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Journey mapping: See your program through the eyes of 4-H families

By Somongkol Teng

Are you wondering if your youth program offers a positive experience to youth and their families? Are you wondering what their journey through your program is like? Are you looking for in-depth information and stories about their experiences that a quantitative survey might not reveal?

If you say “yes” to any or all of these questions, you should try journey mapping, a revealing evaluation method.

What is journey mapping? Journey mapping has its origins in customer experience and human-centered design. It's an evaluation method that can help you to visualize a customer’s journey through a program or service. In other words, a journey map can show you the path a stakeholder — youth, family member, volunteer or staff — takes through your program. It can reveal where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Research on customer experience shows that every touchpoint a customer has with your organization has an impact on their interest, satisfaction and loyalty.

Beyond visu…
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A process for advancing equity in youth programs

By Kate Walker

Originally published in EdWeekEditor's Intro: Youth development and community-based organizations are taking steps to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today, Kate Walker, University of Minnesota Extension professor and specialist in youth work practice, describes the process the Extension Center for Youth Development used to create consensus around barriers to, and strategies for, advancing equity in youth programs.

There are many different interpretations of the word "equity." For us at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, we define equity as promoting just and fair inclusion and creating the conditions in which all young people can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. In other words, equity is everyone having what they need to be successful. As we began developing a learning series for youth workers focused on exploring and advancing equity in youth programs, we recognized that we are not experts …

Your unspoken thoughts could be holding young people back

By Jessica Pierson Russo

They say dogs can “smell fear.” Can kids smell when we don’t really respect them?

We're at parent-teacher conferences. My son's teacher says, “Overall, your son is doing fine in my class.” I nod. My husband nods. I look over at my son at the end of the table about four feet away. He’s resting his chin in his hands, and he looks tense. She goes on, “He has had his moments of teenage angst, but that’ll pass." My son’s eyes freeze over with resentment. There it is, I think to myself. There’s the tension. I look back at the teacher, who continues to talk, oblivious to the chasm she’s just carved between herself and her student.

This experience reminded me what an impact our thoughts have when we're working with youth. Using positive youth development in our work is supposed to help us recognize and build the strengths in young people.

But what happens when our thoughts get in the way of effective practice? Am I viewing this young person as an incom…

How to make youth feel they belong in your program

By Karyn Santl

I heard a local high school coach on the radio being asked about how to promote good team dynamics.  Her answer was, “It’s about the relationships.”  I couldn't agree more!

As an educator in the area of positive youth development, I truly believe it all boils down to the relationships. Everyone wants to feel that they matter to others and that they belong to something or somewhere. Young people are no exception.

Belonging is one of the four essential elements of the 4-H youth development program. We define it as the need of young people to know they are cared about, and to feel a sense of connection to others in a group. As staff members and volunteers, it's our job to create a safe and inclusive environment that will foster positive relationships for the young people we serve.

My favorite youth development research comes from the Search Institute. They have some good recent research around actions that make young people's relationships powerful. They develop…

Conflict happens! Let’s use it for good

By Karen Beranek

Have you ever seen a conflict between youth in your program? Of course you have!

You may have said, "You two are old enough, you need to figure it out." You may have avoided the conflict by walking right by and pretending you didn't hear it, thinking "It really isn’t that serious" or "They will work it out, they always do."

Conflict between youth is normal. As youth workers we can think of it as negative and avoid it. Or we can use it as a learning opportunity for the young people we work with. Here are some better responses: "Tell me what happened", "How did that make you feel?" "What would you like to see next?" "How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?"

The ability to reframe conflict is a characteristic of a high-quality youth program. Learning to work with those who have different views is an essential life skill. In a youth program, there's a strong connection between positive s…

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…

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…