Good Youth
Work Practices

Evidence-based strategies and approaches to support young people through youth programs

Find the evidence for your youth program!

Our team has developed over 40 Evidence Briefs to support youth programs. Each brief outlines evidence-informed practices that can be integrated into program design, development, and evaluation.

SIX GOOD YOUTH WORK PRACTICES

In our work with youth programs across Ontario, we identify, assess, and evaluate practices that are most effective for improving youth wellbeing. By drawing on evidence from multiple sources within research, youth work practice, and lived experience, we have consistently discovered these six good youth work practices to be impactful. These strategies and approaches to working with young people can be applied to different populations in a variety of contexts.

01.

Centre youth voice and lived experience.

Youth can meaningfully participate when they are engaged as experts and decision-makers. 

Build trust by recognizing, respecting, and valuing the experiences and contributions of young people.

02.

Use strength-based approaches.

Engage with youth in a humanizing, empowering way. Understand the ‘problems’ they face as connected to broader social issues, where the deficit is located in society and social structures, not in youth themselves.

Recognize young people’s strengths and assets, including agency, resilience, and resourcefulness.

03.

Cultivate a sense of belonging.

Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach when developing welcoming, safe, accessible, and inclusive spaces.

Reduce barriers to programs and services by considering the challenges that youth with intersecting identities may face, and provide appropriate supports and accommodations.

04.

Create opportunities for peer connection.

Facilitate spaces for youth to support each other. Consider offering peer mentorship or tutoring opportunities to build skills and encourage leadership.

Positive peer engagement can build a sense of community, allowing young people to feel seen and connected to others who share similar experiences.

05.

Engage networks of support.

Find ways to engage with a young person’s support networks, like parents or other caregivers, family members, community leaders or other professionals, such as teachers or support workers. 

Their involvement can be critical to improving outcomes for youth, as can facilitating positive bonds and supportive relationships. Remember this may look different depending on the unique circumstances of each young person.

06.

Connect the personal to the political.

Reflect on your actions and engage in a process of ongoing learning that enables you to surface and understand existing power dynamics, including your own privilege, biases, and assumptions.

Adopt a critical reflective practice and consider how you can address issues at both the micro and macro levels in your work with young people.

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