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The potential for thriving is universal, but so too is the existence of adversity. Young people can overcome adversities, but the ease of doing so is not equally shared. Opportunity structures – in schools, communities, and society – make it easier for some youth to avoid or buffer the impacts of adversity than others. This paper speaks to the needs of all youth, as every youth can benefit from robust approaches to thriving, equity, and learning. The cumulative impacts of inequity and trauma, however, propel us to particularly call out the need to improve opportunity structures to address and eliminate the disadvantages created by current systems and practices. We also call out the need to eliminate the root causes of structural inequality in opportunities for youth to thrive across all domains.
The primary purpose of this paper is to present the research base to support this concept. In the sections of the paper, the authors:
- Introduce a formula and a rationale for addressing thriving, equity, and learning and development together that helps us better focus on actionable social factors;
- Summarize prevailing definitions of thriving, equity, and learning and development (and related terms);
- Take a deeper dive into the dimensions that contribute to individual and collective thriving;
- Offer powerful and aligned conceptualizations of thriving, equity, and learning and development;
- Describe the opportunities and conditions required to ensure that efforts to create “equitable educational outcomes” or “equitable learning and development opportunities” are as powerful and inclusive as possible.
The Readiness Projects seek to change the odds for youth. Together, the Forum for Youth Investment, the National Urban League, & the American Institutes for Research commit to upend inequities, embrace science-informed strategies, and accelerate progress.