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   Growth, next steps, acceleration, expansion, all of these are words we use to convey the need for our programs to continue to get better. This concept of getting better isn’t some arbitrary statement but one that should be deeply grounded in your programs mission and vision. There should be a drive to be better at engaging youth, better at recruiting quality staff, and better at  impacting your communities.

Are you serving the youth in your communities to the best of your ability?

   This simply question should continue to drive your organizations steps in evaluation and improvement. From this questions stems conversations about community partnerships, family connections, funding, staffing, mission, vision and what your best might look like.

   One of the tools that we use to evaluate our programming is a SWOT analysis. We reflect on the past few months to year and create a table that looks at our Strengths, Weaknesses, our Opportunities and the Threats to our success. This exercise will be able to help lead your discussion on what has been working to make you successful but also allows you to identify ways to improve. This strategic planning tool has led to new initiatives, new conversations and partnerships that allow our youth to thrive.

   A major step to answer the question of serving youth in your community should be in asking youth themselves. Incorporating youth voice and perspective into any youth organization is vital in the evaluation and improvement of a youth program. Many organizations proclaim to be for youth voice, but simply err on a side of youth tokenism where they do not have any real say or power in the programming. If youth are the ones we are hoping to impact the most, shouldn’t they have a voice in how to do that best? From creating youth panels, youth evaluations, or more natural conversations with stakeholders (directors, community members, program directors) are all ways to incorporate youth voice.

   The youth that we work with deserve our best. By creating systems that allow for us to evaluate and improve the programs we work in we position ourselves to maximize our impact.

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