Our Tools & Approaches
Tools for Youth Agency Programming
Our Youth Agency programs equip and inspire young people while creating the conditions for them to contribute and thrive. This work ranges from the development of life skills to the practice of civic competencies; from helping youth engage in community decision-making to increasing their leadership for social change; from aiding schools and governments to value youth input to helping organizations implement youth-friendly services. IYF has developed and refined a number of tools and curricula to ensure programs deliver results.
Too many young people face barriers to opportunity and success based on factors beyond their control. Challenges are especially acute for youth living in poverty, youth with disabilities, racial or ethnic minorities, and young mothers. Too many become detached from school, work, and civic systems. This disconnection carries heavy costs for individual lives, families, communities, countries, and economies. Passport to Success (PTS) promotes the development of essential life skills, such as self-confidence, responsibility and problem solving, to overcome these barriers. Through face-to-face, online, and blended learning training, PTS has equipped over a quarter of a million young people in 50 different countries with the skills they need to succeed.
To learn more about IYF's signature life skills curriculum, visit the PTS website.
IYF created the Foundations training program to provide youth practitioners, with the fundamental knowledge and tools they need to design and implement effective Positive Youth Development (PYD) programming for young people. Through a two-day, interactive training, youth practitioners are introduced to the philosophy and approach of PYD, while learning how to draw on core PYD principles to enrich and improve their youth-serving interventions. Regardless of their youth-work focus area (education, employability, entrepreneurship, leadership, etc.), practitioners can employ PYD to better understand and respond to the needs of young people in a productive manner which promotes healthy development. PYD is both a philosophy and an approach—a way of understanding and thinking about youth that guides the adults who surround them to act and behave in a manner that is caring, competent, and committed.
At its core, PYD challenges youth workers to broaden their perspective about youth, what youth can do, and how best to support them as they move successfully through adolescence and into young adulthood. Equally important, this approach offers concrete strategies for strengthening existing program practices in order to facilitate holistic youth development. Youth practitioners who participate in the Foundations training workshop will:
- become more familiar with the common frameworks, terms, and theories of PYD and its implications for youth work practice;
- gain practical knowledge, skills, attitudes and tools to design, plan and implement PYD programs;
- better understand the youth development process (in their country and globally) and the characteristics of youth culture;
- better understand the array of outcomes which practitioners can and should help young people achieve;
- know where to go for further reading and research on PYD; and
- connect with other youth development practitioners in a community of practice.
Implemented by IYF since 2011, the I:Serve curriculum gives youth the opportunity to play an active role in improving their communities through the planning and implementation of service projects.Youth choose which projects they want to work on based on needs they have identified in collaboration with their local communities. They not only have the opportunity to acquire and practice leadership, service learning, and personal development skills, but they also gain practical employability skills that will help them to find and keep a job and/or create their own social enterprise or small business. Projects have included beach safety education, a mobile library, and neighborhood cleanup and beautification. With this emphasis on civic engagement and employability, I:Serve was initially designed for disadvantaged and unemployed youth in Jordan through Youth for the Future. IYF works with country partners to adapt the program local cultural and demographic contexts, and the curriculum has been implemented with other initiatives in Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. It is currently available in both English and Arabic.
Youth Economic Opportunity Tools & Approaches
Expanding youth economic opportunity requires understanding how—and within what conditions—skills, market opportunities, education and training providers, and workforce development systems work together to support young people to have productive and rewarding lives. We focus on the intersection of these issues by preparing young people for work, connecting them with opportunities, building the capacity of education and training providers, and strengthening workforce development systems.
Bridging the Gap is IYF’s evidence-based approach to transforming education-to-employment systems. IYF facilitates the transformation of these systems through analysis and assessment, industry-engaged curriculum development, and expanded capacity of education and training providers. IYF has developed a proven systems approach for aligning technical training curricula and teaching practices with industry demand, thereby improving the work readiness of young people. This approach aligns interests as well as curricula, so that key players have the incentives and capacity to continually update curricula—creating lasting change at scale.
