Implementing Positive Youth Development Programs
Resources From Generation Work
Launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2016, Generation Work aims to connect more of America’s young adults — especially young people of color from low-income families — with meaningful employment by improving the way public and private systems prepare and support them in jobs.
To realize that vision, five local partnerships in Cleveland, Hartford, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Seattle have been weaving together best practices from the adult education and training field — focusing on demand-driven workforce development strategies — with positive youth development strategies, such as mentoring and work-based learning.
Child Trends, a nonprofit research center and key partner in the Generation Work initiative, recently published a series of case studies that examines how each of the five partnerships implemented positive youth development approaches in their work in hopes that these lessons can help other youth-serving organizations.
A summary is included below.
This case study focuses on how two employment training organizations in Cuyahoga County joined forces to create the Young Adult Resource Center (YRC) — a hub where young people receive career coaching, tutoring, training and other assistance, all in one location.
The brief explores factors that enabled the organizations to effectively partner and co-locate — including the development of shared goals, joint meetings and trainings — to better support youth. Through the YRC, both organizations were able to strengthen their youth development strategies and develop referral relationships with other community-based organizations to help young people in the Cleveland area meet their needs.
This case study focuses on how the Generation Work partnership in Hartford, Connecticut engaged several young people — known as the Young Legends Youth Advisory Council — to make key programmatic decisions and influence local action and change. Approximately 24 young people spent two years in the program, with the first year dedicated to training and education on various topics, including leadership, decision making and collaboration, and the second focused on applying those skills through outreach and advocacy opportunities.
The study highlights several factors that were crucial to the group’s success, including the importance of connecting youth with resources — such as mental health services — that enable them to navigate personal challenges and participate more fully, as well as the need to compensate young people for their time.
This case study examines how the Generation Work partnership in Indianapolis implemented a series of trainings on racial equity principles to better support young people of color. Though the partnership was already implementing strong positive youth development strategies, the process revealed the need to address race more explicitly when working with young people — and to cultivate the skills needed to respond to experiences of racism in the workplace.
The publication also shares other lessons gleaned from this process, including differences in how the trainings were received by white staff and their peers of color, as well as the need to identify tangible steps staff can take to put racial equity lessons into practice.
This case study focuses on how a diverse group of youth-serving organizations in Philadelphia — including workforce training providers, educators and representatives from city government and the local healthcare union — formed a learning community to better understand and implement positive youth development practices in their programming.
The study found that certain structural choices, such as limiting the community to mid-level managers, excluding funders and holding dedicated meeting time for open dialogue, fostered more trusting relationships among participants and enabled them to share more candid feedback on challenges and opportunities they were facing. As documented in the brief, these connections often continued after members of the partnership had moved onto new roles or organizations.
This case study describes how the Seattle partnership used positive youth development principles to bring several organizations throughout the city together to address the employment barriers young people were facing and develop stronger referral networks to connect youth with more comprehensive resources and support.
The study notes that many bureaucratic roadblocks to youth employment, such as difficulty accessing academic transcripts, could be eased by creating more effective partnerships among local institutions, school districts and other youth-serving systems.
By developing strategic relationships between the partnership and other employment training groups, Generation Work Seattle gained a better understanding of their unique strengths and how they find partners to help young people meet their goals.