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HHS Announces New Efforts to Improve Teen Pregnancy Prevention & Sexual Risk Avoidance Programs

HHS Announces New Efforts to Improve Teen Pregnancy Prevention & Sexual Risk Avoidance Programs

Monday, November 6, 2017

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) are announcing a new research and evaluation collaboration to support and improve teen pregnancy prevention and sexual risk avoidance programs w

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HHS Awards Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Grants

HHS Awards Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Grants

Monday, July 6, 2015

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) Director Evelyn Kappeler announced today more than $86 million in teen pregnancy prevention grants to non-profit organizations, school districts, universities, and others. The 81 new grants are expected to serve more than 291,000 youth each year in communities where teen birth rates remain high.

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Performance Management Online Assessment


Performance Management is "the systematic process by which an agency involves its employees, as individuals and members of a group, in the accomplishment of agency mission and goals." Effective performance management systems and practices support the ongoing operational success of grantees, bolster strategic planning efforts, and improve grantees' understanding of their own organizational strengths and challenges - a key tenet in strategic partnering.

Additional Background

Answers you provide on the online assessment are private. They are not stored or viewable to anyone in your organization. The information will be used to only to provide your score and resources within this session. No information will be saved after your session is ended.

This online assessment is designed to assess your sense of the state of Performance Management knowledge and capacity within your organization. The assessment includes three pages of questions which should take less than 15 minutes to complete. At the conclusion, the assessment will calculate your responses and provide a profile of strengths and areas for improvement within your organization. It is important for you to be honest in your responses so that resources can be targeted to your particular needs.


Go to Section: Instructions > Performance Management Online Assessment

For each of the following statements, indicate how certain you are that each is true for your organization. Be honest with your answers and remember that this is a tool to help your organization improve your performance and service.

This questionnaire will only take a few minutes. You will need to answer all the questions on each page before going to the next page.

Areas for Improvement

For the areas in which you scored medium or low confidence, you may find the information on Performance Management Training Topics page helpful.

Additional Resources

Sustainability E-Learning Module


Go to Section: Objectives > Defining Sustainability > Sustainability Factors > Activities


Meaningfully and consistently supporting young people to become healthy and productive adults requires planning, leadership, and collaboration to facilitate sustainable impacts in adolescent health promotion and disease prevention. This E-learning module on Building Sustainable Programs teaches staff and leaders from organizations working with adolescents how to achieve sustainable impacts. Based on information that is presented in the Office of Adolescent Health’s Building Sustainable Programs: The Resource Guide, individuals accessing this module will learn how to:

  • Assess how well your programs and services match your community’s needs;
  • Leverage partnerships in order to achieve sustainable impacts;
  • Develop a plan to secure diverse funding opportunities; and
  • Integrate policies and practices to guide sustainability efforts on an on-going basis.
  • Define what sustainability means for your program or organization.
  • Describe the connection between organizational mission and sustainability planning.
  • Summarize the eight sustainability factors.
  • Identify specific actions that can be taken to achieve sustainability.
  • Develop and implement a sustainability plan that is tailored to your organization’s needs.

Defining Sustainability

As you begin to explore the eight sustainability factors, an important issue to consider will be how successes are measured. This section provides a list of measures for you to consider when thinking about how your organization will determine whether your program or service has been successfully sustained.

How each organization defines success for its program or service will vary significantly. Some may measure their success by the diversity of their funding streams, while others will measure it by the number of participants they have or community coalitions they lead. Others will focus on whether they are able to maintain their current services or programs after a funding source ends. Many will also have some combination of success indicators that relate to each of the sustainability factors outlined in this guide.

You may want to think about which, if any, of the sample success measures apply to your program or service. As each of the sustainability factors are being explored, it is important to determine how success will be defined. You may want to refer to your program logic model and use the worksheets in the activities section to help you identify your organization's measures of success and concept of sustainability.

Possible Metrics Of Success

  • Partners provide in-kind services and resources.
  • Key staff positions are integrated into partner agencies' core services.
  • Programs or services are an essential part of your larger organization or partnering agencies.
  • Numerous outside strategic partners have been secured.
  • The community seeks out and supports programs or services.
  • Program or service participants increase each year.
  • Programs and services are actively participating in community events, coalitions, and work groups.
  • Sound policies and procedures which support programs or services have been created.
  • Partners integrate policies and procedures into their respective organizations.
  • Programs or services have led to increased capacity and/or training opportunities.
  • Programs or services have changed public awareness and perceptions about adolescent health.
  • Aspects of the programs’ or services’ approach have been adopted by other organizations.
  • Programs or services continue as is beyond the federal funding cycle.
  • Revenue generating strategies are in place.
  • Additional funding to assist in sustaining programs or services has been secured.
  • There is a broad-base of funding.

Sustainability Factors

Planning for sustainability can span a number of strategies from building internal capacity, to securing new funding, to incorporating effective programs, practices or policies into partnering organizations to ensure continuity. Sustainability also involves managing and leveraging resources (financial and otherwise), and focusing broadly on community needs, which may shift or change over time. Effective organizations and programs adapt to these trends and grow and change with the climate. The eight key factors that are presented below can influence whether a service or program achieves impacts that will be sustained over time. Each of these eight factors will be addressed in greater detail throughout this module.

