This guide, developed with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is designed to help public- and private-sector leaders build ecosystems that are better suited to help young people thrive. It is specifically intended to support coordinated initiatives where multiple youth-serving organizations or agencies are already working together.
Building the Guide
To generate this guide, The Forum convened a wide range of national thought leaders, practitioners and youth. The group fulfilled a two-part charge: 1) explore research-based concepts for supporting learning and development; and 2) create tools to help youth and adults put these concepts to use within their own environments.
Once this work was complete, the Forum engaged more than 50 youth to both create a Youth Journey Map for Belonging and Opportunity and build an action guide for systems leaders on fostering youth well-being and belonging. Youth experiences and perspectives remained front and center throughout this effort.
The fruits of their effort, shared here, introduces readers to the concept of a youth development ecosystem. When working well, a youth development ecosystem positions young people to form positive relationships with adults — like teachers, social workers and others — across a variety of settings and systems.
An Action Tool for Leaders
The guide also includes a tool for helping system leaders recognize and build a youth development ecosystem that promotes positive adult connections, healthy youth transitions and a sense of belonging. Users can use the tool to rate their practices in three areas: 1) cultivating safety and consistency; 2) building community; and 3) being culturally responsive and inclusive.
Belonging is critical to creating an environment that supports youth development and well-being
Findings & Stats
The reimagined youth development ecosystem encompasses a range of youth-serving systems, programs and settings that fall into four broad categories. These are: 1) education; 2) workforce and community-based youth development; 3) health and human services; and 4) child welfare and youth justice.
Cultivating a Sense of Safety
Youth-serving programs should promote a sense of physical, emotional, and psychological safety that sets the stage for further growth, development and learning.
A Tool for Leaders
The guide includes a reflection tool that enables youth-serving leaders to review current structures and practices — within and across systems and settings — to strategically spark conversation and enhance coordination and collaboration among partners.
Statements & Quotations
This action guide aims to support public system and social sector leaders to transition from reactive pandemic thinking to planning for the future, ensuring that youth find environments filled with belonging and opportunity across all the places and spaces where they spend their time.
All youth, no matter who they are or where they are from, can be more effectively supported to thrive, and to contribute to a complex, fast-changing, interconnected world through a more intentionally supported ecosystem of youth belonging, support and opportunity.
Subscribe to our newsletter to get our data, reports and news in your inbox.