A new strengths-based approach to youth development programs is set to revolutionise the practice in Australia.

Led by Dr Kathryn Seymour from the Griffith Criminology Institute, the framework was developed within the Queensland Youth Development Research Project involving eight Queensland youth organisations.

Based around six principles: learning and development; leadership and decision-making; inclusive ethos; community service; partnerships and ethical promotion, it offers youth program providers new ways to constructively engage and retain young people.

The youth organisations involved in the project are: Impact: Youth Organisations Reducing Crime, the Boys’ Brigade, the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, the Emergency Services Cadets Program, Girl Guides Queensland, Lions Clubs International Leo Clubs, The Police Citizens Youth Clubs and Surf Life Saving Queensland.

“Youth services in Australia and around the world are at a crossroads,’’ Dr Seymour says.

“As governments respond to global financial volatility by cutting expenditure on social services, the pressure mounts on youth service providers to demonstrate the efficacy of their programs in clear and compelling terms.

“At the same time, they have to respond to unceasing demands for innovation, for relevance, and for deeper and sustained youth and community engagement in the programs and services they provide.

“Traditionally, policy frameworks have tended to focus on young people as ‘problems’, highlighting perceived deficits and working towards a prescriptive understanding of youth development,’’ Dr Seymour says.

“These principles represent a comprehensive framework for volunteer and paid youth practitioners alike,’’ Dr Seymour said.

“Rather than designing programs based on presuppositions about the deficits young people are thought to have, this new framework seeks to nourish and mobilise their strengths in leadership, learning and life-skills.”

Dr Seymour’s study was funded by the Australian Research Council and the Queensland Government Department of Communities.