Current Projects

Search Institute partners with foundations, corporations, national organizations, and others to undertake a wide range of research, development, and improvement projects in areas of mutual strategic interest. Below are selected current projects.

Bank It: Real-World Financial Education
Capital One

Bank It is a collaboration between Capital One and Search Institute to offer real-world financial education that helps children, teens, and parents to understand, talk about, and manage money so they can live out their priorities and values in everyday life. It integrates financial literacy and capability with a focus on building the developmental assets that contribute to responsible money management. The website includes information for parents and teens as well as numerous ready-to-use workshops for youth and parents. Visit Bank It to access and use this free resource.

Change Fellows

In 2015, Youthprise brought together ten young leaders committed to affecting positive change in their communities. These young people spent a year together learning, sharing ideas, and honing plans to achieve community change goals. Search Institute partnered with Youthprise to document the experience of the Change Fellows through innovative methods. Through this partnership, Search Institute aims to understand the impact of the Change Fellows experience on participants, including how their behaviors, skills, and ideas evolved during the year, to inform program recommendations for upcoming cohorts.

The Effect of Developmental Relationships on Middle School Students’ Academic Trajectories
The Spencer Foundation

Search Institute has been awarded a grant by the Spencer Foundation to study the role of student-teacher developmental relationships in promoting academic achievement and reducing educational inequity. This study will investigate whether levels of motivation and perseverance—and changes in them over time—ease achievement inequities for low-income students and students of color who, demographically, are at the greatest risk of not pursuing post-secondary studies. Drawing on survey data, as well as credit-earning, test score, and GPA data, the study will generate implications for how schools might improve student motivation and post-secondary enrollment, particularly for low-income students and students of color, through the cost-effective means of strengthening students’ developmental relationships with teachers. This two-year longitudinal study is a partnership between Search Institute and the Bloomington Public School District in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Opportunity Reboot: Social and Emotional Learning in Workforce Development
Social Innovation Fund

Opportunity Reboot is a collaborative project with Youthprise, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota. This project operates with the ideology that building capacity of workforce readiness and youth development organizations to equip young people with the academic, technical, and social-emotional skills and social capital necessary for economic independence will enhance the value and impact of existing programs that focus in any one of these domains. Opportunity Reboot specifically focuses on career pathway approaches targeting "opportunity youth" throughout the state of Minnesota. Opportunity youth are young people ages 14 to 24 that are either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, or disconnected from school and work.

ParentFurther and Keep Connected
The Altria Group

ParentFurther is a practical, research-based web resource for families and those who work with them that emphasizes relationship- and asset-based strategies for dealing with the everyday challenges of parenting. It covers dozens of topics that are relevant to families using an assessment tool and planning process that empowers families to take concrete steps to prepare their young people for a positive future.

Search Institute is also developing a new parent engagement program called Keep Connected that helps parents navigate the transition to the teen years. The program will be designed for schools and other organizations to partner with parents in building developmental relationships. It will focus on enhancing their relationships with their kids as they enter the middle school years.

Peer Relationships
The Esther Ting Foundation

Search Institute is partnering with Dr. Barbara Varenhorst to study and strengthen the relationships in young people’s lives. Dr. Varenhorst, a former Search Institute board member, began the peer helping movement in the 1960s as a school counselor in Palo Alto, California.

With the support of the Esther Ting Foundation, Search Institute has completed a qualitative phase involving youth focus groups and staff interviews at four peer program sites across the United States to learn more about the role of positive peer relationships and document their impact. The learning from this phase is informing a next phase of work to develop tools and services for schools and programs to use to enhance peer relationships, and measure impact.

The REACH Project
Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, the Otto Bremer Foundation, and the Schulze Family Foundation

Search Institute has developed a broad framework for strengthening academic motivation, called the REACH Framework. There are five components in the framework, each of which is summarized by a letter in the acronym REACH: Relationships, Effort, Aspirations, Cognition, and Heart. These areas have been shown to contribute to improvements in grades and other important educational outcomes. Based upon research conducted by scholars at Search Institute and elsewhere, tools and techniques related to each component of the REACH Framework are currently being developed and tested in applied studies in four diverse middle schools across Minnesota.

Relational Leadership
Shinnyo-en Foundation

Search Institute is partnering with the Shinnyo-en Foundation to conduct a study of youth experiences in Shinnyo-en temple and foundation activities. The study is designed to help strengthen leadership development opportunities for Shinnyo-en youth and junior youth. Search Institute staff will conduct interviews, focus groups and observations to learn more about how Shinnyo-en youth view leadership and what is needed to support Shinnyo-en youth to become leaders for peace in their communities. Search Institute will also co-create a customized leadership development training with Shinnyo-en youth and junior youth as part of the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s Infinite Paths to Peace initiative.

Relationships and Positive Youth Development in the Student Conservation Association
Student Conservation Association

SCA has engaged Search Institute to partner in building the organization’s capacity to intentionally and consistently produce and measure priority youth development outcomes in addition to their conservation goals. This work includes designing, testing, and refining developmentally- and contextually-sensitive strategies, measures, and self-assessment tools. SCA’s mission is to “build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities.”

The Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project
John Templeton Foundation

This collaborative research project with West Virginia University and University of Rochester aims to understand how young people grow into civically minded adults who positively contribute to their communities, help others around them, and participate in solving social issues. This project tests the idea that good citizenship is rooted in three key elements: character strengths (e.g., generosity, responsibility), developmental competencies (e.g., emotion regulation, effective decision-making) and supportive contexts (e.g., school, family, peer group, and community settings). We are particularly interested in understanding how these three elements intersect similarly and differently in elementary-, middle school-, and high school-aged youth. For project results, tools, and information, visit the project website at:

SPARK: Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success
Blandin Foundation

Search Institute is providing technical support for data collection and utilization to the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success, which is developing a comprehensive, holistic pathway for success for all students from cradle to career in this rural area of northern Minnesota. Search Institute is working with the residents and other leaders in the initiative to plan and implement an integrated data collection and data-guided learning and mobilization strategy to support the multi-sector collaboration.

World Vision International Asset-Building Collaboration
World Vision International

This collaboration seeks to integrate a holistic, asset-based approach to child development into World Vision’s work with vulnerable children, youth, and families around the world. A core strategy is to culturally adapt and translate the Developmental Assets Profile as a primary measure of subjective child well-being that can be consistently used across nations and program areas.

Youth Asset Development Initiative
The Salvation Army

Search Institute provides training, technical assistance, and evaluation support to the Salvation Army’s strategies to integrate youth development principles and practices into its network of Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers across the United States. This work includes conducting a qualitative impact study at four sites to understand young people’s experiences with the Youth Development Asset Initiative (YADI) and creating a retrospective survey to be piloted in several Kroc Centers.

Youth In Action
Save the Children Canada, with support from the MasterCard Foundation

Youth in Action is a six-year project designed to develop work or livelihood readiness skills in rural, out-of-school youth in five African countries: Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Uganda. The project targets about 40,000 youth across the countries and aims to improve the socio-economic status of youth aged 12-18 through a learning phase consisting of a literacy, numeracy, financial literacy, business training, and Developmental Assets and through an action phase where youth select a pathway to further their education, enter an apprenticeship, or launch a group or individual enterprise. The project is implemented by local partners in each country, and supported by Search Institute in the tracking of developmental and livelihood assets through the use of the Developmental Assets Profile and other measures.