevancy and subject matter.

The word ‘youth’ will also be used interchangeably with such phrases as ‘young person’ and ‘young people.’ These words and phrases will be used to recognise a distinct group with specific needs and potential.

2. Youth

2.1. Characterising youth

Who is considered a young person? This question is somewhat difficult to answer since there are several definitions that vary from one country, or even organisation, to another. The European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy at the Council of Europe uses the age range definition of 13-30 years old, since there is no agreed European standard. The United Nations, though, defines ‘youth’ including those individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Whereas some European countries include ‘children’ within the 13-30 age range, the UN definition considers ‘children’ to be those individuals under 14 years old. Nevertheless, the UN definition is not comprehensive either. When referring to young people, definitions are based on societal, political, cultural and individual factors. As a result, it is difficult to come to one definitive answer.

Even with these variations in definitions, it is generally decided and accepted that ‘youth’ is a transitory stage between childhood and maturity or adulthood. It is an early period of existence for growth and development. This time in life, though, is a critical stage for young people. During this stage of life, they begin to set the foundations for their behaviours that will influence their well-being in their adult life. It is a precarious stage in life when skills are being developed which may determine future successes or future challenges. Of course it is a significant stage in life, but it will not ultimately establish who they will become in the future.

2.2. Youth in the past

Throughout the centuries, youth have struggled to claim their rightful place in society. It is not until recently that youth have been able to have an active role. Before the Enlightenment Age, young persons were considered property and were not even a participatory member of the family. Even at the end of the Middle Ages there was hardly any recognition of youth by society. During this period, until they were 6 or 7 years old, they did not matter in the community. In fact, the law even stated that a young person did not exist in legal terms. On the contrary, if on some rare occasions the young person was recognised as existing, the young person would be treated as the property of the father and furthermore treated in this manner.

When the Enlightenment Age arrived, the community began to take more interest in youth. The ideology of progress and a future society were at the basis of Rationalistic and Enlightenment ideals. According to these ideals, the present had to be sacrificed in order to pursue the prospects of the future. From then on, young people were considered the ‘future’ and ‘tomorrow’s riches and prosperity.’ This new way of thinking diverged from the previous belief when young people were defined as ‘not-yet-human beings’ until they reached a respected age.

During this time, though, youth were also revered as objects of protection without any rights. Their lives were based on the concepts of rest, regularity and cleanliness. Society’s ultimate goal was to prevent children from turning to immoral influences that would inevitably corrupt their lives. As a result, active participation was non-existent among youth. In fact, participation was deemed as bad and damaging to young people. In other words, protection took precedence over involvement. Stipulations can be made as to the motives for these reasons, but at the time, it was assumed that youth lacked the necessary capabilities and expertise to cope with the surrounding environment. Some may view this as nurturing or fostering their lives, but in reality, it only hindered the prospect of developing their numerous possibilities.

Fortunately, for society, times have changed and young people are having more and more roles in programmes and projects in which they are affected, directly or indirectly.

2.3. What is youth participation?

Similar to the concept of ‘youth,’ there are many different explanations for youth participation. Even though this may make it difficult to identify the particular roles of youth, it implies that their roles are not limited. In many cases, it depends on the type of programme or project that calls for the participation of youth and to what extent the youth are participating.

More specifically, though, youth participation entails a process through which youth are able to influence and share control over planning, decisions and resources that affect them. At an organisational level, this entails being included in decision-making policies and practices in which young people have legitimate roles, such as manager or advisor. On a personal level, participation involves young people’s right to be included in and informed about decisions and issues affecting their lives. Youth participation means recognising and fostering young people’s assets, influence and ability through their expertise and involvement. Only in this way will youth participation be truly effective for the youth themselves, their adult counterparts and the community as a whole.

2.4. Why is youth participation so important?

Young people have a right to participate as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adopted in 1990, the Convention has since been ratified by nearly every member state of the UN. It is the most extensively ratified convention, of which only two states have not yet ratified it. One of the general principles of the Convention states:

      Children must be allowed as active participants in all matters affecting their lives and be free to express their opinions. They have the right to have their views heard and taken seriously.

      (Adapted from Young People Changing in Societies)

Article 12 of the Convention, to which people refer to the most, declares that young persons who are capable of forming their own views have the right to express those views in all matters in which they are affected. Article 12 ensures the right of participation by youth, regardless of their economic or social status, or any condition that challenges their rights.

The reasons for youth participation, though, go beyond the Convention and its principles. The reasons are endless and with each example of youth participation put into practice, the list grows longer. Here are just a few examples:

    Competence: Participation is a learning process for young people. They acquire skills such as communication and social skills that will prepare them for the future.

    Determination: Participation allows the young person to discover the benefits of persisting in an endeavour and having the courage to reach this goal.

    Self-worth: Young people begin to realise that they have an actual role and are capable of being active contributors.

    Well-being: Participation decreases the probability of young people facing depression and hopelessness. By allowing young people to have a say in a programme or endeavour, they have more incentive to continue this expression rather than drift towards negative ventures.

    Conscientiousness: Participation allows young people to take responsibility for themselves, for their peers, for their families and for others. This ultimately supports the development of personality characteristics that are important in a society that demands flexibility, creativity and tolerance.

    Outlook: Young people bring new perspectives that influence outcomes in new and unexpected ways.

    Know-how: Participation draws upon young people’s expertise on their own social and cultural conditions.

    Challenge common thinking: Participation contests negative stereotypes that categorise young people as lazy and indifferent to issues that concern them.

Without the active participation of youth, young people become ‘social outsiders.’ They are eventually excluded from the daily happenings of life and societal activities. Consequently, they lack the commitment to engage themselves in society, which in effect, spurs reckless behaviour. Moreover, youth do not have the opportunity to understand society, itself. Society becomes an unspecified actor in their lives. They can neither truly understand it nor grasp its presence. This presents a problem for them and for society as a whole. By not being able to understand their relationship with society and their role within it, they will not be able to make a valuable connection. When they do become an age when society demands from them to be involved and to carry out responsibilities, they struggle to accomplish this. If they have not been taught or given the occasion to do this beforehand, they are not able to become fully active and committed citizens.

If youth were never given guidance, they will either make an effort to comprehend their role, or turn to other influences that will provide relief and reassurance to a confused and misinterpreted existence. Leaving them to drift towards negative influences could potentially be dangerous with irrepressible consequences.

As a result, young people must be encouraged to live and learn. In order to do this, though, active participation is the solution. They need to know that they have responsibilities and are wanted and appreciated by the society in which they live. It is a natural desire among all people to want to be included in some greater entity, and active participation not only provides this possibility, but also ensures that the youth will have a better future ahead of them.

3. What is drug prevention?

Drug prevention works to tackle the issues of drug use and misuse through a wide range of activities and strategies. These methods for communicating information seek to:

  • prevent or delay the start of drug use;
  • deter misuse;
  • and reduce harm.

