January 2014 e-news

Published on January 31, 2014 | Written by


Beginning in January Youthprise is launching a monthly e-news series to keep our partners, grantees and stakeholders in the OST field updated on the happenings at Youthprise and in the field at large.

Adding a Step to Design Thinking

by Lizzy Shramko, Communications and Development Associate

This past fall Youthprise hosted our annual Summit “Accelerating Leadership and Innovation Beyond the Classroom” with a focus on data and design thinking. Design Thinking is a cognitive process used in the design fields that can be applied to other fields to encourage the development of innovative solutions. At Youthprise we are interested in incorporating Design Thinking into solving some of the problems that we encounter in the out-of-school time field in Minnesota and nationally. Virajita Singh, professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Design, delivered the Summit keynote on Design Thinking.  She walked audience members through the Design Thinking process including the following steps:

1.)  Empathize: Observational research that focuses on the study of people in order to uncover and understand people’s needs and desires. Empathy utilizes good listening skills during personal interviews and observation.

2.)  Define the Problem: Take what you’ve learned during the empathy stage and define the problem you need to solve.

3.)  Ideation: A brainstorming process used by an individual or a group to develop new and creative ideas to solve a problem or challenge.

4.)  Prototype: Creating physical models to bring the ideas from the ideation stage to life.

5.)  Test/Refine: Obtain feedback on prototypes and evaluate their effectiveness.

6.)  Implement: Roll out the final product.



At Youthprise, Design Thinking is incorporated throughout our organization, including our work in youth philanthropy. As Youthprise Director of Youth Engagement, Libby Rau, describes it, “Design Thinking is a way to get innovative ideas for everyday issues. We want to use it because in the out-of-school time field we recognize that we need to get better results. How do we do things innovatively? Design Thinking is a process that helps us arrive at innovative solutions.” Libby goes on, “Youthprise added a step to the Design Thinking process so we go deeper than surface-level ideas and are able to get at more complex layers of issues.”

1.)  Empathy

2.)  Define the Problem

3.)  Ideation

4.)  Go Deeper

5.)  Prototype

6.)  Test/Refine

7.)  Implement

In describing the importance of Design Thinking in philanthropy Libby explains, “Design Thinking is a way to find human-centered ideas, so the first step is empathy – which is deeply community centered and central to our philanthropic work.”

Neese Parker, YouthpriseYouth Philanthropy Innovator, describes the process, “By engaging young people in the Design Thinking process around philanthropy we are working with the people most impacted by gaps in access to arrive at solutions. Design Thinking is a process that supports radical ideas for philanthropy.”

Neese adds, “Design Thinking makes philanthropy a hands-on, enjoyable process for young people.” This type of youth engagement is one of our main goals here at Youthprise.

For more information on Design Thinking for social innovation, check out this article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review or visit the University of Minnesota’s College of Design’s website on Design Thinking.

Measuring Social-Emotional Learning

by Aly Roach, Youth Innovator

In both the youth development and education fields, a culture shift is occurring. Traditional measurements of success in young people, such as test scores and grades, are starting to give way to the practice of measuring social-emotional skills. Gene Roehlkepartain, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development at Search Institute, has spent twenty-five years investigating these skills, which were previously thought to be unquantifiable.  Roehlkepartain defines social-emotional skills as “how you get along with people and regulate your emotions.” He explains that these skills “help you navigate and negotiate with other people to build internal self-confidence, which is the foundation for all of living in many ways.” Without these skills, Roehlkepartain asserts, it would be difficult to not only to make healthy choices, but to grow and thrive as a person.

This newfound awareness about social-emotional skills is changing the way people think about success and development in young people. One exciting component about the emerging exploration on social-emotional skills, says Roehlkepartain, is that this research may bridge the gap between youth development and education. Many youth workers have been instrumental in building these skills for a long time, whereas the school system has almost solely focused on cognitive skills, creating isolation between the two. By integrating these skills, both schools and out-of-school time providers can aid youth in developing holistically. Search Institute is currently doing new work specifically looking at relationship skills and kinds of relationships that youth have that are critical for their being the best they can be in school and beyond.