We recommend that you take the time to complete the Sustainability Assessment before you move on to explore the eight sustainability factors. While it is helpful to review all eight factors, your assessment results will allow you to identify the factors that represent areas of growth for your organization so that you can prioritize those sections.

Eight Factors of Sustainability and Your Keys to Success

Factor 1: Create an action strategy
  • Start planning early
  • Create a shared vision with partners and community leaders
  • Incorporate sustainability activites into daily program operations
  • Create a sustainability plan
  • Incorporate measures of success into the sustainability plan
Factor 2: Assess the environment
  • Embed continuous assessments throughout the life of the program or service
  • Identify focus areas for conducting an environmental assessment
  • Use the information gathered
Factor 3: Be adaptable
  • Match services offered to community needs and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being implemented
  • Create opportunities for innovation and utilization of successful practices
Factor 4: Secure community support
  • Formulate a communication approach and message
  • Promote the program and its services
  • Use program leaders, strategic partners, and community champions to share the program's or service's message
Factor 5: Integrate programs and services into local infrastructures
  • Streamline service delivery, policies, and practices
  • Integrate programs, services, and practices into the broader community fabric
Factor 6: Build a leadership team
  • Identify strong internal leaders
  • Keep organizational leaders engaged and secure their commitment
  • Identify external community champions
  • Promote leadership development
Factor 7: Create strategic partnerships
  • Develop strategic partnerships
  • Assess existing partnerships continuously
  • Establish a shared vision and commitment to sustainability
  • Engage partners to help market program successes
  • Leverage partner resources
Factor 8: Secure diverse financial opportunities
  • Review the program budget to identify core activities and services
  • Identify and seek funding opportunities
  • Develop a strategy for securing funding
  • Create a budgetary line item
  • Build fundraising and grant writing capacity



The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about defining sustainability and measuring success. The activities are meant to help you think strategically about your sustainability goals.

  1. Defining Sustainability
  2. Measuring Success of Your Program or Service


Go to Section: The Sustainability Assessment Tool > Factor 1 > Factor 2 > Factor 3 > Factor 4 > Factor 5 > Factor 6 > Factor 7 > Factor 8

The Sustainability Assessment Tool

Planning for sustainability is critical to positioning adolescent health programs and services to thrive and have continued impacts over time. This Sustainability Assessment from the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) will help you gauge your organization’s capacity and readiness to be sustainable.1 The Sustainability Assessment is part of a several resources developed by the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH), which provides guidance to help programs and services that are dedicated to improving the health and well being of adolescents achieve sustainable impacts.

Your assessment responses will identify your strengths and areas for greater focus. By assessing your program's sustainability preparedness prior to working through the Building Sustainable Programs module, you will be better positioned to use the Resource Guide in a way that will optimize your sustainability planning efforts.

This tool includes statements relating to the eight key factors of sustainability. For more context and additional background on these factors, please review OAH’s Building Sustainable Programs: The Framework. By critically assessing your efforts, you may discover that there are strengths in some areas, but see opportunities in others. Don’t worry! A low score for any particular factor does not indicate that you are unable to create positive impacts within the community. You should use this assessment as a stepping stone to identify areas for improvement and strengthen your sustainability planning efforts going forward.

How to complete the assessment

It should take approximately 45-60 minutes to complete this assessment. Respond to as many questions as possible. For each, indicate the number that best reflects your current practices. You will be provided with a score sheet that you can use in prioritizing your planning efforts. As you complete the assessment, you may want to jot down any additional information or data sources that support your response; such information may be useful to you later as you develop your sustainability plans. Consider completing this assessment periodically, at least annually, to determine what progress you have made towards reaching your sustainability goals.

Who should complete this assessment?

For some organizations, it may be appropriate to have the program director complete this assessment alone, but in many instances, the program director may consider convening the internal leadership team to reflect and complete the assessment together. It may also be appropriate to ask different individual staff members to complete sections that are specific to their work or expertise. Some organizations may want to invite their external partners to contribute to parts of the assessment, as well.

Your sustainability readiness score

Before you get started, you should consider printing a score sheet so that you can easily document your scores for each factor.

After completing the assessment, an online score sheet will be displayed, which you can use to record your results on paper. Each response is weighted equally, but some questions may touch on areas that are of greater import for you and your program. You should take into consideration those areas that are particularly relevant or important to your work when prioritizing your next steps in planning for sustainability. You can use your results to help you determine how you will focus your sustainability planning efforts going forward. You might also use your score sheet to help you prioritize the order in which you complete the various sections of the Building Sustainable Programs module.


1 The assessment was adapted, in part, from two open source sustainability assessments:
The Finance Project. (2007). Investing in the sustainability of youth programs: An assessment tool for funders; and
Center for Public Health Systems Science. (2012). Program Sustainability Assessment Tool. Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work: St. Louis. https://sustaintool.org/.