Drug prevention programmes can target all young people or they can target specific groups with specific needs, such as young persons who have already tried drugs or who are considered ‘at-risk’ youth. Programmes can occur in school, in the community and they can be run by youth, adults or a combination of both. There is no protocol for drug prevention programmes, but in order for them to be effective, programmes should consider the following:

  • Enhancing protective factors and reducing risk factors
  • Including skills to resist drugs, strengthen personal commitments against drug use and increase social competencies
  • Incorporating interactive methods rather than just the traditional educational techniques alone
  • Generating norms that are strengthened against drug use in all kinds of situations
  • Targeting all youth and giving special attention towards identifying those who are most at risk
  • Being sensitive with respect to ages, cultures and developmental stages

(Review 2001: The substance of young needs)

4. What are the benefits of youth participation in drug prevention programmes?

More and more, society is acknowledging the advantages of youth participation in communicating drug prevention. The advantages are endless and are not limited to benefit just young people, but affect adults and the greater community as well. This is yet another example of the vast potential of young people to be productive and responsible individuals in the world.

4.1. …for young people

Young people gain the most from participation since they are the primary beneficiaries. Their decisions determine how well they will deliver services, implement and manage policies and continue to improve the programme’s goals. Whichever decisions they make and whichever procedures they apply, they will be the ones affected the most.

Delivery of services. The delivery of services is greatly improved with the involvement of young people. By young people making key decisions concerning matters that are most significant, services are more relevant to their needs. Young persons are, undoubtedly, the best experts on young people. They understand each other in a way that is difficult for most adults to comprehend. Their behaviours, their style and even their language differ from adults. It is no wonder that adults often find themselves perplexed by the conduct of youth. Having young people involved in the planning and decision-making procedures, though, creates programmes that are geared more towards what the young people know what they need rather than what adults think that they need. The programmes are, therefore, more responsive to what young people want. Young people not only benefit from being active participants of an endeavour that includes them, but they also benefit from better services that work to provide solutions and explanations that they desire.

Expression. Participation allows young people to share their experiences and ideas on the dangers of drugs. Their perceptions concerning what makes a drug dangerous or how drugs can be avoided differs from what adults believe to be the reasons or rationale. For many youth, participation in a drug prevention programme allows them to share their own experiences with drug abuse in which they were directly or indirectly affected. Their encounters with drugs, when told to their peers or other members of the community, provide a prime example of the effects and hazards of drugs. For other young people, this is greatly effective because they begin to understand drugs from a point of view from someone their own age. Rather than listening to an adult speak about why they should not take drugs, here they are listening to living proof. If you think of it in this way, which is more interesting and has the greatest impact on you: a news reporter telling you about a championship football game or the star player from the winning team telling you about his perspective? Most likely, you would be more intrigued by the star player from the winning team telling you about his great victory. It is the same with young people and issues concerning them. Young people are more likely to remember what they have heard if they heard it from the person who actually took part in the experience.

Skills. At an individual level, young people gain developmental skills and knowledge that will ensure a better future. Their self-esteem grows with each opportunity because they gain the confidence and awareness to tackle issues on their own. This is strengthened by their leadership roles and responsibilities that empower them to become responsible citizens. Empowering youth to play a greater role in prevention programmes builds upon their ability to overcome limitations to their participation and provide them with opportunities to make decisions that affect their lives and well-being. With respectable roles in prevention programmes, young people are determined to work diligently to fulfil their own expectations, as well as the expectations for the programme. In doing this, their energy is truly remarkable. Participation gives them the opportunity to channel this energy so that they can create successful programmes that continue to challenge them and to challenge others. For example, there is a clear distinction between a group discussion amongst young persons about drugs and that same discussion led by a young person. The discussion led by a young person is more focused and has a common goal. Youth, who know each other best, are experts on how to ask each other the right questions and how to stimulate conversations. The discussion amongst youth may succeed in raising practical issues, but it may not achieve its full potential.

Acknowledgement. A certain level of respect exists among youth. Young persons share questions and problems with their peers. They feel secure in confiding with people from the same age group. For many young persons, the peer group is an important source of support. It makes sense to include young people in the organisation and delivery of services because they know what techniques will better help them and their peers. Young people are also connected through their common ‘language.’ For example, their use of slang, or street terms, for certain words and expressions, which have not been integrated into the everyday adult vocabulary.

 

Street Terms

CANNABIS

marijuana, hashish, grass, hooch, weed, dope, ganja, hash, leaf, pot, bango, hemp, joing-sticks,

COCAINE

crack, coke, C, charlie, toot, bazooka, cake, stardust, coco, mister coffee, blanche, snow

HEROIN

hammer, horse, H, junk, nod, smack, skay, white, beige, white lady, joy powder

AMPHETAMINES

speed, ice, browns, footballs, hearts, oranges, black beauties, crystal meth, cat, dexies, rippers

ECSTASY

essence, adam, MDM, MDMA, XTC, eve, MDE, MDEA

These terms remain a form of identification that exists between young people. As a result, having youth actively participate in prevention programmes is a great benefit because they are able to identify effective methods for collecting and obtaining data from other youth, based on common language. Collecting data is much more efficient when vocabulary is not an obstacle.

Communication. The participation of youth allows other youth to feel more at ease when speaking of issues that are difficult to discuss with adults. Some issues within the scope of drugs are not easy subjects. Thus, young people feel limited to speak on certain topics if they know that adults are present. For some young persons, they feel as if they need to be careful about what they say. There is almost an implicit ‘sanction’ that young people put on their words when speaking with adults. In other words, they are not able to fully express themselves. When speaking in a group with adults present, young people may say what they think adults want to hear instead of what they really want to say. Often this can be damaging to a programme because it is not an accurate representation of the youth mentality. As a result, programmes designed by young people can effectively adapt to this uneasiness that young people feel. They can provide methods and strategies for encouraging productive communication between adults and young people. This may come in the form of workshops or activities. In Appendix 1 and Appendix 2, it is also evident that young people communicate differently from adults. Both surveys concern alcohol use, but the questions are written in a different manner. The survey created by a programme in Slovenia, completely run by young people, asked short and simple, right-to-the-point questions. The questions also provided several choices so that young people could respond based on their immediate thoughts and reactions. In this sense, the answers are more revealing because they represent the first thought that popped into the head. In the Belgian survey targeted at young people, but created by adults, the questions are longer and require more thought-provoking responses. The young person must spend more time completing the survey and providing explanations. The comparison of these two surveys illustrates the difference between how adults work and how young people work when targeting the same group of people. Neither one is better than the other one, but it is apparent that young people take a different approach in obtaining information from their peers.

4.2. …for adults

Youth participation in drug prevention programmes is a learning process for adults. They learn firsthand what makes young people tick. Adults have the opportunity of witnessing the awesome capabilities of young people at their ‘productive best.’ Their exposure to new methods, strategies, ideas and contrasting opinions, ultimately inspires adults to think beyond the norm. After witnessing and experiencing the abilities of young people, adults can only agree that previously accepted methodologies, nowadays, are being constantly challenged by the new and creative perspectives from young people. For adults, this gives them a whole new understanding about the way in which young people think, act and react. They are able to respect, and benefit, from the resourcefulness and originality of youth.

Involving youth in programmes that were designed by adults also has its benefits. With active youth involvement, programmes focus on important matters that are suited towards young peoples’ needs. Clearly, adults want to continue to take part in the lives of young people, but they often forget that the prevention programmes were created to target the young peoples’ best interests. Youth participation, however, decreases the possibility of drifting away from the programme’s original intentions, since adults are able to identify more accurately the themes that youth consider most important. Building communication between adults and young people decreases the chances of programmes based on assumptions and stereotypes. As a result, programmes become more useful in responding to young peoples’ needs.

