This Resource composed by Nina Misra, MYAN staff member
Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a framework that actively acknowledges and promotes the assets and strengths that young people possess. Through the process of identifying these beneficial characteristics and resources, we can increase positive outcomes for youth.1 PYD utilizes a strengths-based approach, which builds upon young people’s assets and offers opportunities and support for cultivating new strengths. Instead of focusing on factors that may create negative outcomes, PYD focuses on cultivating protective factors that help young people succeed. Positive assets for young people exist within the individual, their culture, and their community. Different organizations may use slightly different versions of the PYD framework; below are two that MYAN employs in our programming.
Positive Youth Development invites adults to support youth in these areas:2
- Assets: necessary resources, skills, and competences to achieve goals
- Agency: youth’s perceived and actual ability to make their own decisions, set their own goals, and to act upon those decisions
- Enabling Environment: youth are in an environment that develops and supports their assets, agency, strengthens their ability to stay safe, encourages their social and emotional competence to thrive
- Contribution: youth are engaged as a source of change for themselves and their community
We also utilize “The 6 C’s” to guide their understanding of PYD.3 Under this framework, the goal of PYD is to support the development of the following characteristics:
The two PYD frameworks above differ in language, but both guide adults to foster environments where youth can build upon their strengths. To achieve this, we must partner with youth rather than approaching work as though it is for youth. When we do so, young people experience increased opportunities to reach their goals and to act as agents of change in their own lives and communities. As adults, it is our responsibility to create an environment that facilitates this process. The specific assets we seek to cultivate in partnership with youth will differ based on the individual young person and the context in which they live and learn. Holistic prevention work acknowledges the social and contextual factors that impact a young person’s life and works to build upon the strengths and assets unique to individuals and their communities.4 Positive Youth Development is an integral element of effective prevention and a core component of our work with youth.
PYD is a youth engagement best practice. While our practices are always evolving, our goal is to integrated PYD principles into all our work. Below are two examples that illustrate PYD in action through MYAN’s work with young people.
Statewide Youth Policy Board
MYAN convenes a Statewide Youth Policy Board (SYPB), which is made up of young people from across the state of Maine who are passionate about making a difference in their communities. Over a span of two years, this group completed a Youth Participatory Action Research project. They identified and systematically researched an issue that impacted all of them: access to mental health resources in schools. The group presented their findings to various stakeholders, including Maine CDC and Maine Department of Education.
The SYPB members’ existing strengths made the project a success. Their knowledge of their schools and the experiences of their peers led them to choose a project that addressed a true need. Their self-advocacy skills–evident in their decision to join the SYPB—helped them leverage their relationships with school faculty, while their creativity helped them imagine what could be. The group utilized their strengths to shape the next steps of the project and discover strategies towards a more just future.
Throughout the process, the SYPB members gained research, communication, and facilitation skills that will transfer to other areas of their lives. They also cultivated a sense of agency because they utilized their expertise and lived experiences to develop creative solutions to an issue that impacts them and their communities.
Youth Planning Team
Every year, MYAN hosts a Youth Leadership Conference where Maine youth can convene to network and learn from each other. The Youth Planning Team is a group of young people who are passionate about youth action and amplifying the voices of their peers. This group is responsible for creating a conference that centers youth voice and provides opportunities for young people across the state to meaningfully connect. The adult facilitators’ decision-making process when working with the Youth Planning Team is also rooted in PYD. The facilitators work in partnership with the Youth Planning Team members to leverage their assets and character to create a successful, meaningful event. The Youth Planning Team members are invited into a process that leverages their strengths as well as creating an event that cultivates and strengthens those positive attributes.
The Youth Planning Team members cultivate many PYD assets throughout the planning process. They gain a sense of connection through networking and meeting other young people across the state; competence through planning for and presenting at the conference; and character by incorporating their values and passions into the conference.
1 Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D. and Schellinger, K.B. (2011), The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions. Child Development, 82: 405-432. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x
2 Positive Youth Development. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.youthpower.org/positive-youth-development
3 The 5C’s of Positive Youth Development. (2018, August 29). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from http://icanaz.org/the-5cs-of-positive-youth-development
4 Steinberg, K. Wellness in every stage of life: a new paradigm for public health programs. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2007 Jan [date cited]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2007/
Graphic from: The 5C’s of Positive Youth Development. (2018, August 29). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from http://icanaz.org/the-5cs-of-positive-youth-development
In-graphic citation: The Good Teen: Rescuing Adolescence from the Myths of the Storm and Stress Years by Richard Lerner