In recent years the international youth development field has increasingly acknowledged that purposeful action at the systems level is critical for achieving positive outcomes for youth, sustainably, equitably, and at scale. In 2018 a group of international organizations formed the Youth Systems Collaborative, a community of practice whose aim is to promote international learning on youth systems change efforts. Building from the collective learning of this group, this paper offers a framework for understanding how widespread and sustained positive youth development outcomes can be achieved in low- and middle-income countries. Five enablers that advance systems change are presented: stakeholder collaboration; vision and goals; systems mapping; data, evaluation, and learning; and capacity development, as well as 4 domains within which system change occurs: policies, services and practices, norms and mindsets, and resource flows. Each of these 9 dimensions is illustrated with lessons learned from both U.S. and international youth systems change efforts. The paper concludes with a call to action for diverse system actors to apply these lessons as they support youth to reach their full potential.
Clare Ignatowski, University of Pennsylvania and Creative Associates International
Rachel Blum, Education Development Center
Pia Saunders Campbell, International Youth Foundation
Ricardo Perez-Pineda, Education Development Center