Factor 1: Create an Action Strategy

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Resources > Activities

Ideally, sustainability planning efforts would be incorporated early into everyday programmatic activities and a program or service implementation plan, but it’s never too late to start! These efforts may include the creation of a formal long-term strategic plan that is regularly revisited and helps programs and services anticipate and mitigate potential challenges. During this process, consider regularly monitoring policies, programs, and services to better address community needs. Define sustainability for the program or service, and identify shared visions and approaches with key partners, community leaders, and other stakeholders. A shared vision can serve as the foundation upon which a strong and community-supported sustainability plan can be built. In turn, a sustainability plan can serve as a road map for establishing benchmarks to determine whether the program or service is successfully reaching its goals.

Learning objectives

Upon reviewing this factor and completing the associated activities, you will learn the importance of developing a carefully thought out strategy for addressing sustainability. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Plan and conceptualize sustainability early;
  • Develop a plan that articulates goals, creates a shared vision between partners, and defines partner relationships and responsibilities;
  • Integrate sustainability activities into program or service operations;
  • Create a sustainability plan; and
  • Develop indicators for measuring progress toward achieving the key goals outlined in the sustainability plan.

Why is it important?

By systematically approaching sustainability planning, organizations can be more effective in addressing and forecasting many future program and service needs. Incorporating sustainability planning into the infrastructure and implementation work plan of an organization can help:

  • Secure buy-in and support from the community;
  • Define long- and short-term implementation strategies;
  • Document and organize data and evaluation findings; and
  • Attract and utilize financial and in-kind resources.

Critical Action Steps

No two sustainability planning processes are alike. Your organization can tailor its plan to best meet its needs. These action steps will help you begin sustainability planning and you can use and/or adapt the questions and activities, thereby creating a process and plan that is appropriate for your program or services.

Start planning early

Sustainability planning can be considered from the start and woven into the larger program work plan. Begin by determining who should help define sustainability and create the sustainability plan. This may include the leadership team of your organization, its financial officer, communications staff and program implementation staff. As discussed below, it may also include outside strategic partners and community leaders with whom creating a shared vision and mission for programs and services will increase the likelihood of sustainability. This team can then help define sustainability and determine what the program’s or service’s goals are and what activities to sustain. You can consider the questions below to better understand what sustainability means for your programs and services.

Defining Sustainability and Setting Goals

  • What does sustainability mean for an organization’s programs or services?
  • What services or programs are priorities to sustain?
  • How can these programs and services be sustained and evolve over time?
  • What actions need to be taken to sustain these programs or services?

Discussions of sustainability can occur in tandem with overall program planning at regular staff, board or leadership meetings. Failure to incorporate sustainability discussions into regular program operations can lead to activities that do not reflect long-term priorities.

Create a shared vision with partners and community leaders

Creating a shared understanding with partners of what sustainability means will make planning for it easier. In the absence of a clearly articulated vision, achieving outcomes or sustaining partnerships will be difficult in the long term. Defining a shared vision can be a part of your core efforts. In planning, consider answering the following questions:

  • With the help of partners and community leaders, what does your organization want to achieve from its program or services?
  • Do partners share your vision for the program or service?
  • What are the shared visions and goals?
  • What are the shared immediate and intermediate outcomes that your organization expects from the program?
  • What resources or support can partners offer to create and implement the shared vision?

Engaging partners and key stakeholders in answering these questions can be an effective strategy for facilitating sustainability. The collective perspective is useful in maintaining long-term focus; and, in engaging partners early, you may be able to secure a greater level of commitment to your efforts.

Incorporate sustainability activities into daily program operations

Embedding sustainability activities into daily program operations and program or service work plans will play a significant role in helping you include sustainability conversations and efforts in your regular practices. If you are in the development stage, you are well positioned to embed sustainability planning into your core program activities. As you develop your services, staffing, and financial plans, you can incorporate sustainability activities into your program design and budgetary outlays. Your organization can designate team members to lead your sustainability efforts and institutionalize an emphasis on funding diversification. At this stage, you can also build into your infrastructure regular efforts to identify and apply for alternative funding sources, as well as address staff development needs necessary to perform those functions.

Sustainability planning can also be introduced into the core program activities of more seasoned organizations. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as incorporating sustainability discussions into your regular organizational meetings or designating a team of staff members to focus specifically on sustaining core intervention services or programs.

Regardless of your stage of implementation, you can consider exploring:

  • Which staff members should be included in the sustainability planning efforts?
  • How can sustainability discussions be incorporated into regularly scheduled staff meetings?
  • How can sustainability be included as a core part of staff’s roles and responsibilities?
  • From where can you allocate resources to support sustainability planning and outreach?

As you revisit and revise your budget, you can assess whether sustainability planning activities can or should be a budgeted activity.

Create a sustainability plan

A sustainability plan should be actionable and achievable, and include a strategy for monitoring successes and identifying challenges. A sustainability plan can serve as a roadmap that outlines how a program or service will operate, how it will meet its needs, and what direction it will take. Some of the key components required to build an effective sustainability plan are highlighted below.

Components of an Effective Sustainability Plan

  • Goals and objectives;
  • Description of services that will best address the needs of the community and the activities needed to achieve sustainability;
  • Timelines for implementing activities and achieving the goals;
  • Names of person(s) responsible and resources needed to accomplish goals; and
  • Measures of success and outcomes expected.

