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The benefits of community-engaged research

By Joanna Tzenis

I am a community-engaged researcher in the field of youth development. What does that mean?
It means that I approach research as a process to collaboratively strengthen the well-being of a community while contributing to the field. Here’s how I did this working alongside youth, families, and community members of Somali heritage in Minnesota.
I collaborated with stakeholders to identify issues critical to the community My 10-month longitudinal study came about as I developed youth programs together with leaders of a Somali-youth serving organization, Ka Joog. Together, we created youth programs. We determined desired outcomes of these programs situated in community assets and needs around improving youths’ educational outcomes.
Research questions emerged through increased stakeholder interaction that lifted up the need to more deeply understand youths’ lived experiences. In doing so, we could do two things. We could illuminate larger lessons (to the field and to commun…
Recent posts

Partnership problems and how to solve them

By Betsy Olson

Organizational partnerships can save money, reduce effort and benefit youth. But as anyone who has built or sustained an organizational partnership will tell you, they take time and can be thorny to navigate.

Over the last four years, I have co-facilitated a course for 4-H staff on organizational partnerships. In it, we discuss common partnership problems and solutions. Here are a few of the most common ones.

Problem #1: I have great ideas for this partner, but they only bring obstacles After working with a school coordinator to recruit youth for a leadership program for two years with very little success and resistance to any new recruitment ideas, we discovered that they were trying to recruit youth to help in the school garden. We changed the leadership program to a nutrition teaching program that incorporated the school garden and merged our recruitment efforts. It worked. The partner became more willing to try our other ideas.

Key takeaway: Improve your relationship…

Fostering a love of discovery

By Karen Beranek

Picture this: I’m sitting in an airplane with a bright and energetic 16 year-old 4-H member who is excited and nervous about her very first airplane take off. Her adrenaline is high and her senses are on full alert. And I get to be the adult to experience this with her.

Now picture another scene: I’m greeting excited campers as they arrive for their very first time at 4-H camp. The combination of hesitancy and curiosity shines on their faces. And I get to be the adult who introduces them to this amazing experience.

As a youth worker, one of the most meaningful and energetic parts of my work is giving young people the chance to try new things. They don't LOVE everything they try, and may not excel at everything. But it does give them a chance to build on their willingness and openness to discovery. A young person's desire to try new things and to enjoy challenges is an indicator that they are on a trajectory to thrive.

Mary Arnold, a youth development specialist…

Creative ways to survey youth

By Samantha Grant

Put down your smiley face surveys. I mean it. Put them down inside of the garbage can.

I know that as youth workers we want to get evaluation feedback from our youngest audiences. So, what do we do? We create cutesy evaluations that make little sense to kids and even less sense for reporting.

Check out a video that I hope will make you think twice before using a smiley face evaluation scale in the future.

 In the video you will learn why I think this scale shouldn't be used. But it still doesn't answer the question, "How can you collect feedback from really young people?"

Youth in grades K-2 are learning to read. By third grade, those who read at grade level are reading to learn. So I typically set the lowest grade level for written surveys at third grade. I expect that some of those third graders will still need a survey read aloud to them to fully participate in the data collection. Keep in mind that in a typical third-grade class, only about 55% …

Top 3 things to consider when managing teams

By Amber Shanahan

Here comes summer! In the youth programs world, that means gearing up for managing lots of people. You're likely hiring summer staff, growing your volunteer support, onboarding teen leaders or joining a team yourself.  What's the best way to organize teams?  Teams make the dream work! But organizing teams can also BE a lot of work.

Differing personalities add rich perspectives and expertise. But teams can struggle with getting the most value from and integrating that expertise, to minimize conflicts and to leverage it through all phases of a project.

For this reason, University of Minnesota’s Leadership and Talent Development program offers three points to consider when arranging and leading teams. Take a proactive approach by considering them.

1. To team or not to team? Yes, we love to work in teams… but is a team really necessary? Consider the complexity of the work (Can the work realistically be completed by one person?), whether or not there is a common pu…

How to counter youth hatred

By Jessica Russo

A recent study based on Southern Poverty Law Center data found there are 917 organized hate groups in the US. How is this significant to youth work? Put quite simply, because hatred is toxic. Toxic emotions such as hate and anger can lead to emotional and physical health problems. Specifically, race-related stress has shown to be a more powerful risk factor than stressful life events, and hating as a response to being hated often leads to lower self-esteem.

A report that came out last year shows that race relations have gotten only slightly better overall, and in some cases things have gotten worse or stayed the same, in the last 50 years.  Divisions between races and cultures breed uncertainty and lack of trust, which lead to fear, anger, and finally hatred.

What youth learn at home is so powerful that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can’t do much about it. But there is a lot we can and should do, because silence on the subject can be just as impactful …

4-H program development using the Tarnside Curve of Involvement

By Michael Compton

Growing the 4-H program in local communities can be a challenge. To connect 4-H to targeted audiences, a program approach that focuses on growth using a continual process can be very beneficial. Luckily there is a model to help do so!

Tarnside Consulting developed its Tarnside Curve of Involvement for fund development. It can also be applied to program and volunteer development and partnership building. It's a simple six-stage process that is easy to follow and implement.

When I worked as a 4-H program coordinator in a local office, I used this model and had great success. Here are some examples of how I applied the model and its six stages.

Awareness Awareness means creating ways for others to learn what 4-H is. I worked with local 4-H clubs and we went to events where there were large numbers of people. We went to sporting events, parent-teacher conferences and other local community events. We set up information booths, held prize drawings and brought youth to …