Community Examples and Resources
May 6, 2015
The Forum for Youth Investment provides products and services to help leaders improve partnerships, policies and practices for young people. These products and services are based on best practices in youth development and on experience working with dozens of communities around the country since the Forum’s founding in 1998. The Forum works primarily with state and local leadership groups, as well as provider networks. The Forum synthesizes research, reviews policy, follows trends, manages networks, and compiles data – nationally and locally.
Communities have used the Forum’s research and technical assistance to develop work plans, youth master plans, readiness profiles, data reports, program quality improvement systems and many other types of documents to guide ongoing work to align and improve services for young people. On this page you’ll find some examples of these resources.
Examples of Community Resources
Alexandria, Va., created a Children & Youth Master Plan, which sets long-term, community-wide goals for young people and identifies specific action steps for reaching those goals. The plan was created in partnership with the Forum for Youth Investment, building on data analysis, public input and the latest research about youth development and community change. The city and the Forum laid the groundwork for the plan with the Alexandria Children & Youth Well-Being Profile, which identified the key challenges facing the city’s young people and the causes behind those challenges.
An overview of the work there, along with a number of links to key documents and meeting minutes, is located at https://alexandriava.gov/CYFCC.
San Marcos, Texas
The San Marcos Youth Master Plan offers a long-term vision for how San Marcos can improve family, community and school support and build a stronger future for our youth. It focuses on ways the community can help the community’s children succeed in school, in their physical and social development, vocational preparations and becoming the new generation of leaders.
The Youth Master Plan process began in Spring 2012 with the appointment of a Youth Advisory Council with representatives from public, private and home schooled youth. The YAC met 18 times to develop their vision for the plan. The City contracted with The Forum for Youth Investment as consultants to facilitate development of the plan.
Here is an overview of the process leading up to the creation of a community wide youth master plan: http://www.ci.san-marcos.tx.us/index.aspx?page=936.
Wake County, N.C.
The Wake County Youth Well-being Profile was a document written by the community, for the community, to better understand the well-being of youth in their area. The profile, which was facilitated with the help of the Forum) allows community members to better understand the causes and effects of areas the community is doing well in and where it needs to do better if all youth are to be ready for college, work and life.
More information on the Action Teams that helped formulate the plan can be found at: http://www.youth-thrive.org/action-teams/.
Examples of the Forum’s Work with Communities and States
Out-of-school time (OST) providers wanted to improve their work with kids, but first they needed to learn more about the kids. Where were they developmentally? What skills did they have and need? What were their interests?
The United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County brought in the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, which guided nine OST sites in administering a survey to measure the developmental assets of the youth they serve. Providers used the results to tailor their services in numerous ways, including giving youth a genuine voice in the design of activities, finding more opportunities for community engagement, and teaching ways to cope with challenges such as frustration and peer pressure.
Colorado officials knew they could more effectively help disconnected youth if they could coordinate the many state and private agencies that provide funding and services. The Forum guided state policymakers and non-government stakeholders through a process of mapping the agencies, initiatives and programs that support older youth, which helped lay the groundwork to develop a statewide action plan for youth.
Building on that work, the state legislature passed a law mandating collaboration among specific state departments and educational institutions; created a staff position to oversee collaboration; and ordered the creation of a statewide youth development plan.
The state of Florida needed to improve access to post-secondary education for all young people, but how could it do so in a time of budget cuts? The Forum led Florida state agencies, the governor’s office, youth and policy advocates through a policy scan to identify low-cost policy solutions to increase not only post-secondary access, but also success.
The policy scan identifies policy changes that will help states better support college access and success. The scans focus on both regulatory and legislative opportunities, with a heavy emphasis on no-cost/low-cost solutions. After the scan, the Forum produced a policy brief that laid out clear, specific and actionable recommendations for the executive and legislative leaders in Florida.
Fort Worth, Texas
When local government, school and out-of-school-time (OST) leaders created a coalition to increase access to high-quality OST programs, they needed help answering some crucial questions: Who would belong to the coalition? Who would be accountable for carrying out strategies? How would it measure and improve program quality?
The Forum implemented its Partnership Characteristics Survey to assess the capacity of local organization to play specific roles in the coalition. The survey had “an immediate impact,” said the leader of the coalition; the results were used to make decisions about governance and accountability, and to map out other coalitions that might join the effort.
Determined to improve the odds for young people in this rural, low-income community, leaders felt stymied by what they didn’t know: They had lots of academic data, such as grades and graduation rates, but little else to help them answer their fundamental question: How are young people doing overall?
