Systematic Review of Positive Youth Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries


Default image, no image supplied by the user.YouthPower Learning is pleased to share the results of a rigorous analysis of existing evidence of positive youth development (PYD) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the YouthPower Learning project, this systematic review aims to document how PYD approaches have been applied in LMICs, as well as what the evidence demonstrates about the effectiveness of such programs. The systematic review presents the results of a rigorous analysis of existing evidence of PYD in LMICs; expands the knowledge base on the impacts and measurement of PYD programs; and provides valuable insights for international implementing organizations, researchers, and donors.

What does the Systematic Review provide? 

• A comprehensive framework to understanding PYD in LMICs

• Findings of how PYD has been implemented and areas in need of further investigation

• The latest evidence of what works in achieving positive youth-focused outcomes in LMICs

• Lessons learned that international implementing organizations can integrate into practice

• Recommendations to inform future program design, implementation, and evaluation efforts


The systematic review drew upon peer-reviewed and grey literature published in English, Spanish, and French after 1989. Using a systematic search strategy for peer-reviewed papers, a purposive search in repositories and a survey disseminated to youth-serving organizations, development agencies, and universities, we identified 21,576 peer-reviewed papers and 3,705 grey literature documents. These reports and papers were screened in a three-step process to select the final documents to be included in the data extraction. The 108 (44 peer reviewed literature, 64 grey literature) documents included in the meta-review are all based on evaluations of programs that either the authors or the review team classified as PYD. We considered programs to be “PYD” if they engaged young people (10-29 years of age) and incorporated at least two outcomes within the PYD framework. The quality of the evidence presented in papers was assessed by reviewing their respective research design, measures, and analysis. One-third of all papers reported results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The review also included papers reporting other research designs, such as quasi-experimental, pre-post non-experimental, mixed methods, qualitative, and post-test quantitative or qualitative designs.

How can I access the Systematic Review?

The Systematic Review is available for download on

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Want more?

Upcoming will be an infographic series on PYD and key findings from the systematic review, and two topic-specific briefs on workforce readiness and HIV/AIDS.

This YouthPower Learning Brief summarizes the findings from the YouthPower Learning Systematic Review of PYD Programs in LMICs that are relevant to Workforce Readiness and Employability (WR&E). It also leverages relevant insights from the YouthPower Learning PYD Measurement Toolkit.
Some of the main findings are:

  • Most programs classified as focused on WR&E also work towards outcomes in other sectors. 
  • WR&E programs focus on building youth assets. 
  • Several programs that addressed WR&E reported positive outcomes relevant to that sector. 
  • Overall, most WR&E programs lack rigorous evidence.
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