One Best Way to Make A Difference; Leveraging Community Development

intentional practices mission. vision. values oversight and accountability: financial and legal roles and responsibilities Nov 21, 2022
Leveraging Community Development


In a recent blog, we looked at community development as a primary focus and priority for not-for-profit agencies.


Essentially, most of the overarching concerns and issues that we identify in our communities cannot be addressed alone. They are just too complex and too multi-faceted. In order to make a difference, and have an impact, we need to coordinate, strategize and leverage our unique expertise and resources in concert with similar organizations.


Too often we exert enormous energy in our own silo, almost oblivious to the related work of others. And when we do see what others are doing, we are, more often than not, appreciative but not doing the important work of coordinating and identifying overlaps and gaps.


Let’s take one example, starting at the “30,000 feet” level.


Many of our agencies provide programs and services for youth – in the arts, in schools, in social programs, in health and support services, in literacy and in libraries. But we don’t usually take a step back and, again in concert with other players, examine what is needed overall and how we fit and work together.


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The Search Institute has undertaken research to identify the developmental assets required for youth across a community.


Their framework is offered here as but one example, for one demographic, of how we might start to look at community needs, and our role, in a different way.


Even if you don’t work with youth, take a look, as it provides an interesting and important approach to community development work.


And if you do work with youth, where do you fit? Where do others fit? How do you know? How do you work together other than through informal networks?


Bear with us as we provide the full verbatim list of assets.


The Search Institute identified 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to succeed. Half of the assets focus on the relationships and opportunities they need in their families, schools, and communities (external assets). The remaining assets focus on the social-emotional strengths, values, and commitments that are nurtured within young people (internal assets).


External Assets Young People Need to Succeed

The supports, opportunities, and relationships young people need across all aspects of their lives.



Young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate, and accept them.

  • Family support—Family life provides high levels of love and support.
  • Positive family communication—Young person and their parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek parent(s) advice and counsel.
  • Other adult relationships—Young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
  • Caring neighborhood—Young person experiences caring neighbors.
  • Caring school climate—School provides a caring, encouraging environment.
  • Parent involvement in schooling—Parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.



Young people need to feel valued and valuable. This happens when youth feel safe and respected.

  • Community values youth—Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
  • Youth as resources—Young people are given useful roles in the community.
  • Service to others—Young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
  • Safety—Young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood.


Boundaries and Expectations

Young people need clear rules, consistent consequences for breaking rules, and encouragement to do their best.

  • Family boundaries—Family has clear rules and consequences, and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.
  • School boundaries—School provides clear rules and consequences.
  • Neighborhood boundaries—Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.
  • Adult role models—Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
  • Positive peer influence—Young person’s best friends model responsible behavior.
  • High expectations—Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.


Constructive Use of Time

Young people need opportunities—outside of school—to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults.

  • Creative activities—Young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
  • Youth programs—Young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.
  • Religious community—Young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
  • Time at home—Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do,” two or fewer nights per week.


Internal Assets Young People Need to Succeed

The personal skills, commitments, and values they need to make good choices, take responsibility for their own lives, and be independent and fulfilled.


Commitment to Learning

Young people need a sense of the lasting importance of learning and a belief in their own abilities.

  • Achievement motivation—Young person is motivated to do well in school.
  • School engagement—Young person is actively engaged in learning.
  • Homework—Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
  • Bonding to school—Young person cares about their school.
  • Reading for pleasure—Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.


Positive Values

Young people need to develop strong guiding values or principles to help them make healthy life choices.

  • Caring—Young person places high value on helping other people.
  • Equality and social justice—Young person places a high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
  • Integrity—Young person acts on convictions and stands up for their beliefs.
  • Honesty—Young person “tells the truth even when it is not easy.”
  • Responsibility—Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
  • Restraint—Young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.


Social Competencies

Young people need the skills to interact effectively with others, to make difficult decisions, and to cope with new situations.

  • Planning and decision-making—Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
  • Interpersonal competence—Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
  • Cultural competence—Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
  • Resistance skills— Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
  • Peaceful conflict resolution—Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.


Positive Identity

Young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel that they have control over the things that happen to them.

  • Personal power—Young person feels they have control over “things that happen to me.”
  • Self-esteem—Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
  • Sense of purpose—Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
  • Positive view of personal future—Young person is optimistic about their personal future.


The reality is that youth do better in school and in society, and as healthy, engaged and engaging citizens, with more community assets. We cannot afford to duplicate the work of others and leave gaps in service provision and delivery.


Imagine taking this approach to your target group or target issue.


The Search Institute provides many more completed studies and research publications, plus tools and services to support your asset-building efforts

You can also download a printable version of the Developmental Assets® Framework, broken down by age-specific adaptations. It is available in many languages.




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