Bright Spots in Youth Development

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Monday Morning Message

This week as I was going through the information on the 4-H Website I came across an article that I think each one of us as Master Trainers ought to read. The article was called, “Switch: Don’t Solve Problems-Copy Success”. The main focus of the article was on a strategy of looking for “Bright Spots” to bring about real and lasting change. Bright Spots are identified things that are working well. The key question to ask is, “What’s working well and how do we do more of it?”

There were so many little nuggets of truth I took away from this article that I could never share all of them in this article (I would love to have a round table teleconference call about the article if any of you are interested). So for our purposes here today, I will share how I think it is directly related to youth development research, latest trends and the 4-H Thrive philosophy.

When I think about how in 4-H we want to help youth thrive I am reminded that our whole mission is founded in over 50 years of solid research. In essence, this research has looked for the bright spots in youth being able to thrive. Some of the key bodies of research are as follows[i]:

  1. Resiliency-Resiliency is the term applied to children exposed to severe risk factors, such as poverty, who nevertheless thrive and excel.
  2. 40 Assets-National studies from the Search Institute looking at what basic assets youth need to have in order to succeed.
  3. Michelle Gambone-A leading researcher in the field who created a framework for looking at Youth Development and what it takes for youth to become thriving adults.
  4. National Institute of Health Study-shows school-based prevention program reduces problem behaviors in fifth-graders by half.
  5. The Add Health Study-A national study showing the relationship of school connectedness and achievement.
  6. The WestEd Study-This study for the California Department of Education shows the relationship between assets, lower risk behaviors, and higher API scores.

The 4-H Thrive model is the way that we view and interact with young people. It is the lens by which we filter our interactions and the way we program within our clubs in 4-H. The educational materials that we are creating are tools to create this environment.

A couple of the key benefits I see of 4-H Thrive are:

  1. It helps us intentionalize our efforts in helping youth thrive. As I read through the thrive materials and the above mentioned bodies of research it becomes clear to me that many of the things, I am already doing. These are not new concepts or ideas; they are just packaged in a new and fresh way. The real benefit for me is that I can see the areas that I am doing well and celebrate that and I can also see the areas that I have not been as intentional and work to strengthen them.
  2. It provides a common language for us to discuss, learn and evaluate. This is HUGE for me. If we are all using the same language to share our successes and struggles, we are better able to come alongside each other for support.

Change is difficult and not always fun but very necessary in the work of thriving. As you continue to interact with the 4-H Thrive materials I want to encourage you to:

  1. Internalize it! Don’t let it be just another program. Practice using the adult support skills with all youth in your life.
  2. Embrace change with open arms! Change that is meaningful and intentional that will enhance 4-H programs, not take away from them.
  3. Remember you are not alone. You have your Master Trainer colleagues and us here at the state office to support you when you get stuck. I have been very encouraged that many of you are finding ways in your counties to use the materials to their fullest, even in the face of challenges. If you are hitting a challenge that you can’t seem to work through, call me and let’s talk through it together. Remember, I want to add value to your lives and your work.

[i] Overview of Youth Development Booklet p.4  Youth Development Network

  1. Lisa Illg says:

    Great article, very encouraging! Thank you

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