Implementing Positive Youth Development Programs

Resources From Generation Work

Posted February 4, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A young Latino woman sits next to an Asian, high-school-aged male student in a library. The young woman, who is smiling, appears to be tutoring the student. A laptop and several notebooks are on the table in front of them.

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.


Build­ing Part­ner­ships to Improve Employ­ment Train­ing Pro­grams for Young Adults in Cleveland

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.


Hartford’s Gen­er­a­tion Work Ini­tia­tive Pri­or­i­tized Youth Voice in Its Youth Advi­so­ry Council

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.


Inte­grat­ing a Racial and Eth­nic Equi­ty Lens into Work­force Devel­op­ment Train­ing for Young Adults

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.


Adult Learn­ing Com­mu­ni­ties Fos­tered Pos­i­tive Youth Devel­op­ment in Philadelphia’s Gen­er­a­tion Work Partnership

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.


Strate­gic Rela­tion­ships Con­tribute to Cross-Sys­tem Col­lab­o­ra­tion in Seattle’s Gen­er­a­tion Work Initiative

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.

Learn More About Gen­er­a­tion Work Partnerships

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