Think about how the program’s or service’s sustainability plan will incorporate the sustainability factors discussed in this module:

  • What is important to assess about the environment in which you are working?
  • How can programs and services adapt to changing needs?
  • What is needed to secure community and partner support?
  • How can you integrate your programs and services into other community organizations?
  • Who would be an essential member of a leadership team?
  • Who are key partners and stakeholders to include in sustainability planning efforts?
  • How will you identify and secure diverse financial opportunities?

You may want to begin your sustainability plan by first identifying your goals and defining sustainability and then working through the various factors in this module to help flesh out what action steps to take and record in your sustainability plan.

As you develop sustainability plans, alignment between your definition of sustainability and the specific action steps in the plan is essential. You may want to refer to the measures of success you developed when completing the Defining Sustainability and Measuring Success of Your Program or Service activities in the introduction section of this module to ensure that the action steps you have chosen help reach those goals. In assessing whether your sustainability plan adequately contemplates and addresses your success measures, you may consider:

  • Do the goals and objectives in your sustainability plans match your concept of what it means to successfully sustain your work?
  • Are the programs or services discussed in your sustainability plans those that will help your organization achieve success, as it has defined it?

End of section summary

  • By systematically approaching sustainability planning, organizations can be more effective in addressing and forecasting future program and service needs.
  • Early planning is helpful to creating a sustainability plan. Organizations should clearly articulate a vision which is shared by their partners and community leaders.
  • Daily program operations should incorporate sustainability conversations and efforts.


A number of additional templates are available for creating a sustainability plan. You may want to explore some of the resources below and determine if these additional resources may help supplement the information in this section. This is just a small sample of additional resources available. You may have your own tools or know of others; please feel free to use them to supplement this module as you see fit.

For additional guidance on developing a sustainability plan and sustainability plan samples, consider reviewing the following resources:

For additional sustainability plan templates, you may want to consider the following resources:


The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about developing a sustainability plan. The activities are meant to help you think strategically about your own sustainability.

  1. Creating a Shared Vision
  2. Incorporating Sustainability Activities into Your Daily Program Operations
  3. Developing a Sustainability Plan

Factor 2: Assess the Environment

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Resources > Activities


Keys To Success

  • Embed continuous assessments throughout the life of the program or service
  • Identify focus areas for conducting an environmental assessment
  • Use the information gathered

In this section, you will learn to assess the organizational, community, financial, and political environment in which your programs or services operate. Doing this, not only as a part of your sustainability planning, but also in your regular course of business, can help you understand:

  • What community needs your programs or services address;
  • Where your services or programs fit into the local network of service delivery systems; and
  • How your work adds value to external partner efforts.

Performing these environmental assessments can occur at any time--whether you are at the final stages of a funding source or at the beginning. Assessing where you stand in the community can also include ongoing reviews of internal, partnership, and financial capacities, as well as a review of the political environment and how it affects services or programs.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will assess the organizational, community, financial, and political environment in which you operate. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Embed environmental assessments into your daily operations;
  • Identify areas of focus for assessing your environment; and
  • Determine how to use the information gathered to move towards achieving sustainability.

Why is it important?

Conducting environmental assessments at various program stages and embedding those exercises into regular operations creates a foundation upon which organizations can develop a strong, effective and realistic sustainability plan. Whether this becomes a regular part of your internal meeting agendas or a separate working group or retreat focused exclusively on assessing the environment, this section will help you better understand how your services and programs fall within the community’s environment of needs.

Critical Action Steps

Every organization will assess how it fits into its community environment differently. The approach that you choose to take may relate to your existing resources, staff availability, and understanding of what your program’s or service’s current and future sustainability needs will be. When assessing the environment, consider the action steps discussed below. These action steps are meant to spark thinking and you can use and/or adapt the questions and activities included to create a process that is appropriate for your capacity and needs.

Embed continuous assessments throughout the life of the program or service

How you choose to incorporate environmental assessments into your regular practice depends on your interests, resources, and sustainability plans. For some, this may mean including these discussions at regularly scheduled staff, leadership, or board meetings. For others, this may be a part of an annual retreat or an early step of a systematic sustainability planning process. In other cases, you may choose to identify appropriate staff members to participate in ad hoc workgroups, which focus your time-limited efforts on conducting an environmental assessment. Regardless of the approach you choose, you shouldn’t look at this effort as a one-time occurrence. As the financial and political environments of communities change, so do your demographics and service delivery needs. You can regularly consider how you continue to fit into the larger picture and whether your programs and services remain relevant, useful, and supported.

Identify focus areas for conducting an environmental assessment

Conducting environmental assessments of program’s and service’s greatest areas of concern helps you understand the necessary ingredients for creating a sustainability plan that fully acknowledges and addresses the current community, financial, and political environments in which you operate. When thinking about which areas an environmental scan should focus on, recommended questions to answer include:

  • What are the program’s or service’s current strengths and how do these relate to the environments in which you function?
  • What are the current barriers or challenges and how do these relate to the environments in which the programs or services function?
  • What may be the program’s or service’s future strengths?
  • What may be the program’s or service’s future challenges?

You may conduct a formal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. There are a number of resources available to assist SWOT efforts, some of which are listed at the end of this section.

