Adult Allyship 101: Do's and Don'ts

Big Picture Idea

We are part of an intergenerational team in which youth leaders and adult allies are equal colleagues who relate to one another with the awareness of how our various privileges, including age, impact one another and the work we do.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do

Watch the space you take up. Be careful about when you speak and for how long.

Don’t

Jump in too quickly, take up a lot of time, or always speak first.

Do

Expect youth expertise.

Don’t

Patronize.

Do

Apologize when you inevitably make a mistake. Here’s how to apologize appropriately.

Don’t

Say “I apologize if” or try to explain your intentions. Listen first and take responsibility for the impact you had.

Do

Give constructive feedback to youth leaders and take on parts of the work, just as you would with any colleague.

Don’t

Just step back but also, don’t take over. Be a peer, not a manager.

Do

Provide necessary context and training for young people to be informed and confident decision-makers.

Don’t

Keep knowledge to yourself but also, don’t confuse having knowledge with being right.

When and How to Use Adult Privilege

When you are asked to speak, pass the mic to a youth leader.

When you notice that a point made by a youth leader has been ignored, amplify that point again (but without adult-splaining!) with credit to the youth leader.

When a youth leader tells you about someone being adultist or you notice the negative impact of adultism, ask the youth leader how you can support them. Offer to take responsibility for holding that adult accountable to the collective impact principle of community-leadership, particularly by young people most impacted by inequity.

Additional Resources


To contribute to this guide, please reply to this topic or comment on the public Google Docs version. We’re always about being #co-creative together! The public Google Docs version is also a good place to download a printable version.

Image Description: Screenshot of the first page of the public Google Docs version with text identical to the post above.

By Deborah Chang and Matt Gonzales