Activating Developmental Relationships

in Schools, Programs, and Organizations


What might it look like if organizations took seriously the idea of building developmental relationships as the “active ingredient” in the effectiveness of their programs and services? The specific strategies will look different in different settings and programs. However, a focus on actively cultivating a relationally rich culture has tremendous potential for enhancing effectiveness and impact across a wide variety of organizational settings.

It might be tempting to begin by designing a new program or campaign that focuses on promoting relationships. Yet, relationships are already being built in schools, youth programs, and other places.


What is needed is an intentional focus on building developmental relationships.

Think about the following questions as you reflect on how your school, program, or organization might be more intentional and inclusive in how it cultivates developmental relationships:

  1. Experience: How consistently do young people experience developmental relationships in your organization? Are some groups of youth more likely than others to experience them?
  2. Expectations: Does your organization communicate expectations about how people interact with one another? For example, are staff expected to greet young people as they enter the room each day?
  3. Time: Is regular time dedicated to building relationships with and among youth? What happens during that time?
  4. Personnel: How are abilities to nurture strong relationships factored into staff and volunteer hiring and development?
  5. Budget: How might your budget more explicitly reflect your commitment to reinforcing relationships?
  6. Training:  How often do staff meetings or professional development focus on practical ways to cultivate relationships?
  7. Feedback: How do you collect and use data, feedback, or other information that can help monitor and strengthen intentional relationship building?

Dig Deeper

  • Search Institute has launched the Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI) in partnership with five organizations to develop strategies and tools to help organizations be more intentional and inclusive in how they build developmental relationships with and among young people.
  • Attend a workshop [LINK] on strengthening relationships in your school or organization.
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