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The Positive Youth Development Approach: 3 Things to Know

By Danielle Tuft, CCASA Blogger

Youth are an important and integral part of our communities, organizations, and programming. To best engage them and provide relevant and culturally responsive programming and services, it is important to keep youth central to all aspects of work within an organization.

The Positive Youth Development (PYD) Approach is a particularly effective way in which to do this. Positive youth development “incorporates the development of skills, opportunities and authentic relationships into programs, practices, and policies”.[i] According to the PYD Factsheet developed by Colorado 9to25, this approach guides communities and organizations as they develop services and opportunities so that all youth can be engaged and reach their full potential. [ii]

Colorado 9to25 (CO9to25), a network of youth and adults working in partnership to build a coordinated and comprehensive youth system, has identified 5 principles that guide the Positive Youth Development Approach. These principles (strengths-based, inclusive, engages youth as partners, collaborative, and sustainable) uniquely depict youth as resources and assets, focusing on the insight and skills they can bring to the table. Through this, the PYD Approach is able to reduce risk factors and promote protective factors concurrently.[iii]

It is easy to spend hours exploring the intricacies of PYD, but here 3 quick things to know about PYD:


You do not have to be a direct service organization to use this approach:

PYD is not just an approach for organizations that provide direct services or exclusively serve youth. It is an approach that can be utilized by a variety of organizations, agencies, and community entities including schools, committees, and leadership.

For example, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has actively utilized this approach through various methods and practices, including the development of a youth advisor position held by a young person. This position represents the PYD approach by creating an inclusive space for shared youth-adult decision making and youth partnership at CDPHE.


PYD is a multi level approach:

The Positive Youth Development Approach serves as a foundation and lens for all aspects of work engaged within a given organization.

It goes beyond involving youth in a single organizational activity but instead focuses on creating sustainable opportunities for youth to grow and advocate in partnership with adults.[iv] This happens on several levels and can range from youth feedback on direct programming to employing youth on organizational boards and committees.

There is no one way to implement PYD:

PYD is an approach that enhances opportunities for youth engagement, skill development, and youth-adult partnerships. While there is guidance in respect to how to best implement the approach, PYD in practice will look very different between organizations largely based on the specific involvement and needs of the young people engaged within the community.

As the youth adviser for the Children, Youth, Families Branch at CDPHE, Nkem Nwankwo regularly uses the PYD approach in “setting the parameters and focus” of his work. Recognizing the fluidity of the PYD approach, Nkem explains that PYD is “successful because it utilizes best practices and allows the individual or organization to tailor it to their needs”.[v]


If you are interested in exploring additional practical ways to utilize PYD, please join the Sexual Violence Prevention Unit on their upcoming webinar “Engaging Youth: Applying the Positive Youth Development Approach to All Aspects of Your Work” on July 30th from 11am – 12pm MST. Please register at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9TH99C3.


[i] Positive Youth Development Fact Sheet. Colorado 9 to 25. Web. 15 July 2015. http://co9to25.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/PYD_FactSheet.pdf

[ii] Positive Youth Development Fact Sheet. Colorado 9 to 25. Web. 15 July 2015. http://co9to25.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/PYD_FactSheet.pdf

[iii] Colorado 9 to 25 Website. 15 July 2015. http://co9to25.org/

[iv] Nwankwo, Nkem. Personal Email Interview. 13 July 2015.

[v] Nwankwo, Nkem. Personal Email Interview. 13 July 2015.

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