4.3. …for the programme and the greater community

Youth participation is, itself, a source of information in drug prevention programmes. Information can be gained from young people as citizens and beneficiaries about their changing attitudes and needs, their views as to what constitutes quality in service provision and barriers to accessing these services. Young people are able to recognise which methods are useful for others to access information and which methods still need improvements. Unbeknownst to some, young people know what they want. They know when services are working well for them and they know when other services are not. They are not the type of group who sits back and waits for everything to fall into their lap. They enjoy working for what they believe in and they thrive on trying to achieve this. When something does not go well, they work to try to find a solution. This is extremely beneficial to any programme because these days everything is changing. It is difficult to keep up-to-date with every new term, trend or approach. Flexibility allows programmes to adapt and react to these types of inevitable changes.

Given that young people are always trying to keep up with the latest trends, they are a primary source for tapping into today’s rapidly changing youth culture. They can provide the community with information concerning anything ranging from music, fashion and even drugs. With respect to drugs, they are experts in their own right. Young people are the link between those who deal with drugs and those who wish to know more, but unfortunately, their impact and perspectives on prevention programmes are frequently overlooked.

Young people can offer programmes and the greater community unique expertise in the area of anti-drug activities. They can provide alternatives that will appeal to the interests of young people rather than letting bewildered youth believe that drugs are their only choice.

They are equally able to communicate drug prevention based on alternatives to standard practices. For example, a programme set up in the United Kingdom provided the opportunity for students to take part in youth-led work projects. During these work project sessions, young people collaborated with their peers and adults in order to create a drug prevention project that would be presented to students from other area schools. Some projects included videos, while other projects took a more conventional route and created poster-type message boards. After presenting the projects to students over a three- to five-day period, the feedback was very promising. The youth participants mentioned the fact that their projects were not about telling youth “don’t take drugs,” but rather about presenting to others what will happen if they do take drugs. In this respect, the young people decided that their project wanted to get the message across that learning about the effects of drugs is much more useful than just ordering youth not to use drugs. They realised that ordering other youth will not make a difference because they will just take drugs anyway. The projects were designed to stress the fact that even though it is ultimately up to young people to choose to take or not to take drugs, it is important that they first think about the facts and consequences. As a result, this approach was highly received among the students. The students found this method of thinking to be more engaging and credible than standard classroom approaches, which young people found to be boring. It further illustrated that young people knew the best methods for communicating with their peers, and because of this, the project was a success.

When possessing the responsibilities of creating, managing and organising drug prevention projects or programmes, young people gain not only respect for themselves, but for adults and the society as a whole. The involvement of youth in drug prevention programmes is part of a wider process of valuing and respecting the capabilities of young people.

Programmes with youth participation focus on what is important instead of what is irrelevant. It gives legitimacy to a programme because they are based on actual needs rather than presumed needs. This, in turn, is also beneficial because it saves resources, time and energy. Creating a success in drug prevention programmes will ultimately inspire further programmes to be formed and to include youth in an active, participatory way.

5. What is the value of youth participation in drug prevention programmes?

The significance and importance of youth participation in drug prevention programmes are numerous and diverse.

Morals and character are developed: Youth participation builds upon moral values, which builds respect, unity and cooperation. Young people appreciate the significance of working together, not just with each other but with the community as well. They feel empowered to question what is happening around them, and they gain confidence in themselves when they have support and encouragement from each other. Most of all, they learn to become responsible and committed individuals who realise the importance of collaboration in order to achieve a common goal.

Youth listen to youth: Young people are effective teachers, reliable messengers and successful recruiters who can convince their peers to join any cause. Young people are knowledgeable on youth attitudes and behaviours because they are the ones living the lives of youth. Having this respect and regard among youth creates a greater appreciation for them as leaders, advisors and active agents of change within prevention programmes. Paying attention to what a fellow peer has to say is usually more enticing than listening to a lethargic monologue from an expert or professional. An effective working relationship ultimately generates committed individuals when young people have confidence in the people they are working with. This type of working environment is much more enjoyable and leaves more time and energy for focusing on important issues.

A foundation for a good adult life: If young people are not given the opportunity to share, they will continue to grow up without knowing what is going on. Young people who are not involved in actions concerning them, during the stage in life when they are most affected, will only find life to be more difficult when they reach adulthood. Keeping young people uninformed, and from being able to contribute, will only promote future problems that could have been avoided. Youth participation, though, guarantees their resilience by letting them learn how to handle their life and the situations and challenges in which they find themselves.

A direct reflection of what young people want and need: By now, it is clear that young people have the most to say. They understand that drug prevention is a crucial issue facing many youth today. Young people are great sources of information. They realise the importance of drug prevention because it is better to help youth avoid drugs rather than try to stop them after addiction. In view of the fact that young people traditionally have been the recipients of drug prevention ideals, it is obvious that they are able to recognise which drug prevention methods are effective and which ones fail to grab their attention. In the majority of cases, young people will express their dissatisfaction for programmes that promote scare-tactics or provide lackadaisical phrases, such as ‘Drugs are bad.’ They want more than just ‘Drugs are bad,’ and they want proof, whether it comes from a former drug addict who speaks to them or people from their peer community who present to them the effects of drugs in a more appealing and effective way. As a result, their honesty provides insight about what works best for youth and, accordingly, better prevention programmes are created.

The improvement of efforts in the field of prevention: According to two environmental psychologists with Children’s Environments Research Group of New York (CERG) of the City University of New York,

The participation of youth in the analysis of drug problems and the identification of innovative and effective solutions [are] an essential underpinning to future international and local efforts in the field of prevention.

(UN Chronicle. Issue 2, 1998. Feature Essay)

The two psychologists view young people as the best resources for having ideas about furthering drug prevention within communities. Young people have a unique and shared standpoint on drug prevention and treatment. Young people are not only a source of ideas for primary drug prevention but also at the tertiary level. Tertiary level of prevention is intervention at an advanced state of drug abuse. The goal is to stop or slow down the progress of addiction even though the basic condition persists. Young people can provide genuine insight regarding methods that are more effective in helping them to overcome their addictions or difficulties with drug abuse. For example, at an international conference on the reduction of drug related harm, organised by the United Nations, young people stressed their recommendations regarding drug treatment. The following are a few of their recommendations:

  • Young people feel that there is a huge gap between their needs and the services provided
  • Young addicts are sceptical, in general, and therefore distrustful and resentful of service providers
  • Young addicts feel misunderstood and mistreated
  • Professionalism in dealing with addiction is still lacking
  • Parents should be supportive of their children and encourage them to reintegrate
  • As an alternative to rehabilitation, family/community environments is a good option for young drug users
  • Society must be willing to accept and reintegrate those who recover from drug addiction
  • Time periods for the course of treatment should be varied according to individual needs
  • Develop youth camps as opposed to boot camps that emphasise nature, arts and sports; provide opportunities in these camps for young people to learn how to make decisions, exchange views and learn to engage in activities other than drug use

(Adapted from Summary Document of UNICEF’s Participation)

Young people are responsible citizens whose capabilities are endless when they have confidence in themselves and in what they do. Their realisation of the contributions they can make to society has a great effect on others, and the community as a whole. Young people are not the problems in society; they are the keys to finding a solution.

