About Us

Learn more about Search Institute, who we are, and how we can help you!

Who We Are

Search Institute is a nonprofit organization that studies and works to strengthen youth success in schools, youth programs, families, and communities. We seek to be an innovator by listening to young people, and providing insight to create change in the lives of youth through those that work directly with young people.

Founded in 1958, Search Institute was a pioneer in using social science to understand the lives, beliefs, and values of young people. Since that time, more than 5 million children and adolescents have participated in Search Institute studies and projects. Search Institute has also published more than 30 books and nearly 150 journal articles and chapters. Developmental Assets®, established in 1990, is used in more than 33 countries and translated into 29 languages.

We continue to support the use of the Developmental Assets through focused partnerships with communities and organizations nationally and internationally. At the same time, we are introducing new frameworks, tools, and approaches, such as developmental relationships, that build on insights gleaned from assets. Each day we integrate new insights in response to what we’ve learned and what is happening in the world around us.

What Search Institute founder, Dr. Merton Strommen, said many years ago still holds true today. “We came to see ourselves as an agency of change that used the mirror of research to show disparities between the “is’ and the ‘ought’ for church, school, life, and community. Our mission was to present these findings in the language and through patterns of practitioners through books, speeches, and workshops.”

To date, more than 10,000 youth-serving organizations have utilized the research, professional development, and practical resources that Search Institute has created to bridge research and practice to help young people be and become their best selves.

What We Offer:

Our Vision

To create a world where all young people are valued and thrive.

Our Mission

To provide catalytic leadership, breakthrough knowledge, and innovative resources to advance the health of children, youth, families, and communities.

We Believe

  • All children and adolescents need and deserve the range of “developmental nutrients” identified in the framework of Developmental Assets.
  • “All children and adolescents” includes children and adolescents of all races, ethnicities, cultures, genders, religions, economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities.
  • Significant community and societal change is needed to ensure the equitable spread of Developmental Assets; the five action strategies we have identified can bring about this change.
  • All communities have the talent, wisdom, and expertise to create thriving communities.
  • Developmental Assets have many sources, including adult influence, peer influence, families, neighborhoods, congregations, schools, and youth organizations.
  • These resources, individually and in combination, can be powerfully mobilized at the local, community level.
  • The community and social change needed to reach our vision requires a major transformation of how we see, know, and relate to children and adolescents.
  • Children and adolescents are particularly powerful agents of change and should be positioned as leaders in transforming community and society.
  • The prime actors in this transformation are all people: children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Search Institute’s role is to provide knowledge and resources to help them create an environment that supports young people.

We Value…

Walking Our Talk as Asset Builders
We recognize, value, and celebrate the gifts of all people; seek to involve young people in our work; appreciate diversity; and cultivate positive relationships within Search Institute and with external audiences, constituencies, and customers. We seek to be a family-friendly organization and strive toward an infrastructure that supports our stated values.

Collaborative Relationships
We work with and learn from others involved in asset building and developmentally attentive communities. We authentically share with the field the roles of experts, leaders, and learners, and seek collaboration with internal and external groups. We intentionally seek to engage collaborators from across political, ideological, religious, cultural, and other differences, believing that active engagement with others—even when we do not agree on important issues—is critical for creating a sense of the common good and for working for positive community and social change.

We seek to do what is right and treat others with honesty, respect, and dignity. We make clear when we know something and when we believe something—and communicate both.

Multiple Ways of Learning and Knowing
We seek to be open to new approaches to learning and sharing what we learn. We use common sense, solid theory, and validated constructs as means of learning, and we celebrate the creative tension between research and application.

Effective Decision Making and Open Communication
We strive to make thoughtful, timely decisions, involving the right people and sharing the results of decisions in a timely manner. We can agree to disagree, step aside, and support the decision. We seek to learn from our mistakes and are not afraid to make them.

Research as a Means, Not an End
We share learning internally and externally and strive to develop user-friendly tools. We unleash creative application of our ideas and research.

Balancing Mission and Margin
We stay true to our mission and recognize that we need money to achieve the mission. We seek to balance mission with good business decisions.


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