It Takes an Ecosystem: Understanding the People, Places and Possibilities of Learning and Development Across Settings

Edited by:
Thomas Akiva, Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh
Kimberly H. Robinson, Ph.D. Forum for Youth Investment
A volume in the series: Current Issues in Out-of-School Time
Editor(s): Helen Janc Malone, Institute for Educational Leadership


Sparked by conversations at a Forum convening in Pittsburgh in 2019, Drs. Tom Akiva & Kim Robinson have brought together an inspiring group of authors to explore what it will take to reshape our systems to support this scientific understanding and build stronger learning and development ecosystems.

It Takes an Ecosystem explores the idea and potential of the allied youth fields—an aspirational term that suggests increased connection across the multiple systems in which adults engage with young people. Recent research and initiatives make a strong case for what developmentalists have argued for decades: A young person’s learning and development is shaped in positive and negative ways by the interactions they have with all the adults across all settings in their life. Now is the time to reshape our systems to support this scientific understanding. The chapters in this book provide ideas, tools, examples, and visions for a more connected, more equitable world for young people and the adults in their lives.


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Explore the Chapters

Introduction: A New Way Forward, Kimberly H. Robinson and Thomas Akiva. 

Using a Learning and Development Ecosystem Framework to Advance the Youth Fields, Thomas Akiva, Marijke Hecht, and Dale A. Blyth. 

Why Narrow Definitions of How, Where, and When Learning Happens Undermine Equity: How OST Leaders Can Help, Karen Pittman, Jill Young, David Osher, Rob Jagers, Hal Smith, Merita Irby, and Poonam Borah. 

Mattering in Allied Youth Fields: Summoning the Call of Black Lives Matter to Radically Affirm Youth Through Programming, Roderick L. Carey, Camila Polanco, and Horatio Blackman. 

Fostering, Facilitating, and Connecting: Families are a Critical Part of Young People’s Learning and Development Ecosystems, Lori Delale-O’Connor. 

The Power of Simple, Ordinary Interactions in Developmental Relationships Across Contexts, Junlei Li and Dana Winters. 

Who are the Adults Who Work with Youth? Unpacking the Occupational Identities of Library and Afterschool Workers in the Context of Learning and Developmental Ecosystems, Sharon Colvin and Annie White. 

Organizing for Equity: Addressing Institutional Barriers and Creating Learning Opportunities, Fatima Brunson, DaVonna Graham, Tanja Burkhard, and Valerie Kinloch. 

Just Quality: How Youth Justice Programs Can Inform Program Quality Efforts to Support Equitable Learning & Development Ecosystems, Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom and David J. Martineau. 

The Role of Out-of-School Time Intermediaries in Contributing to Equitable Learning and Development Ecosystems, Priscilla Little and Jessica Donner with Wokie Weah, Mike Snell, LaRon Henderson, Jessica Werner, and Eddie Cleofe. 

From System to (Eco)System: Policy Examples that Foster Cross-Sector Collaboration, Michelle J. Boyd-Brown, Jill Young, and Deborah Moroney. 

The Role of Philanthropy, Research, and Evaluation in Shaping Learning and Development Ecosystems: The Case of Creative Learning in Pittsburgh, Mac Howison, Esohe Osai, and Thomas Akiva. 

Connected Learning & Libraries: An Essential Part of the OST Ecosystem, Linda W. Braun and Lance Simpson. 

The Growing Role of Out-of-School Time in Driving Equitable Career Exploration and Preparation, Candace Brazier Thurman and Saskia K. Traill. 

Expanded Learning as a Vehicle to Advance Whole-Child, Whole-Family Health and Wellness, Jeff Davis. 

Building Forward Together: Toward Equitable Ecosystems for Young People, Merita Irby, Karen Pittman, Hal Smith, and Deb Moroney.