By assessing strengths and weaknesses within the context of the community in which your program or service functions, you will begin to be able to pinpoint those areas where a scan of the current environment may be beneficial. In considering whether these or other topical areas should be the focus of ongoing assessment, always be cognizant of the purpose—namely, to identify existing relationships and structures that can support the program’s or service’s short- and long-term sustainability capacities and needs. When assessing these environments, consider:

Organizational environment. When you assess the organization within which your services or programs are provided, you may think about:

  • Does your larger organization share your program’s or service’s vision or goals?
  • Does the leadership of your larger organization understand and support your programs or services?
  • Are your programs or services a ‘core’ function of your larger organization?
  • Are your programs or services a part of your larger organization’s strategic plan?
  • How does your program or service coordinate with other divisions or units within your organization?

Community environment. When you look at your community’s needs, you may consider the services or programs you offer in relationship to your clients’ and outside organizations’ needs and services. You may consider:

  • The community’s needs with respect to adolescent health, teen/adolescent pregnancy, expectant and parenting teen resources, programs and services;
  • The urgency of those needs;
  • The evidence or data used to assess the community’s needs;
  • The services, supports, or resources you offer to support these needs;
  • The evidence or data you have to support your approach to meeting community needs;
  • Whether other community organizations offer similar services; and
  • What makes your programs or services unique.

When you assess your role in the community, you may also want to look at your external partnerships. See Factor 7: Create Strategic Partnerships for more information about identifying and using partners to support sustainability efforts.

Financial environment. When you examine your current financial environment, you may:

  • Identify current funding streams and determine the breadth of your funding sources;
  • Identify areas where current funding may change, including funding that may be lost, cut, or increased soon or in the future; and
  • Identify and assess the strength of current relationships with:
    • National, state and local government funders;
    • National, state and local foundations that have funding priority areas in adolescent health and/or expectant and parenting teens;
    • External partner organizations that may be appropriate with which to seek out joint funding opportunities;
    • Internal and external program champions who can help identify and capture future funding opportunities; and
    • Corporate or other stakeholders who may be able to offer funding, staffing or other in-kind supports.

Political environment. When you look at the political environment in which you operate, you may consider:

  • How the current political environment affects your program’s or service’s financial health;
  • How the current political environment affects your capacity to deliver services or programs;
  • Whether there are political changes on the horizon that may impact your financial stability or service/program delivery system; and
  • Whether you have or need individual or organizational allies in national, state, or local political spheres and the extent to which you need these relationships to support program or service goals.

Use the information gathered

Once you have completed your environmental assessment, you should decide how you want to use the information gathered in your larger sustainability planning efforts. In some instances, you may write up short informal reports that can be reviewed and commented on by your leadership or board members. In others, information gathered may become embedded into program or service implementation designs, marketing, outreach, and funding capture efforts. Whether you conduct formal or informal environmental assessments, you may use the information gathered to help:

  • Analyze the interrelationships between your programs and services, your partners, and the financial and political environments;
  • Explore how these relationships may positively or negatively affect one another; and
  • Identify recommended areas of focus for sustainability planning.

End of section summary

  • Environmental assessments are key to establishing a foundation upon which organizations can develop a strong sustainability plan.
  • You can conduct formal SWOT analyses to assess strengths and weaknesses and pinpoint specific areas that may benefit from an environmental assessment.
  • After completing an environmental assessment, you should use the information to analyze the relationships between your programs and services; your partners; and your financial and political environments.


The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about the organizational, community, financial, and political environments in which your programs or services operate. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively.

  1. Assessing your Organization
  2. Assessing your Program’s or Service’s Current Funding, Financing, and In-kind Resources
  3. Understanding the Political Environment

Factor 3: Be Adaptable

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Activities


Keys to Success

  • Match services offered to community needs and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being used
  • Create opportunities for innovation and utilization of successful practices

Achieving and maintaining sustainability is an ongoing process. It requires regular assessment of changes and monitoring of programs and services to ensure your organization remains relevant and appropriately responds to changing needs. You can readily embrace change and create environments in which new interventions, programs, and services can thrive.

Regularly explore opportunities to implement innovative and/or evidence-based or -informed practices. Innovation can include incorporating new aspects of a program or service, such as a school-based prevention program or policy change that targets substance abuse or violence, or a new infrastructure element that provides support for current programs or strategies, such as an evaluation system, training curriculum, or administrative policy.

Learning objectives

How your organization adapts its services to the changing environment will differ, depending largely on changing community needs. You can regularly examine community needs and adapt your services where appropriate. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Match programs and services to community needs, and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being implemented; and
  • Identify and incorporate new, innovative and successful practices into current programs and services.

Why is it important?

Your ability to adapt your services and incorporate new or successful practices will play a major role in determining the longevity of your work. The environment in which you are providing services is constantly changing, and it is important to be able to adjust programs and services to meet changing needs.

Critical Action Steps

The action steps are meant to spark your thinking and you can use and/or adapt the questions below to create a process that is appropriate for your capacity and needs.

Match services offered to community needs and uphold the fidelity or best practice of the model being used

Adolescent health programs and services are not implemented in static, constant environments. Programs and services must be dynamic and flexible enough to adapt to new conditions and changes in needs and priorities, funding, and leadership.

