Developmental Communities

Preparing all young people to become thriving and contributing adults requires strengthening commitments and capacities of communities as a whole. Goals and actions must be aligned and mutually reinforcing across all aspects of community life so that communities themselves become developmentally rich contexts for growing up on a path to a hopeful, productive future.

Moving toward creating a developmentally attentive community is challenging, adaptive work. It requires more than strengthening developmental relationships within schools or programs. It requires engaging both the “grass tops” and the “grassroots” in a shared vision, shared goals, and shared accountability for youth success.

Building on its pioneering community work that began in the 1990s, Search Institute is launching new, focused research efforts to examine the factors that enhance and impede community-wide efforts to improve outcomes for all youth and the effective strategies needed to bring a community together, not just among organizations, but to include connections of kinship, friendship, ideology, and culture. These efforts all aim toward understanding and strengthening communities so that they become places that intentionally equip children and youth to be productive, thriving contributors to society.

Learn more about our work with Community Engagement >>

Priority Research Questions

Search Institute is beginning a multi-year, multi-city study that will anchor our work with communities in the years to come. Key research questions include the following:

  • In what ways do developmental relationships and developmental assets across multiple contexts of young people’s lives contribute to creating communities that are developmentally rich, propelling young people towards success in some kind of college and career, and increasing their participation in the civic life of their community and nation?
  • What are the factors or mechanisms in community-building efforts that contribute to or undermine both vertical (grassroots to grasstops) and horizontal (across sectors) engagement, cooperation, trust, and mutual accountability?
  • How can grassroots organizations and individuals be effectively engaged in community-wide initiatives to prepare all young people for success from cradle to career?
  • How do patterns and dynamics of community engagement and support for youth success vary in diverse contexts, including urban and rural, cultural and economic differences, and in industrialized and developing nations?
  • How can communities increase the number and intensity of developmental relationships in young people’s lives within and beyond the boundaries of schools and programs and across differences in race, culture, language, faith, ideology, and income?

Current Projects

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Research Publications

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NOTE: Many of the periodicals listed here may be downloaded or purchased through links provided. Journal articles and book chapters are available through their publishers. Most can be accessed through databases or through the publisher’s websites (often with a fee).