This article was written by Suzy Geppert, former SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Partnerships Field Specialist.
We often ask ourselves: How we can create a strong foundation for youth development? What should the structure look like? How should it operate? How should it be maintained? What is the best stimulation for growth? 4-H offers youth and communities an opportunity to address all of these questions through Youth and Community Learning Partnerships.
The Harvard Family Research Project discussed the importance of youth and community partnerships in a document titled Partnerships for Learning: Community Support for Youth Success written by Erin Harris and Shani Wilkes in January 2013. The research focused on the shift away from the traditional public education model in which schools focus primarily on providing youth with a solid foundation in academics to a “learning community” model with a comprehensive approach. This model brings key players to the table; families, school administrators, community-based organizations, healthcare providers, government agencies, business and industry leaders, and many other institutions. The learning community partners work together to support the children’s development and reduce barriers to their overall success.
As we look towards our future in 4-H Youth Program development, it is important that we consider these findings as they will play an integral role towards our mission mandate success through the eight essential elements by creating the perfect combination for successful community partnerships. I encourage you to consider the following strategies listed in the Harvard Family Research Project as you develop successful and sustainable partnerships with your local schools and communities:
- Shared vision of learning: Partners have a common understanding of goals and resources needed to support a child’s learning for a successful outcome.
- Shared leadership and governance: Partners work together to have an equal say in the efforts used to support children, families, and communities.
- Complementary partnerships: Partners share complimentary skills and areas of expertise to develop a comprehensive learning support system.
- Effective communication: Partners keep lines of communication open to ensure that they are aligning their activities and working collaboratively with one another.
- Regular and consistent sharing of information about youth progress: Partners have access to data that can help them to understand and better serve the youth.
- Family engagement: Families are allowed to serve as key partners in addressing conditions and environments where children learn and grow.
- Collaborative staffing models: Schools and community organizations create staffing structures that intentionally blend roles across partners so that staff may work in multiple settings to provide adequate support.
Developing successful partnerships starts with a shared vision and an understanding of the importance of seeing community partners as assets to the overall development of youth. It is essential for community partners interested in collaborating with schools to respect the school’s existing vision and be willing to work with the school to create a partnership structure that will work for everyone in order to provide valuable learning experiences for our youth.
For more information, see Havard University's Partnerships for Learning: Community Support for Youth Success publication.
Contact SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Partnerships Field Specialist Suzy Geppert if you are interested in exploring the possibilities involved in creating a community learning model for the youth in your area.
- Harris, E. & Wikes, S. (January 2013). Partnerships for learning: community support for youth success. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.