What We’re Learning in Positive Youth Development
The Latest Evidence and Resources
The “What We’re Learning” blog series through USAID’s Center for Education explores Agency learning priorities and showcases the latest evidence and resources in USAID’s education sector. These blogs highlight what we’re learning, why it’s important, ideas we’re testing, and results we’re seeing. This series is intended for Education Officers in USAID partner countries, and implementing partners, who are designing and managing new activities, evaluations and/or research efforts.
This blog discusses what we’re learning in positive youth development. USAID’s Positive Youth Development Learning Agenda should be used as a guiding source for this evaluation.
How Do I Get Started with Positive Youth Development?
There is collective agreement that due to the pandemic, 2020 to 2021 was a blur, both professionally and personally. Prioritization was a necessity, and some work just didn’t happen—such as staying current on Positive Youth Development (PYD) publications. Several valuable publications were finalized during this time, however, and in 2022, it’s worth visiting these documents. This blog is a friendly reminder of what is available, and how those resources can best be used.
For anyone who may need an introduction to PYD, we recommend visiting the YouthPower2 website. The “PYD Approach” tab gives a concise overview of PYD philosophy and programming. The “What Works” tab gives information about PYD work in a variety of sectors, including health, agriculture, and democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG).
What Resources Can Help with My Work?
For those who are familiar with the PYD approach and interested in integrating PYD components into projects and solicitations, the Assessment of Positive Youth Development report is a great place to start. This report, published in November 2020, details successes and challenges of implementing Positive Youth Development (PYD) programming in international development, with an emphasis on the flagship YouthPower program. The report details six findings and four recommendations, all of which were used to influence the design of YouthPower2. While all findings and recommendations are valuable, two recommendations in particular have become priority themes in 2022.
Recommendation #2: Support a deeper understanding of youth as change agents/youth engagement
PYD’s “youth-centered” approach is popular among Mission staff and implementing partners (IPs) worldwide, but there is still room for improvement. All education officers are encouraged to think more deeply about various ways to support youths’ contribution and agency: increasing youth leadership opportunities at the community level, increasing youth participation around research and evaluation, and tapping into youth leaders to re-engage with programming and mentor other youth.
Need help translating this concept in your next project or solicitation?
- YouthLead offers resources for and created by YouthLead Ambassadors and Peer Advisors. This platform for youth changemakers is a great place to find inspiration; it offers dozens of case studies on mentorship, youth-led initiatives, and funding opportunities for youth.
- Youth Excel empowers youth organizations and networks to use implementation research to take ownership of development solutions. The website offers an overview of project goals and activities, and includes a 2-page overview on Implementation Research.
- Global LEAD is a Agency-wide initiative that creates opportunities for young people’s participation and leadership in their communities and by supporting one million youth and emerging leaders through youth networks. For easy reference, visit the Global LEAD Factsheet for answers to commonly asked questions, and the Global Lead Toolkit offers resources to plan new activities, examples of innovative intervention models, and ideas and examples of successful youth engagement.
Recommendation #4: Support systemic approaches to youth development (or youth system strengthening) at the country level
USAID has been successful in educating its staff and IPs about PYD, but more engagement with local partners and government stakeholders is needed. USAID staff are encouraged to engage with local partners on PYD approaches as well as advocate for PYD integration at the local level. For information on how these outcomes can be achieved in low and middle-income countries, we recommend reading Early Lessons from the Youth Systems Collaborative.
Forging new connections between local IPs and USAID is important, and Missions should consider introducing community groups excited about PYD to the New Partner Initiative and How to Work with USAID, a resource hub.
Where Can I Look for Even More Detailed Information?
The Review of Youth Power Activities report is an important resource for activity design and implementation, particularly for youth and workforce activities. Published in 2020, this review examines eleven YouthPower activities across ten countries and identifies lessons learned for future programming. Findings are organized into the following categories: cross-sectoral approaches, sector-specific approaches, reaching vulnerable youth, youth engagement, and systems approach.
One key takeaway from the report is that in ten of the eleven examined activities, gender-based violence (GBV) was noted as a pervasive issue. which was not anticipated in IPs’ original designs. The report concludes that successful PYD programs must include interventions that acknowledge and challenge harmful gender norms that perpetuate violence, including community and inter-generational dialogue. In all cases, training staff and IPs was a critical step in preparing the project to recognize and address issues around GBV. Education Officers interested in PYD and youth programming are encouraged to reach out to their Mission’s GBV Coordinator to explore collaborative opportunities, and look for the 2022 USG Global Gender-Based Violence Policy, which will be published in June.
Another useful resource on PYD is the 2018 Assessment of the Implementation of USAID’s Youth in Development Policy. This analysis identifies the need to strengthen youth ecosystems and invest in greater youth engagement. This assessment is based on data collected from Missions in Kenya, Uganda, Honduras, and El Salvador, and the five-page executive summary presents findings and recommendations.
What Is Coming Next?
The findings from all of the above documents informed the forthcoming updated Youth in Development Policy, scheduled to launch in April 2022. Reflecting lessons learned from PYD’s ten-year history, the new policy will focus on three objectives: Access, Participation and Systems. As soon as it is available, we will link the Policy to this blog and highlight key take-aways for Education Officers.