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How to evaluate a collaboration

By Betsy Olson

We collaborate with many different stakeholders and in many different ways. We partner with community organizations. We work with government entities to meet the needs of local youth. We work with our colleagues and, most importantly, we collaborate with young people.

How do we know if our partnerships are working?

One way to evaluate collaboration is to consider the elements that inspire stakeholders to collaborate with us. Research has identified six elements.

Let’s look at these elements and how we can use them to plan an evaluation
Recognition: Recognize partners for their contributionsQuestions to ask: What is the contribution that each partner is most proud of? How have they been recognized for their contribution? How has the recognition demonstrated an appreciation for their work?  Respect: Partners are respected for the value and importance of the resources, perspectives and knowledge that they bringQuestions to ask: In what way do we demonstrate respect for eac…
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Youth work and the art of hosting

By Amber Shanahan

We define our roles in many ways. We are educators, mentors, facilitators, volunteers and coordinators, to name a few. How about adding "host" to the list?

When you think of hosting, you may think of entertaining and feeding guests and making sure they're comfortable. You might think of a TV show host -- someone who makes sure that contestants follow game rules or entice guests to tell about their lives. An interactive host would spend time getting to know each guest, connect people with common interests, and make sure everyone is happy. An effective host always makes certain that every guest feels welcome and has a seat at the table.

Do these activities sound familiar? Do they sound exactly like what you do in your youth program? I think you'll say the answer is "yes."

The Art of Hosting (AoH) is a program development model that builds on this idea. Communities and organizations use it to improve decision making, build capacity and respons…

Who am I? The two important ingredients for identity formation

By Jessica Pierson Russo

Young people try on identities like hats. They experiment with ways of dressing and talking, even trying out beliefs and values. This is completely normal. Yet the many dimensions of identity—race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.—can make forming an integrated identity complex.

Nagaoka defines an “integrated identity” as “a sense of internal consistency of who one is -- across time, place, and social realms. Having an integrated identity “provides a stable base from which a young person can act in the world.”

What role can youth programs play in helping young people form an integrated identity? There are two important ingredients: Developmental experiences and developmental relationships.

Developmental experiences Experiences that support a young person’s developmental needs are those that allow youth to encounter new things, tinker with them, practice new skills, and make their own choices.
Encountering Provide as much opportunity as you can for you…

How to help stressed-out youth to cope

By Trisha Sheehan

Do you remember what stressed you out as a kid?  I clearly remember worrying a great deal about my school grades and big track or cross country meets. Of course I wanted to do my best, but in my mind, I also had to be the best. That didn't always happen -- which caused me more stress.

Like adults, young people have stress. It can come in many shapes and sizes. Maybe it’s due to a test grade, or a friendship, or the perceived expectations of parents. There may be family stress related to finances or farming situations.

What can we as youth workers, volunteers and parents do to help young people better manage stress?  It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs of stress:
Feeling sad or withdrawn.More irritable or moody than usual.Drastic changes in behavior or sleep patterns.Routinely expressing worries.Clinging more to parents.Sleeping too much or too little.Eating too much or too little.Complaining about school or activities they attend.
These behaviors m…

How to talk with youth about violence: Tips for youth workers

By Jennifer Skuza

Acts of violence seem to face our youth at every turn. According to CNN, 15 school shootings have occurred already this year, most recently taking the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo of Colorado. While such violence is hard for adults to process, youth look to us for guidance on how to react. We can help them feel safe by establishing a sense of security and talking with them about their fears.

Here are some ways to approach these difficult conversationsMake time to talk. Let their questions be your guide. Be patient. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you work. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Help children to talk about their feelings, put them into perspective and express their feelings appropriately.
Keep your explanations dev…

How your youth program can encourage community

By Rebecca Meyer

Summer is a transitional period for youth, parents and families. Young people have finished an academic grade and many are looking ahead to the next. Summers are varied -- youth may take part in camps or other learning activities, travel with family or simply recharge with little day-to-day structure.

This time of year is a good time to recognize the changes taking place in young people’s development and design programs that take those changes into account.

We establish patterns of behaviors. The start of summer vacation is an excellent opportunity to reflect on these patterns, to identify potential program shifts, and to create summer routines to emphasize program elements. Intentionality in program design is crucial to a program’s success and impact.

In 4-H youth development, we ground our programs on four essential elements. These essential elements of positive youth development are belonging, independence, mastery and generosity. My colleague, Mary Arnold, recently…

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…