The Wisdom of Youth by Richard Chase

Richard Chase
Richard Chase

I’m Richard Chase. Greetings from Wilder Research in St. Paul, where I have been involved in youth-focused evaluations for about 35 years.

When it comes to youth programs, we’ve known for a long time that successful programs both prevent problems and promote development. Consequently, I use the risk and protective factor framework for evaluating youth development programs.

In my work with culturally specific youth development programs, I have viewed and measured culture as a protective factor. Research presented at the 2000 AEA conference asserted that cultural identity may serve as a buffer against risks, be a source of strength, and amplify the positive effects of other protective factors.

Hot Tip: Select outcomes measures that are reasonable for the program

I urge youth programs to not over-promise results. Instead, I remind them that their activities take place in the contexts of families, schools, and neighborhoods. Youth programs can only do so much, and the keys to reducing negative behavior and promoting positive behavior must also take into account ways to bolster positive people, places, and opportunities that surround youth. If the schools are failing to teach youth reading and math during the 8 hour school day, can the after-school program youth workers reasonably be expected to increase test scores or graduation rates in 2 hours at the end of the day?

Cool trick: Focus on assets

In this new era of return on investment (ROI) mania, of course the outcomes with the biggest “bang for the buck” come from reducing expensive downstream interventions, especially incarceration (which is not a great message or marketing tool for youth engagement: “Come to our program and you’ll be more likely to stay out of prison over the next 40 years.”) To address this concern, I recently wrote an article for a local paper about the importance of using an asset-based (vs. deficit-focused) lens when evaluating youth programs.

Lesson Learned: Youth may be more engaged than they seem

Across my career, using Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR), I have included youth in the development of their program’s logic model and in defining what outcomes are reasonable to achieve given the time and resources. I also have engaged youth in deciding what evidence is credible to them, and to learn more about how the opportunities and activities provided by the program have prevented or reduced risks and increased skills and assets.

This point can be illustrated with a career highlight of mine. A few days after an American Indian youth program participatory logic modeling session, I encountered one of the youth from the program. Actually, he was mostly sullen and a non-participating youth. He was on a smoke break outside, leaning against the building. At first glance, he fit the part of the menacing youth who would be saved by the program from a future trip to prison. As I entered the building, I was greeted by his friendly, stereotype-smashing quip, “Nice logic model yesterday, Dr. Chase.”

“When it comes to youth programs, we’ve known for a long time that successful programs both prevent problems and promote development.”

-Richard Chase

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2 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Youth by Richard Chase”

  1. I was really interested in the resource you posted about the Nez Perce culture being a buffer against youth risk factors and a source of positive strength, and I wonder if it is partially because of the more isolated nature of First Nations communities. I have worked as a teacher in remote First Nations communities (fly in only), and found a study from Iceland that makes that same connection.

    As a society, Iceland decided to try and tackle youth programming in a multi-pronged approach, by giving a curfew to children, involving parents, creating central centers for youth programming and giving a subsidy to all parents so that their children can take part in after school activities. As a society, the Icelandic people decided that they were losing their children to alcohol and drugs and spent time promoting adolescent well-being based on the idea that if children had better things to do with their time, as well as better connections with their parents and communities they would not turn to drugs and alcohol to replace the feelings that they had.

    Since you have been working with First Nations in logic modeling, I wonder if this ongoing study might be of use for you, as well as of interest to the youth involved, and I also wonder what those youth you’re working with might think of the Icelandic solution. Thank you very much for this post, I found it very interesting and it’s going to give me some reflecting to do about my own practice in teaching.

    Icelandic Study: file:///home/chronos/u-d5b6e9bcb9d32952846ad81eb046119220b56458/MyFiles/Downloads/HealthPromot.Int.-2009-Sigfusdottir-16-25.pdf

  2. I was really interested in the resource you posted about the Nez Perce culture being a buffer against youth risk factors and a source of positive strength, and I wonder if it is partially because of the more isolated nature of First Nations communities. I have worked as a teacher in remote First Nations communities (fly in only), and found a study from Iceland that makes that same connection.

    As a society, Iceland decided to try and tackle youth programming in a multi-pronged approach, by giving a curfew to children, involving parents, creating central centers for youth programming and giving a subsidy to all parents so that their children can take part in after school activities. As a society, the Icelandic people decided that they were losing their children to alcohol and drugs and spent time promoting adolescent well-being based on the idea that if children had better things to do with their time, as well as better connections with their parents and communities they would not turn to drugs and alcohol to replace the feelings that they had.

    Since you have been working with First Nations in logic modeling, I wonder if this ongoing study might be of use for you, as well as of interest to the youth involved, and I also wonder what those youth you’re working with might think of the Icelandic solution. Thank you very much for this post, I found it very interesting and it’s going to give me some reflecting to do about my own practice in teaching.

    Icelandic Study:
    file:///home/chronos/u-d5b6e9bcb9d32952846ad81eb046119220b56458/MyFiles/Downloads/HealthPromot.Int.-2009-Sigfusdottir-16-25.pdf

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