Specifically, you can consider the following questions:

  • Are there high-need areas in the community you serve, and how are they changing, economically, socially, demographically?
  • How do these changes affect the programs and services you offer with respect to the manner, location, and type of service/program offered?
  • What are you doing to respond to these changes? What do you need to do?
  • Is there new research and/or evaluation data or information that identifies new approaches that you can or should use?

In assessing the effectiveness of programs and services and determining changes that should be made, you must strike a delicate balance between adaptation in light of changing needs and fidelity to a proven approach. Being aware of and responsive to environmental changes can create opportunities for appropriately modifying programs and services while still remaining true to the core principles of your approach.

Create opportunities for innovation and utilization of successful practices

Addressing adolescent health needs requires innovative and comprehensive solutions. You can regularly seek out innovative policies, interventions, and services that successfully address similar community needs, and explore opportunities for incorporating new elements into your service/program delivery system. You can identify these new and/or promising practices by utilizing your network of partners, engaging with similar organizations in other locales, and using the TPP and PAF Resource Center. In learning about other programs and services, you may explore:

  • Whether your design, approach, or intervention is evidence-based or evidence-informed and appropriately targeted at improving adolescent health and addressing community needs; and
  • Whether your program or services have processes in place to identify and incorporate new research findings and knowledge into your work.

To improve programs and services more broadly, you may wish to consider adopting a process for identifying your own best practices. Doing so may also create opportunities to exchange information with similar programs, which can help to better address adolescent health needs more widely. You may want to collect the following to track your own best practices:

  • Participant success stories;
  • Positive outcomes achieved from your programs or services;
  • Administrative, programmatic, or service delivery practices that increase the likelihood of sustainability; and
  • How these practices were applied in different settings, and how they were adapted accordingly.

After identifying best practices, consider sharing lessons learned, tips, and/or suggestions with other similar programs and/or the community at large.

End of Section summary

  • Maintaining a sustainable program requires the ability to adapt services to changing environments and community needs.
  • You should regularly examine your particular community’s needs and match your services accordingly.
  • You should keep informed on innovative policies and services that address your community’s needs. Leveraging relationships with partners and similar organizations can help you keep abreast of new practices.


The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about becoming more adaptable and flexible to changing needs and available resources. These activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about adapting services and better utilizing resources.

  1. Evaluating Outcomes to Determine Need for Service Adaptation
  2. Creating Opportunities to Incorporate Innovation and Promising Practices

Factor 4: Secure Community Support

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Resources > Activities


To obtain community support and buy-in, an organization should first understand the community’s needs in relation to the services and programs it offers. Tailoring outreach so that it is unique to the community’s demographics and utilizes community resources will increase the likelihood that each program or service will secure community support.

Keys to Success

  • Formulate a communication approach and message
  • Promote the program and its services
  • Use program leaders, strategic partners, and community champions to share your message

Securing community support and buy-in can take many forms--from creating a coalition of similarly situated service providers, to building relationships with individual relevant stakeholders. This may also include identifying and promoting program and client success stories that will cement your work into the local infrastructure (discussed in Factor 5: Integrate Programs and Services into Local Infrastructures) and increase client outreach and recruitment.

Establishing a broad base of supporters through creative and compelling messages and outreach strategies also helps facilitate community understanding and support for your approach and increases overall awareness about the program’s or service’s successes. Having a clear message and outreach strategy will allow you to use your internal leadership team, external champions, and strategic partners to voice your successes in the community and share how you are critical to addressing the community’s needs.

To support adolescent health programs, the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) developed the Collaboration Toolkit, an in-depth resource on collaboration, outreach, and strategic messaging. This toolkit serves as the foundation for this section and can be accessed online.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will learn the importance of gaining community support for your missions and services. Specifically, you will be able to:

  • Develop an outreach strategy and message;
  • Market your program and services to successfully motivate community engagement; and
  • Identify ways in which you can use your staff and community partners to promote program/service successes.

Why is it important?

A key aspect of sustainability planning is to secure support from the community. Community support may come from a range of diverse entities and individuals, from both within and outside your organization. A diverse pool of champions, from local businesses to former program participants, to other community-based organizations, can help spread the word about your program or service to a range of audiences, including potential new supporters and funders. Crafting a clear, strong, and easy-to-replicate message can help supporters articulate it and share the program’s or service’s stories of success.

Critical Action Steps

Each organization’s messages to the community and who it uses to communicate that message will vary. The resources and time that organizations devote to strategic communications, marketing, and outreach will also vary. When developing a communications strategy and identifying its messengers, you may consider the action steps discussed below and alter them as needed to fit your capacity and needs. These action steps are meant to help you think creatively about how you communicate your successes to garner community support and encourage you to incorporate outreach discussions into your sustainability planning.

Formulate a communication approach and message

Program outreach occurs any time a staff member or supporter speaks about the program or services you offer. You can help ensure the information shared about your work is accurate, consistent, and supports your sustainability efforts, if you take time to identify and train your messengers on an integrated and ongoing communications strategy. As discussed in more detail in the Collaboration Toolkit, community outreach is not always about having a fancy brochure or annual report. Instead, it’s about being able to clearly articulate the program’s or service’s mission, goals, and successes to distinct target audiences in ways that connect the audience to the program’s or service’s values and approach, while also using a variety of marketing activities to share a story (see Figure 1 for a sample of marketing activities). Done well, these communications can create new external collaborators, increase awareness and support for the program’s or service’s mission.

