What Is Positive Youth Development?
Positive youth development is often misunderstood. It is not an alternative to current models of care. Instead, it is a conceptual and practical lens that enhances prevention, intervention and treatment models. Conceptually, positive youth development is an approach that guides communities and organizations in the way that they organize services, opportunities and supports so that all youth can be engaged and reach their full potential.[i] This approach cuts across multiple high-risk behaviors and threats to health and well-being and may be applied to multiple social groups of youth. It is rare to find an evidence-based approach that addresses so many risk factors or behaviors in addition to protective factors.
In practice, positive youth development incorporates the development of skills, opportunities and authentic relationships into programs, practices and policies, so that young people reach their full potential. This practical lens depicts youth and young adults as resources to cultivate, as opposed to problems to fix, and is dependent upon the use of the following guiding principles: strengths-based approach, inclusive of all youth, engages youth as partners, collaboration and sustainability.
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Positive Youth Development Principles
Positive Youth Development is guided by the following principles:
1. Strengths-based. Taking a holistic approach that focuses on the inherent strengths of an individual, family or community, then building upon them.
2. Inclusive. Addressing the needs of all youth by ensuring that our approach is culturally responsive.
3. Engaging youth as partners. Ensuring the intentional, meaningful and sustained involvement of youth as equitable partners in the programs, practices and policies that seek to impact them.
4. Collaborative. Creating meaningful partnerships within and across sectors to effectively align our work.
5. Sustainable. Addressing long-term planning through funding, training, capacity building, professional development and evaluation in order to ensure ongoing support and engagement of youth.
[i] National Research Council & Institute of Medicine. (2002). Community Programs to Promote Youth Development. Committee on Community-Level Programs for Youth. J. Eccles & J. Gootman, eds. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences