There’s a huge difference between asking young people what they think, and listening to what they have to say.
This difference is most apparent when what they say is inconvenient. When they give feedback that causes adults to change plans, or do more work than originally planned.
The trouble is that if you only ever ask, and never listen, you won’t even get to the point where young people are speaking inconvenient truths. If you ask in a setting where their feedback doesn’t feel valued, they won’t give it to you. If you ask in closed-response, coercive way, you won’t hear anything interesting.
These things sound intuitive, but they’re so hard in practice. Think about the process of developing a plan, say a schedule for an after school program. The easiest path is for adults to make the structure based on their experience and knowledge, then to present it to young people with a few choices: Should this happen at 3pm or 4pm? How long should this be?
Yes, kids can help make those decisions, but you won’t give them any opportunity to voice their true feelings.
To get there, you need to ask better questions. You can’t just give a blank slate, you need to guide using questions like What is the ideal welcome experience? What is the ideal interaction between students and adults? Slowly building to the full solution.
What will inevitably happen is that kids will day things that make adults jobs more difficult. And that’s when the work begins.
It’s harder. It takes longer, but it’s worth it.