Youth development approach

The Ministry of Youth Development is committed to the principle of best practice in the youth sector. Youth development best practice by its very nature is constantly evolving.The Ministry partnered with the Youth Sector to produce the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa, based on peer-reviewed best practice evidence-based research. The Strategy outlines six principles that support our young people’s development.

What is youth development?

Youth development means growing and developing the skills and connections young people need to take part in society and reach their potential.

Youth development is about young people gaining a:

  • sense of contributing something of value to society
  • feeling of connectedness to others and to society
  • belief that they have choices about their future
  • feeling of being positive and comfortable with their own identity.

It's about building strong connections and active involvement in all areas of life including:

  • family and whānau
  • schools, training institutions and workplaces
  • communities (sports, church, cultural groups)
  • peer groups.

It's also about young people being involved and having a say in decisions that affect them, their family, their community and their country and putting into practice and reviewing those decisions.

The Principles of Youth Development

The principles outline what the youth development approach is all about. They can be used as a checklist and a tool for developing youth policies and programmes and in working alongside young people.

The principles are:

1. Youth development is shaped by the 'big picture'

By the ‘big picture' we mean: the values and belief systems; the social, cultural, economic contexts and trends; the Treaty of Waitangi and international obligations such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

2. Youth development is about young people being connected

Healthy development depends on young people having positive connections with others in society.  This includes their family and whānau, their community, their school, training institution or workplace and their peers.

3. Youth development is based on a consistent strengths-based approach

There are risk factors that can affect the healthy development of young people and there are also factors that are protective.  ‘Strengths-based' policies and programmes will build on young people's capacity to resist risk factors and enhance the protective factors in their lives.

4. Youth development happens through quality relationships

It is important that everyone is supported and equipped to have successful, quality relationships with young people.

5. Youth development is triggered when young people fully participate

Young people need to be given opportunities to have greater control over what happens to them, through seeking their advice, participation and engagement.

6. Youth development needs good information

Effective research, evaluation, information gathering and sharing is crucial.

Together, these six principles can help young people to gain a:

  • sense of contributing something of value to society
  • feeling of connectedness to others and to society
  • belief that they have choices about their future
  • feeling of being positive and comfortable with their own identity.