Youth Development

Our guide to work with youth.

In order to cause a nation-wide systematic social change, the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico (Instituto del Desarrollo de la Juventud, IDJ) has adopted a theory of change for Youth Development. This theory has been developed by experts of the Youth Development Strategies, Inc. (YDSI), such as its director, Dr. Michelle Gambone, a renowned sociologist and researcher working for over 15 years in youth development, community mobilization, public policy and program effectiveness evaluation.

The Youth Development’s direct objective is to get young people to learn how to be productive, connect with others and navigate their surroundings, and as an indirect objective, have them become adults who are economically self-sufficient, have healthy families, maintain excellent social relations and contribute to their communities. To achieve these objectives, we draw on research that points to the more profitable “active” and “development support” to achieve long-term positive results.

Unlike efforts that focus on the correction of previously acquired negative behaviors or the prevention for young people who engage in “at-risk” behaviors, Youth Development focuses on encouraging positive outcomes for all young people. In other words, we seek to ensure that all young people have access to positive development experiences and relationships that will allow them to grow into health adults. This theory is based on the premise that the community in general is responsible for the outcome of all children.

Theory of change is a tool for establishing strategies and concrete actions to achieve Youth Development, that is to say, the optimal development of children and young people between 0-21 years of age in all its dimensions, with the goal that they become men and women who reach their full potential and create a society of economic prosperity and social harmony.

The “Community Action Theoretical Framework for Youth Development” is a theory of change tailored to the specific conditions of Puerto Rico. It was developed by the Youth Development Strategies, Inc. (YDSI) for the Institute for Youth Development (Instituto del Desarrollo de la Juventud, IDJ), and has been enriched by the experience of local community work from the Advisory Board and Professional Leaders of the IDJ. Taking into account various youth development frameworks, research and practical experience, this is an approach that allows us to plan, implement, align efforts and evaluate initiatives and the investment towards that purpose.

It is a systematic approach to Youth Development, which recognizes that all components of society affect the development of children and young people. To the extent that these components support positive development of children and youth, in the future we will have adults who contribute, in turn, to the development of that society.

The following diagram presents the Action Model based on our theoretical framework for Youth Development. The model seeks to integrate the basic knowledge we have about community conditions that affect youth development, with new hypotheses about what is required to transform the communities in places where all young people, especially those with less chance of success, can reach their full potential.