Figure 1: The Delivery-Possible Program Marketing Activities

Information and Referral
  • Information and referral hotline
  • Counseling hotline
  • Clearinghouse
Small-group interventions
  • Peer or non-peer led
  • Community, school, and work settings
  • Single sessions or multiple sessions over a number of weeks
  • Lectures
  • Panel discussions
  • Testimonials from peers/survivors
  • Video presentations
  • Live theater
  • Events (such as health fairs)
One-on-one interventions
  • Peer or non-peer led
  • Street outreach
  • Crowd or clique-based research
  • Event-based outreach
  • Counseling and referral
  • Other one-on-one interventions offered in community centers or other settings
Community mobilization
  • Endorsements, testimonials, involvement by opinion leaders
  • Coalition building
Mass media and “email” media
  • Paid advertising in various media outlets
  • PSAs in various media outlets
  • Media relations
  • Point materials such as pamphlets, instruction sheets, posters
Electronic media
  • Web 2.0
  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Web sites
  • Cell phones
  • PSAs
  • Social networks

When reaching out to the community, you may consider:

The purpose. What do you hope to accomplish through your communications strategy? If there are multiple goals, distinct approaches may be required.

The audience. Who is your audience, what are they interested in, and what are the best ways to reach them?

The message. What will be the content of the message? What emotion or experience from the audience do you hope to evoke (i.e., educational, persuasive, inspirational)?

The delivery. What medium do you use to deliver the message (e.g., written, in-person, video, phone, social media, etc.) and is that the appropriate medium for the audience?

The relevance. Is the message relevant to the community’s needs and interests? Does the message and delivery change when new issues or needs arise?

Promote the program and its services

By promoting your programs and services, you can also increase community awareness of the issues relevant to your work and demonstrate your value to the public and to program participants. Program or service promotion can also become a regular part of your day-to-day business, whether attending a community meeting, meeting with a potential partner or revamping your website. Promotions may take many forms; ranging from a quick conversation about program or service successes with an outside organization to a large-scale, well-planned media campaign. When you promote your programs and services, in addition to having a clear and appropriate message or pitch, as discussed above, you may also consider:

  • Using data or evaluation results to demonstrate and support your successes, where possible;
  • Contacting stakeholders and other critical decision-makers who may affect your work, by phone, email, letter and in person meetings;
  • Using your supporters and external champions (discussed below) to share your story;
  • Maintaining a continuum of regular activities that promote your work;
  • Participating in public awareness events that offer easy opportunities for them to promote your work; and
  • Joining relevant coalitions, working groups, and/or local committees that address issues relevant to your program and services and may offer opportunities for you to showcase your work, while also creating new partnerships and learning about other community programs.

Use program leaders, strategic partners, and community champions to share the message

Program staff, leaders, external partners and champions at all levels can bring unique skills and perspectives that can enhance a community outreach effort. Factor 7: Create Strategic Partnerships focuses on helping you identify external champions who can support your sustainability efforts. These champions can also be used to carry the program’s or service’s message to different sectors of the community. When considering how and when to use external champions in outreach efforts, think about:

  • Identifying the sectors that each champion represents and the messages that will best resonate with your networks;
  • Determining each champion’s communication strengths and tailoring the delivery of the message to your capacities; and
  • Ensuring communication efforts are ongoing and change when community needs or interests change.

Community champions can participate in a range of outreach efforts to raise awareness and garner more support for your programs and services, including:

  • Making a phone call to key decision makers;
  • Speaking at a conference or symposium;
  • Writing a letter of support to a potential funder;
  • Signing a petition;
  • Participating in a rally;
  • Assisting with media outreach;
  • Emailing networks about program successes;
  • Contributing to program newsletters or press releases;
  • Supporting the program through social media, such as tweets, Facebook mentions; and
  • Sharing information about the program over relevant list serves.

End of section summary

  • Establishing community buy-in is essential for creating a successful sustainability plan.
  • You should focus on crafting consistent, clear, easy-to-replicate messages to establish a broad base of supporters within a community.
  • Promoting your programs and services can also increase community awareness of specific, relevant issues.
  • Community champions can enhance an outreach effort.


The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about how you can develop a communications strategy.

  1. Creating a Communication Strategy and Message
  2. Using Community Champions

Factor 5: Integrate Program Services into Local Infrastructure

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Activities


You can assess the internal policies and structures through which your services or programs are delivered to look for ways to streamline efforts. By streamlining policies, procedures, and services, you can increase your efficiency, freeing up resources for program or service needs. More efficient organizations are also more likely to serve as a model to be adopted and replicated by other organizations and to endure in the long-term.

Keys to Success

  • Streamline service delivery, policies, and practices
  • Integrate programs, services, and practices into the broader community fabric

You can try to integrate your successful practices and services within the larger community’s service delivery system when possible by encouraging community members to use your services and providing opportunities for other community organizations, such as schools and clinics to incorporate your curriculum or services into their own efforts. Once programs and services are fully integrated into larger service delivery efforts, they become routine and, as such, are more likely to endure.