5.1. European examples of active youth participation in drug prevention programmes

Each of these programmes represents an active participation level of youth involvement. In these examples, youth are involved in the programme’s organisation, decisions, implementation and evaluation. These programmes are initiated and designed by young people, who are in charge of what the programmes hope to achieve, as well as the methods for achieving these goals. In some programmes, adults are also included in the programme’s structure, but their roles are to support the efforts youth and to be a resource for them when they need advice or confirmation.

5.1.1. Bulgaria case study

A selected group of young people from area high schools in the capital city of Sofia are creating a website featuring two ‘virtual heroes’ whose purpose is to increase the level of information among young people about drugs, drug abuse and drug prevention, in a non-conventional way. The website will enable the public to acquire information to ask questions and to play an active role in the creation process of the lives of the two heroes. Essentially, the ‘heroes’ will be created by young people’s experiences and be used to share these experiences with others.

Regular meetings are held among the participants in order to continue to develop the lives of the heroes. Issues such as problems relating to drugs and major issues facing youth today are just a few of the topics discussed. Psychologists and consultants participate as well but only in a supportive manner. These discussions are used in creating the heroes’ lives. The virtual characters are a direct representation of typical youth today, including their behaviour, their thoughts and their reactions, as young people perceive them. Through a combination of youth interests, the internet and knowledgeable youth, themselves, the ‘virtual heroes’ are easily accessible and realistically portray the lives of youth. The heroes symbolise a unique form of communicating information. The public is welcomed to be involved in the evolution of the heroes’ lives through an internet forum concerning drug-related issues and what young people think today. The public is able to share their thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding drug problems and prevention.

The programme is run by young people, and it involves both young and adult participants. The internet characters reflect the youth today because they are being created by young people. The programme works to keep information current so that young people, adults etc. can be up-to-date on issues concerning youth. While accessing the website, the public can learn more about drugs and prevention, follow and participate in the development of the two ‘virtual heroes,’ ask the questions that they have always wanted to ask and share their own experiences with drugs.

Young people play a crucial role in the design, organisation, implementation and evaluation of the prevention programme. In addition, they actively encourage and engage other young people to play key roles in the programme’s development.

5.1.2. Greece case study

Dancing and listening to music are two activities that young people enjoy doing with their friends. Knowing this, a group of young people organised a dance in which both young people and adults were invited. The dance was a statement that young people can amuse themselves without substance abuse.

In order for the dance to occur, the group of young people were in charge of making all of the preparations. The process of organising the dance required the young people to determine how they would reach out and involve youth, which drug prevention topic they would choose to focus on and finally how to present this topic to the invitees. As a result, they decided on a dance along with a film that would be presented during the event. The film was written and directed by the young people. The film highlighted the effects that young people feel when taking pills in order to feel better right before going to a club. One character was shown feeling dizzy and sick after swallowing a pill. At this point during the film, the image was altered to make the viewer feel as if he or she was experiencing what the character was experiencing. It was an effort to make the viewer identify with the character. At the end of the film, the same characters were shown in a setting without drugs, enjoying the new day. It sent a message that young people could indeed enjoy life without taking drugs. All they needed were their friends to talk to and a shoulder to lean on.

The programme stressed youth involvement in order to communicate drug prevention to their peers and to challenge the stereotype that dancing and music were always associated with drugs. Young people were actively involved in all aspects of the programme.

5.1.3. Poland case study

Kiosks in chill-out zones at dance clubs are spots where young people can receive information leaflets on drugs, harm reduction and the promotion of health and safety in the club community. This drug prevention programme in Poland stresses dancing, having fun and living without using drugs—all while practicing safe behaviour. The kiosks are run by young volunteers and are safe havens for partygoers who want to talk, to be counselled and to receive information. In many cases, when someone is in trouble, precious time is wasted because nobody knows how to help, and instead they are forced to wait for an ambulance. The kiosk and its youth workers are able to provide immediate assistance if anyone is in danger. During the night, the young workers hand out free water, vitamin drinks, condoms and earplugs to all those who need them. The young people who are in charge of running the kiosks all have knowledge on the threats of drug use, first aid and the different types of drugs regularly used in the club scene.

Young people are the designers and organisers of the programme. They establish their own criteria for involving young people in terms of offering opportunities as kiosk workers.

First, the youth organisers want people who know the club community because they are a part of it. The programme workers want their representatives to have first-hand knowledge so that they can effectively help spread drug prevention policies. Second, these young persons must want to help others, be able to cope well, work efficiently in difficult situations, have an awareness of the presence of drugs and the hazards which they can cause, be able to communicate and be between the ages of 21and 26 years old. Lastly, these young persons must undergo a training session put together and run by the youth organisers so that they can be prepared for working in a kiosk at a dance/music event. During each month, all of the workers meet for a discussion on how to improve the programme. The workers, who spend all of their time on the events, know what works well and what still needs to be fixed. They consult each other in order to make the best decisions.

The programme connects with all people from the club community, such as DJs, event organisers and opinion leaders from the party environment. Statements from these influential figures help to stress the message of drug prevention. Just one statement from a DJ, “I am good, because I don’t take drugs, I get high on music only,” had more influence on young clubbers than any statement from the grown-up world.

The prevention programme works to get and maintain the attention of young people. The youth workers not only want to give young people information, but they also want them to retain it. By being present at places where young people often go to for fun, the programme is successfully able to educate youth on issues that affect them the most.

The drug prevention programme accentuates upon the strengths of young people to organise kiosks, engage other youth in their endeavours and appeal to the interests of young people in the club community.

5.1.4. Slovenia case study

Newsletters that mix pop culture, such as fashion and music, with drug prevention topics are distributed to places where youth frequently hang out. The newsletters were written and designed by young people with the intention of providing pop culture interest but also important and serious issues such as drugs and drug abuse. This mixture of leisure news and realistic information concerning important topics these days, effectively attract the attention of young people. The newsletter responds to young people’s desire to know about the latest trends and provides information that calls for awareness.

The programme equally works at getting in contact with young people at raves and dance clubs. These places are frequented by the younger generation and are regular grounds for excessive drinking and drug use. At these rave culture hot spots, the young volunteers distribute newsletters, free drinks, fruit and offer basic first aid to those people in need. The young people understand and can identify places where other young people are more likely to show signs of substance abuse. This is highly effective since they can have direct contact with youth who desire help and assistance, but are unable to find it on their own. In this case, the programme seeks young people rather than waiting for young people to come to them.

Similar to other programmes, the Slovenian prevention programme also maintains a website that supplies information on synthetic drugs. The texts for the website are written by young people, and the website is similar to the format of the newsletter, but is more easily accessible. The website also includes a communication board, which allows young people to socialise, exchange stories and receive counselling. The communication forum is completely run by its users, which are young people. The communication board is a great way for users to get in direct contact with youth from the programme and still remain anonymous. The user can feel more at ease speaking about certain issues that may be difficult to talk about face-to-face.

