Youth Development, the Challenge of Complexity and Size:
Cross-Sectoral and Systems Approaches to Programs
August 22, 2011 – 3:45 p.m.
||Claire Spence, USAID/ Jamaica
Bonnie Politz, FHI 360
Erik Butler, Education Development Center (EDC)
This session, moderated by Claire Spence (Acting Director, Office of Sustainable Development, USAID/Jamaica), provided the audience with a definition of the term youth development from a research and practice base: “the ongoing process in which all youth are engaged in attempting to: meet their basic personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, be valued, be useful, be spiritually grounded, and build skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives.” The session also outlined core youth development principles, explained the continuum and effective characteristics of USAID youth-related programming approaches and presented Jamaica, Rwanda, and El Salvador as examples of how cross-sectoral and systems thinking can help achieve Mission and national objectives for youth.
The group addressed effective characteristics of youth-related programming, stating that youth development is happening everywhere, but a challenge exists regarding scale. Adults often work from a deficit or problem prevention mode. The result is that young people get clearer messages on what they should not do, think, or become, rather than messages on what they should do. The presenters emphasized the importance of developing and partnering with youth as an effective programming practice.
The presenters showed a video clip that portrayed youth development in the West Bank. The video highlighted the importance of listening to youth and acknowledging their strengths rather than their weaknesses. The presenters also discussed the Ruwwad project which allowed youth to provide community service to a rather complicated community. When the youth were asked questions regarding their dreams, some of the responses were very limited due to their past experiences. The presenters also emphasized the importance of interpersonal skill building, which includes establishing caring relationships with others, a sense of family and connection, and participating in ways that were appropriate for where they are developmentally.
Lastly, the presenters discussed EQUIP3, a mechanism used to work within and across sectors. A cross-sectoral approach works to meet objectives from more than one sector; usually one sector is the primary lead and works to incorporate the others. The experiences that youth are having are increasingly cross-sectoral. The presenters also discussed the cross-sectoral youth program that is being implemented in El Salvador. It focuses on interventions at the system level, within and across sectors involving youth development, and can be viewed as a system of interacting parts. The presenters also discussed the Realizing Empowerment Activities for Developing Youth program, which was designed to support the Jamaican government and civil society to develop effective systems that ensure youth’s health, safety and success in school, work, family, and the community.
Key take away points include the importance of developing partnerships with youth. It is necessary to highlight not their weaknesses, but their strengths. Successful youth development can be achieved by building skills, establishing relationships, and encouraging participation in ways that can contribute to development. The EQUIP3 mechanism is a tool used to work across sectors to aid youth in the problems they are experiencing.