Bridging the Gap includes
- Undertaking a quantitative comparison of supply and demand
- Building consensus among industry partners from the identified sector about critical and scarce entry-level skills up and down their supply chains in the regional labor market
- Developing solutions to address the skills gap with industry partners and training providers
- Identifying barriers to carrying out these essential practices and determines how adjustments to roles, routines, and rules within a system could address those barriers
- Making system adjustments to ensure sustainability
Students learn better when they are actively engaged with the material rather than passively absorbing it. The highly interactive Effective Teaching Workshop develops educators’ skills in learner-centered methodologies and approaches with the end goal being respectful, high-quality, hands-on instruction for all youth in the classroom. Participants develop and practice how to:
- Set a positive climate for learning;
- Clarify the purposes for the learner(s);
- Organize and make learning resources accessible;
- Balance the intellectual and emotional components of learning;
- Share feelings and thoughts with learners without dominating;
- Create real-world environments to make learning is relevant;
- Focus on practical approaches to solving real-world problems;
- Coach students on the strategies they deploy to solve problems;
- Provide multiple representations or perspectives;
- Negotiate instructional goals and objectives;
- Use evaluation as a tool for self-analysis.
IYF has adapted its curricula and instructor trainings for distance learning. This includes a virtual instructor training for its flagship Passport to Success curriculum now adapted for instruction outside of the classroom. In addition, IYF offers instructor trainings on digital instruction which cover many of the same principles and techniques of effective learning for remote learners including leveraging a variety of learning platforms and tools.
One of the challenges faced by at-risk students engaged in vocational training is the lack of the pre-requisite literacy and numeracy skills. Missing these skills can preclude students from effectively engaging with advanced technical content that relies on these foundational academic skills. To address this challenge, IYF incorporated contextualized instruction in literacy and numeracy skills into technical curricula. By embedding remedial skills within technical and vocational courses, students have a chance to learn and refresh these foundational skills in an applied context.
IYF has found that when students learn academic skills in an applied context, they are more likely to retain the skills because they see the application in a real-world context. In a TVET system in Mexico, IYF successfully incorporated contextualized math concepts into a clean energy generation curriculum. Similarly, we incorporated basic literacy training into the Google IT Support Certificate program, equipping more opportunity youth to successfully complete the certificate.
The My Career, My Future curriculum prepares students to make decisions about their program of study and facilitates degree program changes based on analysis of labor market opportunities along with their strengths and interests. The curriculum has a strong gender focus and encourages students to critically reflect on the impact of traditional gender roles on their career choices.
When incorporated into formal education systems, IYF intentionally places the curriculum BEFORE young people must take or confirm decisions about what they will study, empowering them to take decisions assertively. Many public schools do have career guidance but it is often divorced from information about the local context and doesn´t lead to meaningful decision making.
We also know that inundating young people with labor market information is not productive. Instead, through a structured curriculum and active learning methodology, we start by engaging youth where they are, guiding them to reflect on their interests, values and skills. Then we help them to understand their context, through labor market information and information about career ladders, in order to chart their path towards their goals.
The course concludes with an opportunity to change or confirm their degree program, with school staff on hand to facilitate the transition. In Nuevo Leon, Mexico where annually over 10,000 students participate in the My Career, My Future career orientation curriculum and employment data access strategy, IYF was able to document positive trends related to degree program changes. The majority of the degree program changes were into degree programs with high earning potential, and young women abandoned low earning degree programs that conformed to traditional gender roles.
The Connected Job Placement Program, Connected, is an IYF initiative that brings together more than 15 years of contributions to improving the employability of opportunity youth. It builds on the great achievements of widely recognized initiatives, such as the entra21 and NEO programs, which were developed in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and other partners.
It aims to provide information, guidelines and tools for designing and implementing job placement services that increase opportunities for the social integration and job placement of opportunity youth. This in turn contributes to the achievement of economic and social development goals by connecting labor market opportunities with human resource capacity.
The systemic approach proposed in this program aims to identify the interrelationships between young people and the different key actors in their environment in terms of employability; to recognize and understand social, cultural and structural factors that facilitate or hinder young people’s entry into decent work; and to assess the networks and support services that these young people require to enhance their employability.