The three methods, all designed and run by youth, are used to get drug prevention messages out to youth all over Slovenia. The methods are highly effective and respond to what young people want and need to know about drugs.

6. What would drug prevention programmes be like if youth were not participants?

First, programmes without youth participation will have difficulty providing the necessary services to young people. Programmes that do not reflect the opinions and views of young people are destined for disappointment. Adults may think that they understand young people, but often they base it on stereotypes and presumptions. Of course, all adults were once young people, themselves, but mentalities change as each individual enters a new stage in his or her life. To put it in simpler terms, adults are not current on the central issues concerning young people. Adults may try to find answers, but young people truly are the best experts on issues affecting them. Without youth participation, these issues will most likely remain issues in youth culture rather than turn into practical solutions.

Programmes that are devoid of youth input are more likely to be organised according to adults’ terms rather than young peoples’ terms. Even though the programmes target young people, it would be rather ironic to have a project that targets a group that is not even involved in the programme’s decisions or structure. It is a disadvantage to the programme and to the adults who in charge. Without active youth participation, it will be much more difficult to determine how effective or ineffective a programme is without members from the target group. However, with participation from the target group, the programme has a primary source that can evaluate a programme’s progress and areas where improvements need to be made. It could be argued that the recipients of the services could evaluate the programme and provide suggestions for improvement and areas that work well, but it is not the same as having a young person, who plays a key role in the management and structures, to evaluate the programme. Individuals who are from the target group and who know the programme inside and out are more effective than those individuals who only know what the programme provides to them.

Lastly, time, energy and resources would be wasted if youth participation did not exist. Searching for adequate solutions to achieve effective drug prevention strategies would be based on non-youth points of views. In other words, solutions would not be representative of young people, and, therefore, would not respond efficiently to their needs. In other instances, resources may be wasted because programmes may not be targeting the most pertinent group that can fully benefit from the programme’s objectives. In these cases, the potential for the programme exists, but that potential may not be reaching the relevant people.

With active youth participation, programmes are more focused on reacting to what young people require rather than providing irrelevant services.

7. Understanding adults and youth

Reaching a mutual understanding between adults and youth is a somewhat difficult task to accomplish. Perhaps, it is because communication is lacking or maybe it is because presumptions are more interesting than actualities. It is agreed, however, that young people and adults differ from one another, but it does not suggest they cannot work to understand each other.

7.1. Misconceptions

Young people and adults are both under the impression that they are specialists on one another. Young people argue that they know adults better than adults know young people, and adults argue that they know young people better than young people know adults. However, when comparing what youth think about adults and what adults think about youth, there are many misconceptions between the two. These misconceptions, though, are greatly beneficial and, when realised, they can help them to understand each other better. The following statements are just a few examples from both sides of the argument.

7.1.1. Adult misconceptions

Misconceptions

Truths

Adults know what is best for young people because adults have more experience.

Young people are experts by experience in youth culture. They can identify their own needs and the needs of their peers.

Young people are lazy.

In the rare examples young people are ‘lazy,’ it is because they are under-stimulated and do not have the opportunities to offer meaningful input. On the contrary, young people are willing to tackle any challenge set before them, however difficult it may be.

Young people only look for problems.

Young people are constantly exploring and are greatly motivated to ensure their healthy development, which involves trials and errors. With the right support network, though, they will act in a positive manner and make the right decisions.

Young people are indifferent and they do not want to get involved.

Amidst the growing pressures from adults, young people may sometimes feel overwhelmed if appropriate guidance and support are lacking. In fact, young people want to be involved, but at times they do not know how to accomplish this in the most effective way.

Young people are incapable of persevering in their own endeavours.

It is true that young people eventually grow up and move on to other interests, but that does not mean they lack commitment. Any person will agree that interests and perspectives change. It is natural for people to want to do something else. It is not because they lack perseverance, but instead they want to try something new. In fact, this is greatly beneficial because it promotes new ideas and renews enthusiasm.

Young people should be seen, not heard.

Young people have ideas that are so fresh and relevant that it would be a loss for society if they were silenced. Their cleverness and originality are at their peaks when they are young, and they are not afraid to share their resources with others. Unfortunately, young people are not always taken seriously because their creativity is usually rejected as immature and unreasonable.

Young people should not be in charge, and they are unable to manage adult roles.

When given the chance, young people can surprise even the most obstinate adult. Young people possess awesome capabilities that make them amazing leaders not only for their peers but for their colleagues as well. With the right support, they are able to respond to even the most difficult challenges.

Young people cannot handle too much responsibility.

If they are properly supported, young people can take on much more responsibility than they originally perceived for themselves. They thrive upon the opportunity to have responsibilities because it makes them more active and committed individuals. Responsibilities give them a sense of ownership because they understand the importance and significance.

Young people are ignorant.

Young people observe the world around them better than many think they do. They are much more open to new ideas because they are relatively independent from conventional or mainstream thinking.

7.1.2. Youth misconceptions

Misconceptions

Truths

Adults want to direct and control a programme. They only feel comfortable when they are in charge.

Adults are willing individuals. They can recognise when it is appropriate for them to be a leader and when they should be led by young people.

Adults know everything.

Adults will be the first ones to admit that life is a continual learning process. Nobody knows everything there is to know in life. Adults, like young people, are constantly being educated themselves. As the Italian proverb states, “To know everything is to know nothing.”

Adults are not interested in what young people are interested in.

Adults may not show it all the time, but they really do want to know what makes young people tick. They do take interest in what young people like and dislike. They just might express their interest in a different way.

Adults only want to speak and be heard, rather than listen.

Of course adults are usually in a position where they are able to make themselves be heard, but that does not mean they do not want to listen to what others have to say. On the contrary, adults can be very open and alert to young people. Adults spend just as much effort listening to others, and they understand that listening is essential in order to learn from one another.

Adults represent authoritative figures, and therefore are detached from youth life.

Adults have a certain responsibility to make sure that young people remain safe, healthy and free from oppression. If it seems as if adults are too demanding of young people, it is always because it is in their best interest. It is the adult way of guiding and supporting young people as they mature and develop into future adults.

7.2. What are the roles for youth in drug prevention programmes?

As young people grow, their capacities and mentalities change as they mature and learn. Their lives during this period of growth are for exploration and creating their own identity. This is both a positive and negative aspect. On the one hand, it is a period of development when creativity and imagination thrive. On the other hand, it can seem confusing and overwhelming which may cause them to make rash decisions. As a result, at what degree should youth exercise their rights?

Should adults determine whether a decision is harmful to young persons, or should young people determine this for themselves, as a learning process and form of evaluation? It is a complex issue because young people should be entrusted with making good decision; otherwise, they will lose respect for adults. They will feel as if adults hold them as incapable of making choices. On the other hand, adults have more experiences in decision processes.

In fact, youth must have played an active role in drug prevention programmes. However, it is important to note that youth are not professionals or experts on drugs. They lack experience and knowledge in the academic sense. Of course, they are experts on what they have perceived or even experienced themselves when it comes to discussing the effects of drugs, but they most likely do not know the science behind drugs and drug abuse. In essence, young people have a general knowledge about drugs, but they may not know the specifics. For example, a young person may not know how drugs actually penetrate the human body and which senses are affected first, but an expert in the field of drug abuse could provide the answer. Experts, consultants, specialists and so forth can provide support without being in command of a project, though. More accurately, adults can be a resource for young people when they need substantiation.

