The recent literature concerning partnership between professionals and young people reveals important developments regarding the nature of partnership: from short-term partnerships with young people's parents intended to improve decision-making in the context of critical life decisions, to a growing interest in direct partnership between professionals and young people as a core principle of long-term relationships. Although it is widely acknowledged among health and social service professionals that partnerships can have positive outcomes for young people, the concept and implementation of partnership remain vague. This article examines the meanings of partnership for people involved in a community youth centre for marginalised youth. Data were collected during the year 2011 using multiple-methods including focus groups (with eight youth workers), participant observations (in assembly meetings and ‘partnership meetings’) and semi-structured interviews (with 10 principal stakeholders, including youth, youth workers and the Center's founders). Data were analysed using principles of grounded theory to articulate partnership as an ongoing experience, combining both structural–technical and content-experiential components. Our findings present partnership as existing simultaneously in the practice of decision-making and in the realm of self-experience and interpersonal relationships, and explore the relationship between both spheres. The findings also shed light on the importance of the specific characteristics of shared decision-making (atmosphere, content and duration) in the creation of partnership. We discuss our findings in the light of possibilities for partnership-based practice with marginalised youth.