While our expertise is guided by the extant literature and decades of experience in working with programs for youth whose families are mired in urban poverty and all that accompanies such living situations; this approach, we believe is applicable in for all of us working with young people from all walks of life.

There are five fundamental aspects to the paradigm shift:

  • Focus on strengths, interests, positive behaviors, competencies, and capacities rather than deficiencies that need to be remedied.  This is not to deny that young people need help in multiple and important ways.  However, the most effective avenue to addressing deficiencies derives from young people seeing these deficiencies as obstacles to their self-proclaimed goals.
  • Focus on opportunities for youth to build skills and enhance competencies not services given to youth based upon identified problems.
  • Youth should be actively involved in planning, creating, operating, and governing programs rather than programs designed, operated, and governed exclusively by adults.
  • Focus on youth as resources rather than problems to be managed.
  • Promote a caring, and respectful atmosphere and reciprocal relationships with peers and adults instead of unidirectional relationships.

The Goals of Positive Youth Development:  The 7 Cs of Positive Youth Development:

  • Competence:  Positive view of one’s actions in life domains, including social, academic, cognitive, health, and vocational domains.
  • Confidence:  Internal sense of overall positive self-worth, self-efficacy, and a clear sense of self or identity.
  • Connection:  Positive bonds with people and institutions that are reflected in exchanges between the individual and others.
  • Character:  Respect for societal and cultural norms and internalization of the fundamental belief in individual, economic, political, and social human rights for all.
  • Caring/Compassion:  Sense of sympathy and empathy for others.
  • Contribution:  Opportunity to actively contribute to one’s family, school, and community.
  • Cooperation:  Acknowledgement of the importance of cooperating with peers, family members, adults, organizations, and institutions within one’s life’s sphere (does not mean that one always accepts the way things are, but rather that one cooperates with others to create positive social change).

While these principles are easy to state and the goals generally recognized, the implementation of a thoroughly going Positive Youth Development approach requires steadfastness, courage, resolve, and, most importantly, an abiding belief and faith in young people.  See Michael’s 1993 Paper and Core Values of Positive Youth Development for Youth-Serving Agencies that addresses these issues and adopts this perspective.