7.3. What are the roles for adults in drug prevention programmes?

Occasionally, it is difficult for adults to play a supportive role when participating with young people. It is challenging because they often fall into the authoritative or imposing roles without even noticing what they are doing. When working with young people, though, adults must learn to respect and recognise the value of young peoples’ ideas and opinions. Adults should take them seriously because young people will equally respect and take what adults say into consideration. Adults should also encourage young people to draw upon their skills, knowledge and resources. Encouragement can be in the form of a compliment, but be careful about making comments that will undermine the original intention. In other words, avoid using expressions that decrease the value of the action, such as “Wow, I can‘t believe you thought of that.” Using expressions such as this will only mock young people’s intelligence. To them, it indicates that adults are more surprised and astonished rather than impressed. Instead, adults should react in a more assured fashion.

More importantly, though, adults should provide their expertise and information when it is needed. In some cases, adults can even serve as mentors to youth. Young people must also realise their own benefits for participating with adults. Adults really do have much to share that is relevant to young peoples’ needs. Adults are able to offer suggestions, reassurance, resources and time. However, adults must learn to work with youth rather than telling them what to do. Young people ought to take advantage of the adult knowledge, and adults should be willing to share without being too forceful or too dominant.

Adults should not press youth into doing or believing in something because youth will realise what the adults are trying to do and reject it, regardless of how merited or relevant it may have been. The appearance of being too controlling will only discourage young people from participating.

8. Participation

8.1. Levels of participation

According to the model developed by Roger Hart for UNICEF, participation occurs at eight distinct levels that detail different degrees of youth participation. Within these eight levels, he divides the degrees of participation into two separate categories: simulated youth participation and active youth participation.

8.1.1. Simulated youth participation

1. Manipulation:

    Young persons are used to support causes that were actually inspired by adults. Adults pretend that the causes were inspired by youth even though the young people were never given criticism or information concerning their real purpose in the endeavour.

2. Decoration:

    Young people are used to boost a cause in an indirect way. The young people have little or no idea what their role is, and they have no say in the organisation of the cause.

3. Tokenism:

    Young people appear to be given a voice, but in reality they have had little or no preparation, and they barely have a choice about what they can do or how they can participate.

Participation under these conditions is not youth participation at all. Certainly, youth are participating in causes, but their voices are not being heard and they have little or no impact over its organisation, management and decisions. Instead, these levels reflect the influence from adults rather than stressing young people’s involvement. Adults are the primary instigators, while the young people are used as symbols of youth participation because they are considered youth and are participants in a programme. In this sense, ‘youth’ and ‘participation’ are two separate entities and not one whole concept. Consequently, the adults make all the decisions without consulting young people even though they pretend to give young people a choice. Young people are neither able to initiate nor direct a project or programme.

8.1.2. Active youth participation

4. Assigned, but informed:

    Young people are informed about their role within the programme. Programmes are planned by the adults, but the young people understand the meaning of the programme and are able to make a decision about whether they would like to participate.

5. Consulted and informed:

    Young people give advice on programmes designed and run by adults. The youth are informed about the manner in which their input will be used, and they receive feedback concerning the decisions made by adults.

6. Adult-designed, shared decisions with youth:

    Young people begin to have a real impact on programmes. Adults initiate the programmes but the decision-making process is shared with the young people.

7. Youth-designed and directed:

    Young people design and direct a programme and the adults’ roles are mainly to support the youth. Youth are in charge of planning, organising and implementing the programme without the interference from adults.

8. Youth-designed, shared decisions with adults:

    Young people initiate the programme and the decision-making process is distributed among youth and adults. This level of participation empowers youth, but also enables them to use the life experiences and knowledge of adults as resources. This type of programme does not exclude youth or adults.

Active participation acknowledges the capabilities of young people and encourages them to initiate, manage and support their own efforts. The young people essentially have the control over the degree to which they can participate. Adults can participate as well, but their role becomes more of an advisory and supportive one rather than a managing role.

In the following pages, when discussing youth participation in drug prevention programmes, it is important to note that participation indicates active participation—in particular levels seven and eight. At these levels, youth have a genuine impact on drug prevention programmes because of their roles as leaders and because of the tasks with which they have entrusted themselves.

8.2. Effective youth participation

Youth participation is an interactive process that involves young people in all forms of the programme. Young people play essential roles in a programme’s organisation, implementation, decision process, delivery of services and evaluation. Within this framework, they are encouraged to share their ideas because they are valued and respected by all participating members.

Youth participation can be divided into two separate, but complementary forms:

  • Social participation
  • Political participation

Social participation implies influencing policies, whereas political participation involves influencing the decision-making process. Policies may include how the programme will reach its target audience, methods for informing the public, strategies for projects and events and systems put in place to ensure the active involvement of young people. In order to be truly effective, both forms of youth participation require the following three aspects:

  • Accessibility
  • Influence
  • Equality

8.2.1. Accessibility

  • Young people have the access to relevant services, which can help them in making decisions that will affect the programme. This includes resources concerning drugs, drug abuse and drug prevention, resources for directing and organising a programme and resources for consultations. Access to relevant services also includes being in contact with drug experts, professionals, specialists, psychologists, consultants, educational leaders, and so forth. Having information obtainable to young people is one of the primary goals of actively involving youth. For prevention programmes to be effective, their resources must not be limited and their access must not be restricted. Restricting access for young people to obtain information on drugs will only encourage them to find the information on their own. This could lead to experimentation or making contacts with non-credible people.
  • Young people can participate fully in all the factors that affect the programme, and they must be given the opportunity to offer their input. For example, if a drug prevention programme wants to create a website that will include a question and answer forum concerning the effects of drug use, young people must be given the choice of participating in the construction of the website. Otherwise, their talents will be wasted and the website may not respond to what young people really want to know about drug use. For effective programmes, it is much more efficient to include young people who know what they need and want rather than create websites, for example, based on assumptions and suggested thinking. In the end, young people can only help a drug prevention programme become more successful.

8.2.2. Influence

    Young people are included in decision-making procedures and when the opportunity arises, they are able to make decisions without the intervention of adults. This is an important point to make because it may seem as if young people were making the decisions, but in many cases their decisions were indirectly influenced by adults. At times, it may appear as if they were given full autonomy, but in reality their final decisions were partly made by adults. Even though there is no fault in this, it nevertheless undermines the abilities of young people. Young people are capable of making decisions for themselves without the help of adults, and in many cases they more accurately reflect the needs of youth today. By no means, though, is the assistance from adults a drawback to effective youth participation. On the contrary, adults can help young people during the decision-making procedure. Every now and then, it is good to have an adult keep young people on track. Sometimes youth are so wrapped up in coming to the final decision that they often forget it is better to work through the decision so that all of—or most of—the factors surrounding the issue have been discussed.

    Young people are able to hold advisory and management roles within the programme. Participation allows youth to be entrusted with the organisation and structure of the programme. Operational roles ensure their full participation. They are able to determine how projects and events should be created and which methods are the best for putting these activities into practice. In addition, they are able to oversee the work of the participants and the overall progress of the programme. Advisory and management roles let young people establish, based on their own requirements, how they believe the programme should run. Their contributions are genuinely significant for them and for the programme, as well.

