«Prepared by: Kamara Jeffrey United Way Project Staff: Diane Dyson Kathy Gallagher-Ross Michelle Smith Ming-Young Tam Peter Alexander United Way ...»
Asset-Based Approach. Premise: successful policy interventions identify and build on individual and group strengths and skills, rather than emphasizing limitations. Policy responses aim for wider community change through positive social relationships and broad mobilization efforts.
Risk Prevention and Resiliency Approach. Premise: building an individual s resilience to specific dangers and threats can assist them in managing or coping with significant adversity or stress. Policies should counter specific dangers and threats, known as risk factors, which are strongly associated with negative outcomes. This approach builds resilience by developing assets in individuals, families and communities.
Key Features of Youth Policy Models
Table 1 summarizes the key elements of the reviewed policy models. We have indicated the type of policy response and the approaches to helping youth that influenced policy development in each jurisdiction. The policy models are analyzed based on consistency with the following
features identified by our research as being helpful to youth policy implementation:
What is a Youth Policy Framework ?
A policy framework is a statement by government that provides a rationale and philosophy to guide policy and program development and direct financial resources for a target population or aspect of government service. It often includes a vision and guiding principles and is generally written for a broad audience (BC Ministry for Children and Families, 2000).
Countries like Sweden, Estonia, and the Netherlands established national youth policies that link supports for young people to long-term national goals. The Commonwealth Youth Programme and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific have each produced youth policy formulation manuals to support countries in the process of developing these frameworks.
The Commonwealth Youth Programme (1990) defines a youth policy framework as:
A practical demonstration and declaration of the priority and directions that a country intends to give to the development of its young women and men. A [youth policy framework] specifically represents an inclusive statement that encapsulates the elements of vision, framework and realistic guidelines from which strategies and initiatives can be developed to facilitate meaningful youth participation and development.
Essentially, a youth policy framework (whether developed at the national, regional, or local level) is a model that aims to provide clarity around a government s long-term investment priorities and goals related to youth. It also helps with policy implementation by fostering strategic direction, consistency, and accountability.
Youth Policies vs. a Youth Policy Framework:What s the Difference?
Is it good enough to simply have a wide range of policies, programs, and services designed for youth? An examination of jurisdictions indicates that many of our governments already invest in policy initiatives that focus on youth. These initiatives commonly include financial investment strategies for the funding of youth programs or service coordination strategies to help with streamlining service delivery. So, does it really matter whether or not these investment strategies and service coordination tools are part of a framework ? What is the practical difference?
The answer may be that without a framework, the overall goals and impact of various initiatives isolated from each other perhaps even contradicting each other can be very hard to determine. On the other hand, helping youth within the context of a policy framework means that more than one domain at a time must taken into consideration. Additionally, we know how crucial it is that essential youth programs are sustained over the long-term; an outcomes-based framework has the advantage of being connected to a longer-term strategy with positive youth outcomes as the overall goal. This allows policy-makers to more easily plan funding and other investments over a longer period and evaluate for effectiveness.
Several jurisdictions face the serious problem of fragmentation and uneven service provision that can adversely affect youth and other vulnerable groups. In a valuable and fundamental analysis of this problem, Matthias (1997) and Hutchison and Charlesworth (2000) pointed out typical characteristics of child welfare systems in post-industrial societies. They found a series of isolated systems directed by different disciplines such as law, social work, medical science, politics and even economics. In this scenario, each isolated system or silo attempts to help the child or youth with reference to only one piece or some pieces of the puzzle.
Many youth face multiple barriers. For example, a parole officer may be unaware of a young person s learning disability. A health care provider may not appreciate the stresses a patient experiences because of racism. A newcomer may not feel comfortable discussing personal problems with someone from an unfamiliar cultural background. Even with substantial financial investments and the best intentions, can we reasonably expect service providers confined to these different domains to achieve the best results?
In order to achieve positive youth outcomes, youth issues need to be addressed holistically.
Research has confirmed this: comprehensive strategies linking national, regional and local levels can be more effective than single interventions for implementing youth-focused supports because they are tailored to the specific needs of particular groups and communities (Hardiman et al, 2004). Comprehensive youth policy frameworks explicitly demonstrate the distinctive and complementary roles of governments, non-governmental organizations, and youth groups in supporting successful youth development. Being based on common principles, these outcomesbased policy frameworks also have the potential to provide decreased duplication and improved alignment between policy, services, and funding (Peters, 1998). Unlike isolated policy initiatives, outcomes-based strategies can extend policies across departmental boundaries and among all service delivery partners, including stakeholders outside of government. This can help to build common understanding and support around our ultimate goal of positive youth outcomes.
We found four things that help youth policy models work better:
1. A shared vision for determining action
2. A strategy for measuring outcomes
3. Mechanisms for intergovernmental service coordination
4. Mechanisms for reviewing and realigning services based on the needs, aspirations, and expectations of youth 1. The youth policy provides a shared vision for determining action related to youth An effective population-based policy framework requires a statement of goals, broad outcomes, or objectives that set out what the policy is intended to achieve. This unifies all other supporting policy and program initiatives and assists stakeholders in determining action related to youth.
