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The Ministry of Youth Development is leading a process to review the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa (YDSA), in collaboration with Ara Taiohi and Vodafone NZ Foundation, and supported by the Centre for Social Impact and J R McKenzie Trust. 

To inform this collaborative work, CSI has completed a comprehensive evidence review that looks at the current youth development ‘ecosystem’, evidence of effective practice, and opportunities to review and strengthen the YDSA.

Kat Dawnier, CSI lead on the research work, explained that the review has further scope to inform sector practice and Government policy.

The evidence in this review identifies good practice approaches to youth development – whether this be service and programme design, or larger-scale strategy and policy design.
— Kat Dawnier

“It is clear that youth wellbeing outcomes can be enhanced when youth development is strengths-based, supports young people to participate, and considers appropriate cultural frameworks. Understanding and responding to this provides the basis for positive impact across sectors.”

The evidence review includes examples of good practice from across the youth development (community) sector, philanthropic sector and central Government. Such examples show strong alignment with the six principles of effective youth development within the YDSA. Research findings also highlight the extent to which the YDSA principles have been adopted and utilised by the youth development sector – informing, for example, youth work qualifications, the Code of Ethics for youth workers and a set of core competencies used by Korowai Tupu – Ara Taiohi’s professional membership organisation for youth workers.

Within the philanthropic sector, the review highlighted an established track record of strategic investment in youth-focused initiatives that align strongly with principles of effective youth development. “Important examples include the Māori and Pacific Education Initiative by Foundation North, NEXT Foundation’s investment in education practices, and the collaborative philanthropic leadership that established VOYCE Whakarongo Mai,” Kat says.

“To maximise impact in terms of youth wellbeing, philanthropic funders – and all investors – need to continue to prioritise funding to grantee organisations that demonstrate alignment with principles of effective youth development practice; and also consider how their own ways of working as funders can help to empower young people to participate in strategy design and decision-making.”

The evidence review – alongside other feedback collated from young people, youth organisations, and cross-sector stakeholders – will inform the Ministry of Youth Development’s next steps as it seeks to strengthen the YDSA. Alison Taylor, CSI Executive Director, highlights that the evidence collated by CSI, and the value of the collaborative partnership behind this work, will not only support the Ministry, but has wider potential for impact.

“The YDSA is an important framework that can continue to shape practice, policy and strategy in New Zealand. By utilising this evidence to strengthen the YDSA, Government also has a platform on which to consider its overall policy direction for young people. The timing of this work is important as Government focuses on the wellbeing of children and families. It is important that the unique needs and aspirations of young people are visible within this, and that the voices of young people help to shape these important policy conversations.”