    Young people are able to influence the outcome of different situations. In some respects, this realisation may be quite overwhelming for anyone. The ability to make a decision and then have that decision affect others is quite a responsibility. Young people learn that they are responsible for the positive or negative consequences of decisions taken by them. This builds character and makes them take their decisions more seriously. It is humbling for anyone to think that the effects of a decision ultimately determine the outcome of a given situation. A person may feel anxious or worried that his or her decision was not a good one or not adequate to influence a positive outcome. Youth participation, though, offers young people a chance to gain more experience and knowledge in order to make good decisions that result with positive effects.

8.2.3. Equality

    On a relationship level, youth and adults ought to be treated as equals. Effective participation is based on partnerships between adults and young people. Young people and adults should recognise the benefits of working together for a common cause. Today’s youth have much to offer to their adult counterparts, and adults have much experience to offer to them as well. Participation should be thought of as an opportunity for an exchange between two influential and distinct groups of individuals. Differing opinions and ideas should be built upon and respected by all. Successful programmes are able to thrive and flourish from the different views that arise while participants work together. Without equality, trust and respect are difficult to achieve.

9. Creating an appropriate framework in which to participate

Certain qualities are essential for participants to possess in drug prevention programmes. Possessing these qualities adds to a programme’s potential success. Young people, who are at their active best, are generally individuals who are enthusiastic, willing to learn and are able to carry out tasks and responsibilities. They work efficiently to accomplish the programme’s goals and objectives. These young persons are adept at working individually or in a group, whether it is composed solely of young people or adults as well. Most importantly, though, they are committed to the prevention of drugs. They are exceptional representatives of their youth culture and they use their knowledge and background in the field of drug prevention and awareness.

Adults, who are at their productive best, are well-informed about youth issues and drugs. They know when it is the appropriate time to offer their expertise and when it is best to let young people do the speaking. They really enjoy working with young people as equals because they learn from them as well. For programmes to be truly successful, adults must realise the promise of youth and help young people to realise their own potential. To achieve this, adults work to provide opportunities for young people to use their existing skills to further their creativity.

As a result, an effective working environment builds upon these qualities and requires participants and/or programmes to be:

    Engaging:

    The overall tone for the consultative endeavours between young people and adults should invite youth to mutually access and learn from the experience and expertise of each other. The result is a collaborative and not overly professionalised setting in which discussions and interactions are formed.

    Conscientious:

    Participants should be aware of how they conduct themselves when working together. It may seem easy to remember to listen to others and to be real, but when conversations start heating up, it is also easy to forget them. Here is just a short list of some of the principles that should be taken into account when working in partnership. Being aware of these principles will allow participants to develop skills and confidence in order to take initiatives to tackle issues together.

Do…

Don’t…

listen to others

lecture them

be open-minded to new ideas

be judgmental

develop ideas

suppress creativity

be honest and real

pretend to agree on something

appreciate everyone as unique individuals

stereotype participants

demonstrate respect for one another

discriminate each other

trust each other’s capabilities

be anxious of failure

share knowledge and skills

withhold your abilities

provide each other with support

worry about controlling the programme

be committed

commit unwillingly

be patient and determined

be uptight

    Inclusive:

    The programme should promote diversity and include all people. Excluding people will not only prevent the programme from reaching its potential, but will also be a sign to others that the programme practices inequality and injustice, which are both barriers to youth participation.

    Supportive:

    On the one hand, young people need to know that adults are honest, reliable and truly advocate their needs and concerns. One way adults can achieve this is by showing genuine interest in the intrigues of young people. On the other hand, adults need to know that their points of view are being taken, likewise, into account by young people. They need to receive the same respect that young people give to each other. Sometimes adults feel as if their perspectives are labelled as ’dated’ or irrelevant by young people standards. Adults need to know that their experiences and input are equally valued. Support needs to come from both young people and adults.

10. Guidelines for consultative processes

With an effective framework for participation established, consultative processes between young people and adults will allow them to explore new domains, to develop values and standards together and to work to achieve common goals.

10.1. To begin with

Before beginning consultation, it is important to consider the following when working together:

    Modes of communication are different:

    Young people and adults communicate and understand each other in a different way. This is why it is often difficult for young people to understand news broadcasts because the news is run by and tailored for adults.

    Participation methods are different:

    Participation is a mutual learning process but adults and young people participate differently. Adults are more used to formal settings, while young people prefer informal environments where they feel more open and encouraged to contribute.

    Practice genuine participation:

    It is not necessary for adults to consider young people like adults. Youth represent a distinct group with specific needs and abilities. Young people and adults are different, but at the same time, they are also equal.

    Learning techniques:

    People learn best in different ways. Some people learn best by listening, whereas others learn best by doing, such as hands-on activities.

    Acknowledgement:

    It is important to remember that everyone has something to offer, however big or small it may be.

10.2. Actions

The following actions are suggestions for beginning consultative processes for the first time or for using when communication between young people and adults is difficult to accomplish. These are merely ideas and concepts for initiating collaboration and they are meant to be broad.

Here are a few examples of drug prevention ideas based on recommendations from young people that could be discussed and developed:

    § Provide information on what young people can do when friends are using

    § Encourage families to be involved and educated on how to intervene

    § Help young people learn about the skill of problem-solving

    § Associate drug-using lifestyle with risk and problems

    § Highlight the stress and tiredness associated with living a life as an addict

    § Show young substance abusers the problem they are creating for themselves and how unmanageable and filled with problems their lives have become

    § Highlight the financial effect of drugs

(Adapted from Summary Document of UNICEF’s Participation)

10.2.1. Action One

Aim: To kick off the thought processes of participants and for participants to realise how much time and resources are wasted when split up into two separate groups.

Participants: Those people, young people and adults alike, who are directly affected by the programme.

Process:

1. Split into two separate groups: youth and adults.

2. In each group, formulate together questions that you have always wanted to ask the other group. For the adults, these questions could relate to drugs, youth interests and concerns, what youth think about adults, and so forth. For young people, these questions could refer to what adults can offer young people, what adults think about youth, what adults like to do in their spare time, what adults feel are the current problems in the world, and so forth.

! There is no minimum or maximum amount of questions because this usually hinders the thought process since people spend more time worrying about filling the quota.

3. Each person asks a question in front of both groups so that everyone can hear what is being asked. It is important, though, that the questions remain questions and that no answers are given at this time. It is an opportunity to listen to each other’s comments. During this time, everyone should be writing down all of the questions.

Purpose:

1. To begin communication and thought processes by a question-type forum.

2. To create understanding and acknowledgement of different mentalities.

3. To recognise different perspectives.

4. To begin to illustrate the inefficiency of not collaborating with each other and reasons for wanting to work together.

10.2.2. Action Two

Aim: To learn and work with each other.

Participants:

Those people, young people and adults alike, who are directly affected by the programme.

Process:

1. Divide into smaller groups consisting of both adults and young people. Keep the groups small so that everyone can have a chance to speak.