The Forum provided tools and technical assistance to collect and analyze new data about Indianola’s youth. Customized data from the Gallup Student Poll – which measures the hope, engagement and well-being of young people – was used to pinpoint the key issues facing young people, and to ignite community conversations that generated action to deal with those issues, including steps to curtail violence, boost youth engagement in school and provide mentors.
After years of pouring resources into services and supports for young people, Nashville was frustrated by disappointing results. Fewer than 20 percent of its residents believed the city was doing enough to ensure that children and youth grow up ready for college, work and life.
Through the Ready by 21® initiative, the Forum worked with city leaders and residents to assess the needs of young people, analyze the capacity of local institutions to address those needs, and develop solutions. The result was the Child and Youth Master Plan, through which the city’s public and private institutions agreed on a shared vision for its young people, with measureable goals and strategies to achieve them.
New Orleans, La.
When leaders here launched a collective impact initiative to improve youth services, one of their biggest challenges was identifying which organization would provide backbone supports – things like coordination and staffing, which are essential for success. The Forum for Youth Investment guided a coalition of community organizations through its Backbone Support Survey to assess the capacity of various institutions to play that role.
The result: several organizations were found to have the resources and commitment to provide specific, critical supports. The coalition used the results to determine the backbone organization and other key partners for this ambitious initiative, called YouthShift.
Scott County, Minn.
The Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency (SCALE) was created in 2003 to forge new and innovative ways in which government entities can collaborate to provide superior services while making the most of limited resources. SCALE brings together elected officials and government staff members to coordinate efforts and share data to improve services to all residents of Scott County.
The specific goal SCALE is working towards is to reach 50% of Scott County’s labor force living and working in the county by 2030 (50 by 30). SCALE has decided to partner with the community in taking a collective impact approach on this effort. In April 2016, SCALE brought leaders from all sectors of Scott County to develop structures, work teams and priorities for this work. SCALE contracted the Forum for Youth Investment and Big Picture Approach Consulting to facilitate this critical initial conversation.
Forum staff walked Scott County leaders through key collaboration concepts and roles, while digging into the end goals, current coalitions and role clarity for the various working groups.
Afterschool providers knew they were doing good work with kids, but they needed data-based answers about their impact: Were they helping kids in a measureable way? How could they improve their efforts?
A partnership of executives from youth development programs teamed up with the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality to develop a survey to measure the life skills that high-quality afterschool programs can help young people build. The survey can be used by all providers to measure such skills as self-discipline, conflict resolution, creativity, critical thinking and planning for the future.
Fair Chance is an intermediary organization that leverages the power of community-based organizations to transform lives. Each year they select a cohort of promising, youth-serving nonprofits working in the most underserved neighborhoods of DC and provide up to two years of free comprehensive expertise in organizational management. Since 2002, Fair Chance has supported more than 90 nonprofits serving a collective 80,000 children and youth tackling critical issues such as school readiness, healthy life choices, literacy and job skills.
After setting strategic growth goals, the board and staff determined that in order to truly live up to its name, Fair Chance needed to do more than improve the performance and sustainability of youth-serving nonprofits. Ultimately, they committed to increasing life-changing results for children and youth living in poverty. To achieve this, they needed to change the way they talked about themselves, the outcomes they would be measuring and focus their work more intentionally on helping nonprofits measure impact. In summer 2015, Fair Chance contracted the Forum to facilitate this critical outcomes discussion.
Forum consultants worked with the executive director to design a series of progressive meetings with the board program task force/strategy committee and the management team, as well as a group of their nonprofit alumni partners. We learned about the end goals and identified inconsistencies in current plans. We learned about the local context and brought in recommendations on how to align goals without abandoning core principles. We gauged organizational capacity and did only the things that staff couldn’t do. We took responsibility for documenting discussions and recommendations to keep meetings efficient and ensure transparency as we moved between groups.
When community leaders set out to build an inventory of local services and supports for children and families, they found an array of lists that were out of date, incomplete and overlapping. How could they build a pipeline of supports for youth without knowing what exists, who is served and where the gaps are?
Wilson 20/20 – a partnership of business, government, education and nonprofit leaders – brought in the Forum to conduct a Ready by 21 Landscape Mapping Survey to get a true picture of youth services and opportunities. The city hired youth to build the database, which gave Wilson its first up-to-date list of youth services.
Government, business, education and community leaders formed teams to create a youth master plan, using the survey data to create a youth master plan, setting goals and developing strategies to meet them.