For Sake of Youth and for Sake of Policies and Programmes. Why Youth Participation is a Right, a Requirement and a Value; Comment on “Between Rhetoric and Reality: Learnings From Youth Participation in the Adolescent and Youth Health Policy in South Africa”

Document Type : Commentary


Department of Psychology “Renzo Canestrari,” University of Bologna, Cesena (FC), Italy


This commentary discusses an article by Jacobs and George which investigated how youth participation can be an important component of health policy-making by conducting a case study based on qualitative interviews. We appreciate the methodology and the main findings of the study, which contribute to advancing our understanding of the challenges and opportunities of youth participation in health policy-making. We note that this article raises several questions and issues that we must address to advance research and practice: (i) is there is a substantial gap between rhetoric and reality in terms of youth participation? (ii) do youth policies have a direct impact on youth participation? (iii) can we define and operationalise meaningful engagement? (iv) who is included and who is excluded in youth participation projects? and (v) is youth participation a right, a requirement and a value?


  1. Jacobs T, George A. Between rhetoric and reality: learnings from youth participation in the adolescent and youth health policy in South Africa. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2022;11(12):2927-2939. doi:34172/ijhpm.2022.6387
  2. Bessant J. Youth participation: a new mode of government. Policy Stud. 2003;24(2-3):87-100. doi:1080/0144287032000170984
  3. Loncle P, Cuconato M, Muniglia V, Walther A. Youth Participation in Europe: Beyond Discourses, Practices and Realities. 1st ed. Bristol University Press; 2012. doi:2307/j.ctt9qgr4k
  4. Sprague Martinez L, Richards-Schuster K, Teixeira S, Augsberger A. The power of prevention and youth voice: a strategy for social work to ensure youths' healthy development. Soc Work. 2018;63(2):135-143. doi:1093/sw/swx059
  5. Walther A, Lüküslü DG, Loncle P, Pais A. Regimes of youth participation? Comparative analysis of youth policies and participation across European cities. Young. 2021;29(2):191-209. doi:1177/1103308820937550
  6. Tzankova I, Prati G, Cicognani E. Profiles of citizenship orientations among youth. Young. 2022;30(1):57-79. doi:1177/11033088211008691
  7. Hart R. The Theory and Practice of Involving Young Citizens in Community Development and Environmental Care. London: UNICEF, Earthscan Publications; 1997.
  8. Wong NT, Zimmerman MA, Parker EA. A typology of youth participation and empowerment for child and adolescent health promotion. Am J Community Psychol. 2010;46(1-2):100-114. doi:1007/s10464-010-9330-0
  9. Albanesi C, Prati G, Guarino A, Cicognani E. School citizenship education through YPAR: what works? A mixed-methods study in Italy. J Adolesc Res. 2023;38(1):143-177. doi:1177/07435584211035
  10. Prati G, Mazzoni D, Guarino A, Albanesi C, Cicognani E. Evaluation of an active citizenship intervention based on youth-led participatory action research. Health Educ Behav. 2020;47(6):894-904. doi:1177/1090198120948788
  11. Malorni A, Lea CH, Richards-Schuster K, Spencer MS. Facilitating youth participatory action research (YPAR): a scoping review of relational practice in U.S. Youth development & out-of-school time projects. Child Youth Serv Rev. 2022;136:106399. doi:1016/j.childyouth.2022.106399
  12. Cicognani E, Albanesi C, Valletta L, Prati G. Quality of collaboration within health promotion partnerships: impact on sense of community, empowerment, and perceived projects' outcomes. J Community Psychol. 2020;48(2):323-336. doi:1002/jcop.22254
  13. Rocca C, Maggi S, Albanesi C, et al. If it does take a village to raise a child, how should the village do it? Insights from the kids in places initiative. Ital J Sociol Educ. 2020;12(1):293-321. doi:14658/pupj-ijse-2020-1-16
  14. Burns S. Young people as co-producers in policing across England. An evaluation of the ‘Youth Commission’ on police and crime. Child Soc. 2019;33(4):347-362. doi:1111/chso.12312
  15. Tisdall EK. The Transformation of participation? Exploring the potential of ‘transformative participation’ for theory and practice around children and young people's participation. Glob Stud Child. 2013;3(2):183-193. doi:2304/gsch.2013.3.2.183