2. Review and discuss all of the questions provided by young people and adults.

3. Work together to formulate answers that are honest and representative of everyone. Encourage each other to provide his or her own point of view. Adults must be willing to listen to young people and young people must be willing to listen to adults.

4. Use the table in the Appendix to help come up with answers.

Purpose:

1. To begin communication among adults and young people.

2. To build skills such as social and communication skills and skills for analysing complicated questions.

3 . To create awareness concerning one’s own thought process and the thought processes of other people within the group.

4. To arrive at answers that reflect a combination of both young people and adult ideals.

5. To gain experience in working with others.

The table from the Appendix can be used as a process for arriving to a solution:

      1. Write each question down.

      2. Who is the question directed to? Youth or adults?

      3. What are the strengths of the question? In other words, what points does it bring to mind that stimulate debate and discussion. Determining these points will help in identifying important issues.

      4. What are the weaknesses of the question? Are there stereotypes or assumptions that are being brought to attention?

      5. What issues are being raised? Does the question concern drugs, youth culture, adult life, etc.?

      6. How can this question be answered? What answer will be understandable by both adults and young people?

10.2.3. Action Three

Aim: To work together in a larger group setting.

Participants:

Those people, young people and adults alike, who are directly affected by the programme.

Process:

1. Designate a person who will be able to write the questions and answers on material that is posted in front of the group.

2. Select a question that was raised at the beginning of the sessions and have each group share their findings.

3. Once all the groups have given their responses, create a group discussion that considers these answers. Determine the strengths and weaknesses of the responses in order to raise new issues.

4. Repeat this for all the other questions as well.

5. Review the results and decide if a final response for each question can be determined.

Purpose:

1. To realise that it is difficult to come to one definitive answer.

2. To experience in working in a larger setting.

3. To recognise and appreciate the thoughts, opinions and ideas from other young people and adults.

4. To gain communication and social skills.

5. To realise that by working together, and sharing knowledge with each other, more solutions can be achieved.

10.3. Considerations

While participating in consultative processes, it is important that young people and adults continue to assess their own responsibilities to each other:

At a group level

      § Is there evidence of dialogue between adults and youth, and is there evidence of change as a result ?

      § What structures are put in place that will best serve the interests of all who are involved ?

      § What are the best approaches for meeting needs ? ...As defined by young people ? ...As defined by adults ?

      § Are young people supporting adults and are adults supporting young people ? How is this demonstrated ?

      At an individual level

      § Am I listening carefully ?

      § Am I giving others encouragement ?

      § Am I practicing and promoting active participation ?

      § Am I truly respecting other peoples’ ideas ?

      § Am I effectively providing my own resources and knowledge?

These are important questions to ask throughout the consultative processes so that participants can be aware of how well they are participating. Referring to these questions will allow them to determine areas in which they need to develop further.

11. Conclusion

Drug prevention programmes are most effective when young people participate. Unfortunately, young people are often portrayed as irresponsible and incompetent, and as a result, they are often excluded from being actively involved in drug prevention programmes. This exclusion is harmful because it discourages youth from taking prevention programmes seriously, it widens the gap of mutual distrust and misunderstanding between youth and adults and it denies the drug programmes the unique element that only young people can provide.

It is time to include youth in drug prevention programmes. They know their needs better than anyone else. It is just a matter of giving them the occasion to put this knowledge into practice in order to create better drug prevention programmes. With active youth involvement, young people are better protected, better outcomes are achieved, innovative approaches are realised, decisions are more applicable to youth needs and young people improve upon important skills such as communication and cooperation. Participation also builds character and confidence when young people feel needed and appreciated. Young people are capable individuals and thrive upon responsibility. They are full of energy and insights and are highly committed individuals.

Young people and adults are both experts in their own right. Young people know their interests and the interests of their peers, and they are knowledgeable on youth culture. Adults have life experiences and can offer expertise and knowledge. These two realms of wisdom should be considered as parallels rather than contrasts. When working together, young people and adults must respect each other’s points of views, regardless of whether or not they speak the truth. Without respect, it is difficult to build trust and to be able to counter misconceptions.

Building communication between young people and adults is essential for any drug prevention programme to be successful. Young people and adults both have questions and answers for each other. They are sources of information and can provide one another with insight concerning today’s important issues. Through consultative processes, young people and adults have the opportunity to share their own experiences and knowledge, and as a result, prevention programmes are more effective and responsive to young people.

****

Appendix 1: Questionnaire created by YOUTH for a programme in Slovenia

Hello,

We thank you for your good answers at our request to fill in the questionnaire. Please encircle the suitable answers. We assure you total anonymity.

1. Sex: male female

2. Age: _________

3. Do you drink alcohol yet? Yes No

4. How old were you when you drank alcohol first? ___________years old

5. How many times do you drink alcohol?

Every day Once per year

Once per week Less than once per year

Once per month Don’t drink yet

6. Where did you come into contact with alcohol?

At home With friends In school

7. Do you use other PAS too (cigarette, heroin, others)?

YES NO If yes: REGULARLY SOMETIMES

8. Do you drink alcohol before you go to a party to feel better?

YES NO SOMETIMES

9. Do you drink alcohol at parties regularly?

YES NO SOMETIMES

10. Do you stimulate friends to drink alcohol and other PAS?

YES NO SOMETIMES

11. Do you think that alcohol has a good influence to your feelings?

YES NO CANNOT DECIDE

12. Do you think of the bad consequences of drinking?

YES NO SOMETIMES

13. Are you able to be happy and feel better with friends without alcohol and other PAS?

YES NO DON’T KNOW

14. How do you get alcohol? (you can circle more than one answer)

a. I bring it from home

b. I but it in a shop

c. Friends bring it

d. I buy it at a petrol station

e. We drink it in a pub

15. Do you have problems buying alcohol in a shop?

YES NO

16. Do you have problems buying alcohol in a petrol station?

YES NO

17. Do you have problems buying alcohol in a pub?

YES NO

18. If you have problems buying alcohol, when does this occur?

a. in early morning hours

b. during the day

c. in evening hours

d. don’t know

19. Do your parents know that you drink alcohol?

YES NO DON’T KNOW

20. Do your teachers know that you drink alcohol?

YES NO DON’T KNOW

Appendix 2: Questionnaire created by ADULTS for a programme in Belgium

1. How old are you?

2. What is your sex? □ F or □ M

3. You consume alcohol:

      □ regularly (at least one time per week)

      □ often (at least one time per month)

      □ from time to time

      □ rarely

      □ never

and in what quantity?

4. Give in order of preference your 3 favourite drinks:

5. On what occasion and in which places (café, house, …) do you drink alcohol?

6. For what reasons do you consume alcohol?

      □ when you don’t feel comfortable

      □ for the taste

      □ for “the feeling”

      □ to be like one of the others

      □ to forget

      □ to relax

      □ to hide shyness

      □ others:

7. For you, what does it mean “to be alcoholic?” Explain.

8. For you, what are the dangers of alcohol consumption? Explain.

9. Do you think you are sufficiently informed about alcoholism? Explain.

10. Are you regularly in contact with one or two people who are alcoholics? Explain.

Appendix 3

 

Question

Who is the question directed to? (adults or youth)

What are the strengths?

What are the weaknesses?

What issues are being raised?

How can this question be answered?

           
           
           
           

****

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