Roehlkepartain is the first to admit that social-emotional skills can be incredibly difficult to measure, but the importance of the research outweighs its challenges. Search Institute uses surveys and focus groups to directly reach youth and get underneath these broad ideas. They believe self-assessment by youth is incredibly useful “because how young people perceive themselves and others shapes how they act.” Additionally, it allows young people to have a voice in a quantitative way.  Roehlkepartain cannot emphasize enough the importance of analyzing data with the young people being studied. He encourages asking those being studied “Does this data match your experience as a young person in this community or program?” According to Roehlkepartain, this practice is another touching point for deepening our understanding of young people.

Following the Youthprise Summit, where Roehlkepartain presented his research, he was energized by Twin Cities youth workers’ commitment to high quality programming for young people and being thoughtful about what young people are engaging in, how they’re engaging, and how we’re tracking that engagement. He hopes that as data collection around youth grows in the coming years, including young people in the feedback loop will become routine.

Reflections on the Youthprise Summit from an Emcee

by Jorge Rivas, Youth Innovator

I’ll be the first to admit that event planning is far from being one of my strengths and, in fact, it wasn’t the role I had foreseen for myself when I began working at Youthprise. Nevertheless, I was given a seat at the table during the planning stage of the Youthprise Summit, and thus I began my foray into event hosting. Over coffee and cookies our communications team, which included Youth Innovators Shanell, Aly, and myself, hashed out the particulars of a 200+ participant event. It was hard work but remarkably simple.

Things were moving fast that morning of October 9th, and I struggled to stay on top of everything. Before that day I had the naïve perception that professional youth/adult partnerships were all smiles and platitudes, but that’s obviously not the case. Shanell and I had been selected to emcee the event. Our staff put their collective trust in us – the truth is, it was definitely stressful. Although I wouldn’t have blamed them for holding the role for a more experienced emcee, they committed themselves to us completely – for better or for worse. So to Karen, Yvonne, Lizzy and the rest of the Youthprise staff – a round of applause.

Thankfully we didn’t burn the house down and we were able to let people in on the work we are doing at Youthprise. Two key themes of the Summit were collecting and using Data and using Design Thinking to tackle challenges in the out-of-school time field.

Central to our work is the idea that you need solid information to back your claims if you want to be in a position to change existing structures.  At Youthprise, we utilize a diverse investment pool, solid research strategies and an ever-present willingness to push the envelope of our vision. In order to do that, we developed sound planning practices that reflect the needs and passions of our communities, our grantees and ourselves. Design thinking is one of those practices.

Although it was hard work, youth/adult partnerships made the Summit what it was, and I look forward to similar convenings in the future!

Youthprise and YIPA Partner Again

by Aly Roach, Youth Innovator

Youthprise is happy to announce our renewed partnership with the Minnesota Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA). YIPA is a nonprofit organization that has been providing professional development services to youth intervention professionals, increasing community awareness about youth intervention, promoting best practices within the field of youth intervention services, and advocating on behalf of its membership since 1978. In the second year of this partnership, YIPA will continue to provide 10 free professional development opportunities to Youthprise grantees. YIPA’s trainings have proven to be highly successful, with 85% of participants reporting the training improved their abilities as a youth worker.  To learn about YIPA’s trainings, go here.

As part of the partnership, YIPA organizes Youth Day at the Capitol. The event brings dozens of young people to the State Capitol to gather in the rotunda for a rally, and meet one-on-one with lawmakers about issues concerning youth. This event is a great opportunity to empower young people and strengthen their voices in the legislative process. One success last year was the formal recognition of the Minnesota Youth Council as an advisor to the legislature. This has created a continuous youth feedback loop to legislators. Over the years, Youth Day at the Capitol has attracted both young people and adults to the large event. Through this model of a youth/adult partnership, it is possible to shape public policy in favor of our young people.

Be sure to mark your calendars for this year’s Youth Day at the Capitol on April 10th, 2014.

To learn more about Youth Day at the Capitol go here.

Upcoming Events

MMEP’s Solutions in ACTION! Youth Summit, February 12 2014. More info here.

Youthprise Black History Month Celebration Events, February 21, 2014. More info here.

Building Champions for Afterschool, February 27th, 2014. More info here.

Youth Day at the Capitol, April 10, 2014. More info here.

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