Community Building and Civic Development

Bringing people together across communities is vital to a strong society and for young people’s development. This can include cross-sector collaboration, collective impact efforts, prevention coalitions, as well as a wide range of efforts to build community and civil society—including engaging and nurturing young people as active participants.

Of particular concern is ensuring that the voices, strengths, and needs of young people from marginalized communities are emphasized in order to build a more just and equitable society. Central to this strategy is ensuring that all young people are supported by webs of developmental relationships that can be catalytic for their own growth and for strengthening community.

The Roots of Engaged Citizenship

roots of engaged citizenship

How do young people grow into civically minded adults who positively contribute to their communities, help others around them, and participate in solving social issue? This longitudinal study is testing the idea that good citizenship is rooted in three key elements, which unfold and interact across childhood and adolescence:

  • Character strengths, such as responsibility and future-mindedness;
  • Developmental competencies, such as emotion regulation and effective decision-making; and
  • Supportive contexts and relationships in schools, families, peer groups, and community settings

Search Institute partners with  Dr. Aaron Metzger (West Virginia University) and Dr. Laura Wray-Lake (UCLA) in this study, which involves surveys with students and parents in schools from three different geographical locations across the United States: Southern California, rural West Virginia, and urban Minnesota. Five waves of youth data are being collected between 2014 and 2018. (Parent data were collected only in phase one. Learn more by visiting the project website.

Funding Partners: John Templeton Foundation (2012 – 2015) and the National Science Foundation (2016 – 2018)

Advancing Equity for Twin Cities Youth

Search Institute provides measurement and data support for the Mission Impact Council, a coalition of more than 30 organizations striving to ensure that underserved young people (ages 12-24) have access to opportunities and equity in the Twin Cities. Search Institute is designing and testing survey tools to document youth capacities in leadership, social competence, positive identity, cross-cultural competence, strengths-finding, and growth mindsets. We also support the council’s development of organizational assessment tool to understand how nonprofit organizations are advancing equity as part of their social responsibility.

Partner: YMCA of the Twin Cities

Data Support for Collective Impact in Northern Minnesota

Search Institute provides data and technical support to the collective impact initiative in the Itasca area of northern Minnesota. Called Spark: Stronger Futures for All, the collaborative seeks to engage community members from across this region in using data to drive change so that all youth have the supports they need to be successful. Among other strategies, Search Institute created, analyzes, and supports ongoing use of a region-wide youth survey aligned with the initiative’s goals. Out of the data grew of cous on strengthening relationships beyond the family as an untapped resource to ensure that all Itasca area young people learn and thrive.

Funding Partner: Blandin Foundation

Understanding Community Supports for LGBT Youth

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) and transgender (T) youth face much higher risks of suicide that other youth, particularly during adolescence. Much less is known about supports and strengths that serve as protective factors for these young people. Using aggregated data from Search Institute’s Profiles of Student Life survey, this study in partnership with Russell Toomey (University of Arizona) is examining specific ways a variety of developmental opportunities, relationships, values, and skills called Developmental Assets function in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adolescents to protect them from attempting suicide.

Review basic data on Developmental Assets among LGBT youth

Funding Partner: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Related Research and Resources

  • Explore Search Institute’s Developmental Assets, which highlight bringing communities together to surround all young people with the opportunities and supports they need to grow up successfully.
  • Examine completed studies and research-based publications on Developmental Assets.
  • Learn how the asset framework can guide efforts to prevent high-risk behaviors, including use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; violence prevention; suicide prevention; and adolescent pregnancy prevention efforts.
  • Review completed studies and publications on civic development and service-learning.
  • Identify surveys and professional development opportunities based in Search Institute’s research to support community coalitions and prevention efforts.