Applying a Positive Youth Development (PYD) Lens
Youth are often characterized by the relative “assets” that they possess, defined as “the necessary resources, skills, and competencies to achieve desired outcomes.” External assets include the ownership of or access to natural resources (water, land, energy, etc.), physical assets (equipment, inputs, facilities, housing, technology), financing, education and skills training, information, personal support systems (family, community members, peers), and networks. Moreover, research shows that youth with relatively high developmental assets—soft skills such as positive self-concept, self-control, higher order thinking skills, communications, and social skills—are more likely to achieve positive outcomes in the workforce, in violence prevention, and in sexual and reproductive health. Many of these assets are interlinked; for example, when women have lower literacy rates, limited mobility, or limited membership in associations, they also have disproportionately lower access to agricultural inputs, technology, and information.
The relative assets of the target youth cohorts must be compared to those that are necessary to achieve intended activity results. For example, a young person likely to make a meaningful contribution to an agribusiness competitiveness activity must have the capacity to easily acquire entrepreneurial or technical skills (or both) and productive assets such as land, capital, vehicles, or machinery; he/she must also have the soft skills and personal agency necessary to take advantage of these resources. Such requirements are distinct from a poverty reduction activity where the youth may lack experience, soft skills, and/or access to external resources to succeed in a competitiveness activity. Youth sub-groups with relatively few assets need more support in order to succeed. It is also important to recognize the external factors that limit the attainment of assets, such as exposure to conflict and/or violence (personal or community-based) that threatens physical safety, disrupts education, causes health and psycho-social problems, or breaks down personal networks and supports. Poverty also creates similar limitations.
Importantly, youth must also have “agency” to exert and take advantage of these assets to achieve desired outcomes. Sometimes simply being considered “youth” can inhibit participation because of cultural norms that limit the role of youth in society. Young people—particularly girls—are often excluded from household level and/or economic decision-making. Exclusion due to gender, race, religion, or other social and cultural factors can also prohibit youth from attaining assets or exercising agency.
“Contribution” means that youth are engaged as a source of change for their positive development and that of their community. Efforts to increase youth contribution to the agri-food system often promote youth-led community service (such as 4H or environmental volunteerism), youth-led advocacy, or youth microenterprises. Meanwhile, a supportive “enabling environment” is one in which peers, families, communities, institutions, laws/regulations, and norms support youth success. Volume II of this guide provides greater detail on the salient factors promoting an enabling environment for youth in the agri-food system.
Building off of these four PYD domains, research shows that activities that intentionally include youth can magnify youth outcomes when they address seven key PYD features. Several features help to define which activities can be incorporated within each of the four domains. These features, organized by domains, are as follows:
• Assets and Agency
›› Skill building
›› Youth engagement and contribution
• Enabling Environment
›› Healthy relationships and bonding
›› Belonging and membership
›› Positive norms, expectations, and perceptions
›› Safe space
›› Access and integration among services
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