The young people we work with often come from the most challenging backgrounds, present with multiple personal issues, are socially excluded, educationally under performing and without the aspiration and disposition to hold down a decent job. Yet.

We want to see these lives changed, the cycles of deprivation broken, the hopes and fortunes of the young people truly restored, their inner skills and talents truly developed, sustainable employment achieved and bright futures built. In the light of this, we’ve always placed equal emphasis on both the ethos and evidence that underlies our work, and sought to create an organisational culture where being caring and competent are equally important. We’re committed to being absolutely clear on what to do, how to do it, and why it’s effective.

Our work is built on the foundation of a robust and constantly developing theory of change which is based on our own rich experience and the best youth development research. Here’s how it looks:

All young people undergo key transitions:

  • Changes in themselves (E.g. puberty, mental/emotional development, societal expectations)
  • Changes in relationships (E.g. family, peers, institutions)Changes in responsibility (E.g. education to employment, creating a family, living independently)
  • Changes in responsibility (E.g. education to employment, creating a family, living independently)

Not all young people undergo these transitions in the same way, with the same speed, or with the same outcomes. But this is not just about innate ability. Young people affect and are radically affected by the range of interweaving relationships they have, especially family, friends, community, and schools. These relationships also affect each other profoundly. The likelihood of successful development and maturity can only be analysed by taking social environment into account.  Some key things flow from this insight:

  1. All young people, even those facing multiple disadvantages, have the potential to succeed in life.
  2. Healthy beneficial relationships/communities are fundamental to this. 
  3. When empowered by such relationships, young people can be positive change agents in the social world they inhabit, rather than just be passively shaped by it.
  4. Those facing multiple disadvantages can become resilient in spite of difficult circumstances and start to thrive with the right help from the right
  5. Even the most challenging young people should be treated as resources to be developed not problems to be solved. The most effective interventions are strengths based - focused on developing inherent strengths and skills, and helping to build aspirations, rather than just trying to ‘cure’ negative behaviour.

This is the basis of Positive  Youth Development theory. Evaluations of educational models based on these principles are overwhelmingly positive, and stress the three fundamental features required for programmes to achieve optimal youth development are:

1.   Positive people - Where young people:

·     Develop relationships with consistent, caring and competent adult role models, from diverse backgrounds & generations, and get the encouragement and support to believe in themselves

·     Connect to beneficial relationship networks

·     Build relationship skills and confidence to take to other areas of their lives

2.   Positive places - Where young people:

·     Receive a professional employability focussed education that builds vital qualifications and basic skills

·     Experience an environment of care and appropriately high expectations

·     Develop soft and hard skills in equal measure, and grow as a whole person

·     Reflect on & chart their progress to build confidence and self-management skills

3.   Positive opportunities - Where young people:

·     Use and develop skills learned by undertaking appropriate tasks and responsibilities

·     Get new experiences and try new activities to broaden horizons and build aspirations

·     Plan, contribute to and lead projects to further develop confidence and capabilities

·     Get good quality work experience to fully build and hone workready skills and attitudes

Educational programmes combining these elements are the most likely to be effective as long as:

a.       There is a clear sense of purpose for the learner and a definable end goal for their learning

b.      There are clear indicators and measures to chart progress towards end goals

c.       The different elements noted above are truly integrated in a way the learner understands

d.      Students ‘learn how to learn’ to continue developing when they leave the programme


All the work we do with young people is 'strengths based' and built on the insights within this theory of change. To find out more about how this works out in practice, contact us on:

T. 0300 111 2020

E. brightfutures@twentytwenty.org.uk