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ACT for Youth

Organizational Support for Positive Youth Development (PYD)

ACT for Youth has promoted a positive youth development (PYD) approach since our founding in 2000. We have worked closely with youth-serving organizations, developing training resources and strategies for community collaboration and youth engagement. Over the years, we have learned that if a new approach is to be adopted and sustained, new policies, practices, and support at the organizational level -- not just the program level -- are essential. Supervisors play an important role in establishing innovative approaches by supporting staff and modifying working conditions.

In this Supervisor's PYD Toolkit, we have gathered tools and resources to support supervisors in establishing and sustaining a positive youth development approach in their organizations.

PYD Refreshers

What is Positive Youth Development?

PYD goes beyond youth programming or adolescent development. Positive Youth Development is a philosophy or approach that guides communities in the way they organize programs, supports, and opportunities so that young people can develop to their full potential. In this short presentation, we describe the key principles of PYD and apply them to youth programs and youth-serving organizations.


Principles of Positive Youth Development

This section of the ACT for Youth website provides more information and resources on the principles and practice of PYD.


Why is organizational support for PYD necessary?

Organizational Support for PYD

In this brief presentation, we outline the reasons organizational support is needed. We look at lessons learned from years of positive youth development training in New York State. And we take a look at implementation science and its insights into establishing and sustaining innovative approaches.


Ronald Heifetz - On Leadership

One of the drivers of innovation and change, adaptive leadership has been described as "the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive" [1]. In this video, Ronald Heifetz, a leader in the field, talks about adaptive leadership. Harvard University.

Video (9 minutes)

Supervisor's PYD Toolkit

Young people thrive when they have opportunities to participate and learn in an environment that is safe, inclusive, and supportive. In other words, we want to surround young people with engaging, positive experiences, relationships, and environments. The Supervisor's PYD Toolkit provides strategies, tools, and resources to promote and support these components.

Positive Experiences

When we say "positive experiences," we mean that young people experience quality programming that engages them in learning, expands their horizons, and connects them with adults -- and programming that provides them with opportunities to matter, to have a voice.

Supervisor's PYD Toolkit: Positive Experiences

Positive Relationships

When we say "positive relationships," we mean that young people experience relationships with adults that focus on caring, support, growth, inclusion, and agency, and that young people have the opportunity to experience youth-adult partnerships.

Supervisor's PYD Toolkit: Positive Relationships

Positive Environments

When we say "positive environments," we mean that young people experience a supportive environment that is safe, inclusive, and welcoming, where they feel a sense of belonging and know that they are valued. Ideally, program providers also recognize that young people are connected to many other community settings: links are established between the organization and other community agencies and groups, providing young people with a web of support.

Supervisor's PYD Toolkit: Positive Environments


[1]   Heifetz, Grashow & Linsky. (2009). The Theory Behind the Practice: A Brief Introduction to the Adaptive Leadership Framework. Harvard Business Press.



Developed by Jutta Dotterweich, the Supervisor's PYD Toolkit was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Smith Lever project 2020-21-236, Building Organizational Capacity for Effective Youth Work.