VYP aims to create an environment in every community where youth have opportunities and spaces to have a voice, belong, explore hobbies and passions, connect with peers and caring adults, and be themselves.
VYP focuses upstream by exploring the societal and environmental factors (“causes of the causes”) that lead to risk and protective factors that influence the behaviors of youth. With this information, communities are able to create strategies that support increasing protective factors in youth through healthy built environments.
Positive Youth Development and Protective Factors
Positive youth development emphasizes building on youth’s strengths, creating opportunities to help youth achieve goals, fosters healthy relationships, and promotes protective factors. There are many domains that youth interact with frequently and they can have protective impacts on a youth’s well-being. These domains include:
VYP includes evidence-based efforts into the framework of its Vermont approach to positive youth development; including Iceland’s Planet Youth data tool, Finland’s youth voice efforts, and initiatives already working well in Vermont.
In 1998, Iceland had a crisis on its hands. 42% of 10th grade students were drunk in the past 30 days, 23% were daily smokers and 17% had tried cannabis. “We had the worst youth in the world,” states Jon Sigfusson, Director of Planet Youth and the Icelandic Center for Social Research and Analysis. Through coordinated community efforts, the country dramatically reduced youth substance abuse rates, rates of bullying and youth theft, and has created a community of connectedness among its citizens. Iceland researchers have worked with 30 countries to implement this effective prevention framework with great success. Over 900,000 youth surveys have been administered worldwide. Vermont was the first state in the nation to sign on with Planet Youth and VYP uses their data tool as the foundation of community-led efforts.
Finland believes that being a young person is a special time in a person's life and encourages youth to find their voice, be engaged citizens, explore hobbies and interests, and connect with peers and caring adults. The field of Youth Work is a trained profession in Finland and youth workers frequently interact with young people to provide support and resources as they grow up. Finland believes that every youth should have a hobby and local youth centers in every neighborhood encourage creativity and exploration. Additionally, youth voice is encouraged and youth have a voice in laws and decisions that impact them in the government. Youth councils are mandated by law in Finland and provide a space for youth to use their voice on issues that impact them.
Annual data helps local communities determine what initiatives and strategies are working well in addition to identifying gaps. Full implementation VYP communities are encouraged to complete community asset profiling to explore perceptions and accessibility of third space opportunities. All of this work is supported on the local level by strong inclusive coalitions representing many sectors.
At the foundation of VYP are the annual key data findings. VYP collaborates with Iceland’s prevention efforts and uses their Planet Youth data tool to support communities in positive youth development. In communities implementing the model at the fullest level, local youth take a survey in the fall and communities receive the key data findings eight weeks later so they know what’s going on with their youth right now.