— Youth Driven Space —

for teens by teens

What is Youth Driven Space?

The Launch Pad Teen Center is a Youth Driven Space as outlined and adapted by The Neutral Zone Teen Center in Ann Arbor Michigan. The Launch Pad believes in centering youth voice and agency in all levels of programming and decision making. This philosophy of program design and operation comes from a study done through The Weikart Center in partnership with The Neutral Zone to develop the Youth Driven Space (YDS) project. YDS is designed to support out-of–school-time programs that serve older youth, implement a range of structures and strategies that foster 21st Century skill-building and meaningful civic engagement. Out-of-school time programs that adopt the YDS model learn to utilize the actual operation of their organization as an opportunity to build youth skills and increase participation and engagement. The time is right for an explicit and developmentally appropriate approach to skill-building for older youth. Given the drop off in participation that programs face nationally as well as increasing recognition of the importance of workforce preparation opportunities that prepare young people for participation in today’s labor market are needed more than ever.

All of the techniques in this handbook are tools for infusing YDS principles into your programming and work with teens. For more information check out The Neutral Zones website and resource section:​ http://neutral-zone.org/youth-driven-spaces/

YDS is designed to transform existing youth programs into youth driven spaces through four key areas:

  • ​Structural changes​. A youth advisory council is established which meets regularly to make and offer guidance on decisions about program offerings and organizational operation;
  • ​Changes to program design and implementation​. Youth members take on facilitation and other roles that adults typically take in a youth program, leading meetings and activities with their peers;
  • Revisiting adult roles​. Helping adults learn to build strong adult/youth partnerships is critical. Adults in YDS don’t simply step down and let youth lead, rather, they play an active supportive role in helping youth be successful;
  • ​Building sustainability​. Organizational changes are sustained by infusing YDS principles across the organization, with attention to governance and mission statements and by establishing deliberate support across administration, staff, and the broader community.

Proven Results:

An evaluation conducted by Michigan State University’s Community Evaluation and Research Collaborative showed that the YDS intervention produced powerful impacts on youth, staff, and organizations with just one year of direct work with pilot agencies.
The results indicate that YDS had substantial effects on the development of youth partnerships and opportunities for involvement as well as on youth program engagement, peer relationships, and 21st century skills.

Youth Outcomes:

  • Youth reported significantly greater sense of community and engagement in the program and felt less socially excluded.
  • Youth reported significantly more opportunities to explore their identities and reflect on who they wanted to be in the future.
  • Youth reported significant gains in a wide variety of 21st century skills, with the greatest changes in problem solving, organizational skills, management skills, creative thinking and innovation, goal setting, group process skills, and linkages to community.
  • During youth-adult meetings, youth were more likely to generate solutions, provide information, identify problems, and evaluate information.
  • Youth, staff, administrators and coaches described YDS benefits for youth communication, critical thinking, and self-regulation skills.