3 Tactical Tips to Build a Successful Youth Program

Youth Workers!

Are you having a hard time squeezing another drop of time out of your schedule to develop an effective youth program for your school, organization or community? Most people who work with youth are passionate about the hands-on work with the participants and not necessarily the details of program development. If you are one of these people, it is probably hard to find time to build a successful program from scratch, and you probably find that despite your best intentions it continues to slide down your list of priorities. Understandably so, because these two activities require different competencies and passions, and if you are good at what you do you are probably very busy.

Nevertheless, if your many responsibilities include working with youth in a counseling, therapeutic or mentoring capacity, you may find yourself faced with this dilemma: how can you a) find time to develop a solid program; and b) get motivated to move it up your list of priorities? I hope the tips below will help you get started.

My Story: For the past 6 years we have been building and refining a successful leadership program to build life success for girls (www.SurgeLeadership.org). The program started as a small community pilot and has become a published curriculum and certification training program ready for other communities or organizations to implement. It has been very rewarding to experience the benefits to the participants and the communities, but it took years of planning, design, development and testing. Here are three tips I have found useful to jump-start program development. I hope they help you with your own program development.

3 Tactical Tips:

  1. Brainstorm Big & Focus Small. When we’re passionate about doing something, we usually have so many great ideas it may seem overwhelming to get started. That’s when it can be really easy to watch it slide down the priority list. It’s great to have a multitude of ideas. Go ahead and brainstorm as big as you can imagine! If you’re passionate about it, you will probably find yourself very motivated once you capture all of those ideas on paper. After that, try to cut them up and group the ideas into themes. Then pick one theme to focus on and save the others for later development. This gives you a wealth of ideas to expand when it’s appropriate, and it makes for a more manageable and achievable project.
  2. Build an Alliance. Face it. You usually can’t do this alone. Understand who your stakeholders and supporters are. When we train on the SURGE program, we spend a little time on this to make sure that when you’re ready to engage you know who needs to be involved at what stage. There are specific categories that we use, but suffice it to say you will be far ahead if you think about these people before you get too far into your planning.
  3. Get to the W’s. Consider your reasons for developing a program. Answer these questions: Why is this important? Who will benefit? What is an effective time-frame; How fast should this program be available for your intended participants? How much time do I really have? Is it reasonable to develop and implement a solid program fast enough for the content to be relevant and effective? Where can I find help; Does it make more sense to develop something from scratch or to implement a researched and tested program? If you are passionate about the development, you will know based on your ability to move things forward within a reasonable time-frame.

I hope this helps you to evaluate your passion and motivation to embark on program development. If you would like more information on program development, please join us for a free 30 min. webinar “Building Life Success for Girls”.  We will have more information on building a successful program and also a quick overview of The SURGE Youth Leadership Program and Certification Training. Register for the free webinar right away: The first 20 registrants will also receive a free Core Values Assessment and 30 minute debrief. This assessment will help you assess your own strengths and passions, and might explain why some tasks seem hard to push up on your list of priorities. It is a valuable tool that is perfect to help students with career-planning and general self-awareness. Sign up for the webinar and you can sample this powerful tool for free and assess whether it would be a good fit for your program.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I love to connect with people who do good work and are passionate about building life success for youth.

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