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4-H Youth Development: Advancing the Field of Youth Development

The Issue

Much research has documented the important role that out-of-school activities play for today’s youth: preventing risky behaviors such as drinking, drug use, or juvenile crime; providing safe and engaging environments for young people to continue learning; and promoting healthy youth outcomes and developmental assets. There are a wide range of organizations and approaches to youth development, but a shortage of research on which approaches work best, and under what conditions. Youth development organizations feel pressure to develop tools for measuring outcomes, but do not always have the resources to accomplish that task.

What Has ANR Done?

The mission of the California 4-H Youth Development Program includes “advancing the field of youth development.” In addition to program management staff, the 4-H YDP has more than 40 full- or part-time academic staff who conduct research on youth development and share that research with others in the field. In this way, we help other youth development organizations be more effective in their work. The California 4-H Youth Development Program has also served as a convener of collaborations. In 2002, more than 30 youth organizations from all over the state participated in the State Conversation on the Future of Youth Development. During that event, the organizations identified issues facing youth in California and strategies for effectively addressing them. Many of the collaborations developed during the State Conversation process continue to flourish, strengthening the field, and thereby expanding opportunities for youth.

The Payoff

Research is Leveraged Through Collaboration

Research on youth development takes place on the local, state and national levels. California 4-H Youth Development researchers have participated in city and county commissions, worked with the California Department of Education, made presentations to youth workers in dozens of organizations, delivered and evaluated curricula for after-school programs and established many other links to youth-serving organizations. By sharing what we have learned about “best practices”, we help advance the field as a whole. By helping develop collaborations among youth organizations, we leverage limited resources to provide more opportunities for more youth.


Supporting Unit: California 4-H Youth Development Program

California 4-H Youth Development Program
Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California, Davis
One Hopkins Road
Davis, CA 95616-8575