Weekly Assessment Tips: a Vlog that supports assessment in the Human Services and Education Sectors
Social equity issues (SEI), locally and nationally, tend to interrupt the effectiveness of youth programs (e.g. youth workforce programs are impacted by bias in job hiring practices). The SEIs that young people face daily are not directly targeted for change by many youth programs. Current national discussions on equity signal to professionals in youth programming that there is a need to build a framework that is embedded in programming to directly contends with SEIs.
Many organizations have values on diversity and inclusion; this framework is a chance to deeply apply those values to the very fabric of your programs, benefiting youth and staff.
Programs that serve young people in historically disenfranchised spaces exist in a landscape of SEIs and the impact of this landscape is often overlooked. This landscape is comprised of a series of institutional and interpersonal mechanisms that create barriers for some and advantages for others. See Richard Ford’s article Focus on Explicit Disparities Instead of Implicit Biases (2014).
Example: Some youth program support youth and their families in accessing housing, but fewer housing programs also engage local conditions to make safe and quality housing accessible and prioritized city-wide.
Youth programs tend to tailor their approach to young people’s needs based on delivering skills, knowledge, and/or relationships (e.g. mentoring) that are absent from the young people’s lives. While research shows that programs benefit young people in the short– and long-term, the collective efforts of these programs are not a wholesale passport system that can get young people through or to new levels, spaces, and trajectories.
A SEI Framework
In the examples below, we annotate important features of youth programs that are designed and carried-out with full consideration of impending SEIs.
The Youth Organizing Institute (YOI) from North Carolina is an organization of youth and adult allies who examine institutional bias in the local schools of Wake County. The young people study a range of issues through historical fact-finding and current day contexts including racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. Students learn and organize events through workshops and school and community meetings.
In this example, we get to see how youth development features are part of YOI (and similar youth programs) including academic and leadership development as well as civic engagement. For example, at the October 2016 School Board Meeting, the youth addressed the Board members on a range of concerns they have for student welfare. Important for this example, the young people learn and act as program participants and co-facilitators of the programming.
Youth organizing groups in Boston have undergone waves of activism. In the report Urban Transformations: Youth Organizing in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC (2007) headed by Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing, we get a vivid series of examples of youth programs being about both 1.) serving youth in terms of a platform for organizing for social change, and 2.) youth driving social change. Notably, youth in these groups get access to a range of opportunities for leadership, social change education, and robust civic engagement.
Closing: Get support
Adding the Framework to Your Programs
We encourage professionals in youth programming to begin conversations with their colleagues about moving youth programs into a framework that prioritizes the SEIs that the young people face in their daily lives. Engage in a process of reflection and assessment to understand which of your youth programs can begin a transition to this framework.
Identity resources in your community that can inform your process; university faculty and students spend entire semesters studying the social equity landscape, locally and nationally (Dr. Vélez Young-Alfaro teaches on these topics). The young people in your programs will be more richly served; in the service-oriented youth programs, we recommend that you prioritize features of youth organizing.
Support for Staff in Your Program
Also, welcome and engage conversations on how SEIs impact your staff members who may or may not reflect the population of youth that you engage. There are many tools that thoroughly take staff step-by-step through SEIs including racial, class, and gender biases. Once you and your team start reflecting and assessing the impact of SEIs on your program outcomes, connections between SEIs and your staff members’ experiences will become clear as well (e.g. have what is typically called the “hard conversations”).
We’d love to learn from you about your process. Consider letting us know how your programs directly engage SEIs or are contemplating how to do so, firstname.lastname@example.org
***This blog was originally posted in December 2015, but has been significantly revised to be of more use to practitioners in the Human Services and Education sectors.***
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