Without a shared actionable vision of the desired outcomes for youth, efforts to focus supports required from families, institutions, and communities result in increased fragmentation, frustration, and failure (Forum for Youth Investment, 2005). The following jurisdictions serve as useful
examples of frameworks with formal shared, actionable visions:
Victoria, Government drew on consultations to develop the overarching vision and guiding Australia principles that underpin the policy framework, Respect: The Government s Vision for Young People. The vision is related to youth living health and satisfying lives;
the guiding principles are respect, diversity, and partnerships.
The utility of a youth policy framework is improved greatly if broad goals or outcomes are supplemented with a strategy regarding how these outcomes are to be achieved and measured.
All agencies, departments, and organizations dealing with youth issues should use similar metrics and work toward the same overall goals. Stakeholders believed that policy documents that include explicit benchmarks are useful in providing clear targets against which to measure progress. Additionally, broad policy documents that are coupled with more specific action plans help to outline directives for attaining outcomes.
3. The policy or framework includes formal mechanisms for fostering intergovernmental service coordination The Auditor General of Canada has observed, more and more, government needs to manage initiatives that span two or more federal departments (Report of the Auditor General of Canada, 2000). Collaboration and cooperation among different governments must occur to eliminate duplication of effort and service, increase efficiency, and ensure consistent strong outcomes.
Comprehensive youth policy frameworks can ensure the establishment of institutional arrangements and procedures designed to integrate youth policy into federal, regional, and community planning, and assist in the coordination and funding of all related activities. Here are
Federal Youth Under the Federal Youth Coordination Act, funding priority is given to states Development that have already initiated an interagency coordination effort focused on youth, Council, U.S.A. and who demonstrate the inclusion of faith-based and community organizations in their coordination efforts.
4. The youth policy includes mechanisms for realigning or reviewing services based on the needs, aspirations, and expectations of youth Stakeholders noted that meaningful collaboration with various actors working with or representing young people is crucial. Effective youth policies include formal mechanisms to ensure that the recognition of, consultation with, and participation by young people and other stakeholders is ongoing. These mechanisms for ensuring youth voice may also be linked to the assessment of outcomes to ensure that youth policy and services remain relevant to the target population. In order to fully engage youth and other stakeholders in a participatory process it may be necessary to devote time and resources to designing and implementing creative strategies to include traditionally marginalized subpopulations of youth such as racialized youth, newcomer youth, young women, rural youth, and disabled youth.
Our review identified several challenges related to youth policy formulation, policy
implementation, and policy impact. We grouped the challenges we found under four themes:
1. Working in silos
2. Lack of overarching vision
3. Narrow mandate or target group
4. Defining youth in different ways 1. Working in Silos: Limited governmental coordination and collaboration As discussed above, the existence of isolated organizational systems or silos inhibits communication and coordination among these systems. Across different levels of government, lack of sufficient coordination often results in service duplication and unclear mandates.3 On a practical level, this means that youth-serving organizations and their communities must address systemic barriers such as complex funding structures and gaps in service delivery, based on varied criteria.
We recognize that factors such as degree of political will, organizational structure, and the availability of resources greatly influence the capacity for governmental coordination and collaboration. Another factor is the extent to which other ministries, departments, and orders of government are included in the policy development process, joint projects, and collaborations.
Do the youth policy models include formal mechanisms and procedures for managing ongoing communication and collaboration between ministries, orders of government, and agencies related
to youth? Not always. Here are some examples from among the jurisdictions we reviewed:
This is consistent with studies in public administration literature, which holds that lack of coordination in government occurs when more than one organization performs the same task (redundancy), no organization performs a necessary task (lacunae), and when policies with the same clients have different goals and eligibility requirements (incoherence). For example, see Peters (1998) and Lowndes and Skelcher (1998).
The lack of a formal youth-focused vision limits the ability of governments to pull services and programs together that place needs of youth at the forefront (Commonwealth Youth Programme, 1990). In the absence of an overarching vision based on common outcomes for youth, departments find it difficult to consult with each other to ensure overall coherence in strategy or direction. Staff and organizations may instead emphasize achievement of their own specific priorities, which may not align with desired social outcomes for the broader population. This has a direct impact on tangible social outcomes for youth and their communities, since youth experience service gaps when one part of the system is not able to work with another (United Way of Greater Toronto, 2008).
The existence of a formal policy framework with an overarching vision that emphasizes positive outcomes (as opposed to emphasis on only financial investments or improved processes) can help to mitigate the negative effects outlined above. The following are some examples of policy frameworks that have limited potential to impact the youth population as a whole because they have no formal declaration of guiding principles, desired outcomes, or a formal overarching vision for youth.