Over the last 10 years, job placement has been the subject of a steep learning curve, particularly for employment training programs (second chance programs) and for social organizations working with young people. We hope that these organizations, and those that already have experience, will draw useful concepts and tools from the Connected program to strengthen the skills of the professionals responsible for managing the job placement of the young people with whom they work. Our understanding of job placement is based on a comprehensive and inclusive approach, which recognizes that youth employability issues should encompass the personal, social and cultural factors that impact young people’s employability. This therefore requires an integrated approach that builds collaborative partnerships with other actors in the employability ecosystem, in order to design coordinated strategies and support services that will lead to satisfactory labor market entry and social integration.
The systemic approach proposed in the Connected program helps us understand that in order to effectively link opportunity youth’s employment needs to job opportunities requires us to acknowledge that youth are not wholly responsible for their employability. Rather, we should consider how employment is generated today, the technical and personal skills and requirements needed to obtain and retain jobs, and the social and cultural conditions that influence the development of fair and inclusive labor relationships.
Systems Change Tools and Approaches
For young people to thrive, the systems surrounding them must be relevant, inclusive, and responsive to their real aspirations, challenges, and needs. Making systems more youth inclusive means recognizing how local systems impact youth and building this understanding into program design, management, and learning. With our deep experience in systems change work, IYF has developed and refined myriad tools and approaches to effect systemic change.
This tool helps program designers assess the potential of effecting change in different organizations within a larger system, using three measurement criteria: relevance (of the system to target population), demand (from system actors for a solution that would benefit the target population), feasibility & risk (for implementers to facilitate change within the system).
Knowing where stakeholders stand in relation to an initiative and to each other helps navigate complex political landscapes towards changing organizational behavior. The first step in any systems change initiative is to figure out who the important players are and where they stand relative to program goals.
IYF developed a set of Power Analysis tools to map stakeholders' influence and track consensus across the ecosystem to ensure projects keep moving forward. These tools can be updated throughout the project lifecycle to capture changing landscapes.
Once key actors have been identified, IYF conducts an intensive analysis of the actors' incentive structure as well as the risks and opportunities the initiative could represent for them. This helps to identify ways to move key actors toward supporting the initiative or to determine whether changes in incentives are feasible.
The Incentive Table helps to identify ways to move key actors toward supporting the initiative or to neutralize their opposition.
Learn more about IYF's approach to working within existing incentive structures in this video featuring IYF's LAC Technical Director, Liz Vance.
The data currently available about young people often does not tell a complete story about their aspirations, expectations, and lived experiences. IYF’s Interactive Youth Focus Group protocol is one way in which young people’s ideas and perspectives guide program design. This workshop allows program designers to learn directly from young people about their aspirations, opportunities, expectations, and situations. The workshop focuses on six critical questions:
- What are the main aspirations and concerns of young people?
- What are the risk factors faced by young people?
- What are the most common strategies that they have seen in the past among their peers to address risk factors?
- What are the education and work expectations for young people from the perspective of their families and communities, as well as their own?
- What are the transition points for young people?
- What are the situations of violence experienced by Opportunity Youth and how do they affect their life projects?
IYF leverages PIFs to jump-start transformations to organizational behaviors. When program goals focus on changing organizational behaviors a critical first step is to pilot the new organizational behavior in situ.
For example, to encourage the adoption of a particular curriculum within a TVET system, a critical first step is to develop and offer a curriculum aligned with the critical skills of a given sector. This process helps IYF determine what is required in terms of changes to roles, rules, routines, resources, relationships, and results in order to sustain the behavior over time.
Given that for many organizations budgets are defined on an annual basis—in the case of our example: curriculum development, teacher training, and materials—seed funding is often required to overcome institutional inertia and create momentum. This leads to early program wins and extends the possibility to pilot innovations quickly while providing a period of listening and revisions in coordination with relevant stakeholders.
This is where a PIF comes into play. Rather than simply funding the missing budget lines—either through grants, contracts, or in-kind support—to access resources, the PIF mechanism requires that implementing partners:
- identify behavior change indicators and targets, and
- commit to changing the required roles, rules, routines, resources, and relationships required to sustain the changed behavior over time.
For more information on any of IYF's Tools and Approaches, contact Pia Saunders Campbell, Director of Assets, Strategy, & Knowledge.