Learning objectives

Streamlining programs or services and integrating them into the local community infrastructure will help you sustain your work. In this section, you will:

  • Learn to build more efficient programs and services to decrease costs and promote replicability within the community; and
  • Explore opportunities to integrate services into the community infrastructure.

Why is it important?

Looking critically at your service delivery may help you identify areas where your programs and practices can be restructured and simplified. Doing so may position your organization to provide programs and services more effectively and efficiently. Exploring opportunities to integrate program and services into the community fabric can help you garner support from the community and allow them to capitalize on the strengths of community partners.

Critical Action Steps

Your organization is likely to identify unique ways to deliver its programs and services more effectively. Similarly, your organization will work with your own community differently to explore opportunities to integrate your services or programs into the larger health education and health promotion infrastructure. Your approach will largely depend on the relationships you have developed and the roles and responsibilities of your respective partners. When integrating programs and services into local infrastructures, organizations should consider the following action steps:

Streamline service delivery, programs, and practices

For programs and services to function efficiently and effectively, they must have the structures and capacity necessary to implement them. It is important for you to assess your programs and procedures and ensure that they capture your core principles and goals. If you do not, you may strengthen or revise your current policies and procedures or develop new ones that will promote the longevity of your programs or services. Formalizing policies has a number of positive effects, including creating a structure designed to sustain your work during staff turnover and solidifying the importance of its programs or services.

To streamline programs or services, you may assess your internal processes and consider exploring other similarly-situated organizations to identify successful practices.

In assessing internal processes, you may consider the following questions:

  • Do your programs or services align with your core principles, values, and mission?
  • Does your budget align with your core principles, values, and mission?
  • Are your core principles, values, and mission captured in your policies and procedures?
  • Have you identified your staff’s strengths and given them responsibilities that align with their capacities?
  • How can you leverage those skills to build the capacity of other staff and community partners?
  • What do you need to ensure that your staff has the capacity to implement your programs or services efficiently?

In looking to external sources to identify promising solutions for streamlining your program or service delivery, you may consider the following questions:

  • How do your policies and procedures promote your core principles, values, and mission and address community needs?
  • How do your programs or services align with your outlined policies and procedures?
  • How have you built staff capacity to implement your programs or services, utilizing your outlined policies and procedures?

Integrate programs, policies and practices into the broader community fabric

Successful programs or services are ones that not only adapt to changing environments, but become so integrated into the community infrastructure that they provide long-term benefits to all relevant stakeholders – from partners to program participants. Integrating efforts into the community requires linkages with other programs and services addressing your target populations’ needs. The more successful you are at creating linkages in the community, the greater your chances for integrating your programs and services and facilitating long-term sustainability. To explore whether your programs or services have been integrated into the community composition, you may consider:

  • How are your programs or services being utilized within your community?
  • What opportunities are available to better infuse your programs or services into established organizations, such as school systems, community health promotion programs, etc.?
  • What key linkages are needed to increase the relevance of your programs or services to the communities you serve?
  • How can you leverage resources, such as supplies, materials, and equipment, from larger community efforts to continue implementing your program or services?

End of Section summary

  • You should identify opportunities to restructure programs that can result in increased integration with other service delivery systems in order to deliver services more efficiently.
  • Successful programs are integrated into the community infrastructure so that they provide long-term benefits.
  • It is important to develop linkages with other programs and services that are addressing your target population’s needs.


The following activity can be used to coordinate discussions about streamlining practices and integrating them into the community infrastructure. This activity is meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about accomplishing this.

  1. Assessing the Integration of Program Services

Factor 6: Build a Leadership Team

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Activities


Keys to Success

  • Identify strong internal leaders
  • Keep organizational leaders engaged and secure your commitment
  • Identify external community champions
  • Promote leadership development

Having a strong, diverse leadership team is a foundational requirement for ensuring a program’s or service’s sustainability. Leaders may come from within an organization, but external champions can also help lead an organization towards its long-term sustainability goals. Building a leadership team, rather than identifying a single leader, can sustain organizational successes during transition and help you maintain connections with the community and critical external partners. You can support leadership development by creating opportunities for staff to build upon their strengths and participate in efforts to champion the organization’s mission, while also fostering peer-to-peer learning and career development opportunities.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will learn the importance of having a strong leadership team comprised of internal and external partners. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Build teams of leaders, rather than relying on an individual;
  • Engage your leadership team in your sustainability efforts;
  • Identify leaders and key supports from the larger community; and
  • Cultivate leadership development.

Why is it important?

Strong, diverse, and effective leadership can help sustain and grow programs or services, develop strong community ties, and secure reliable funding sources. Weak leadership can prevent a program or service from realizing its full potential. To maintain larger community support, seek out champions, whether board members or outside partners, who promote the importance of the program’s or service’s work within the community. You will need different types of people with varied skill sets to help lead and ultimately sustain your work, including youth and parents who benefit from your services. Promoting a feeling of shared responsibility and leadership among staff and supporters encourages individuals to invest your time, energy, and talents to foster the success of your programs or services.

Critical Action Steps

Every organization will require different leadership skill sets to achieve sustainability. The approach you choose when assessing your leadership needs will relate to the strength of your organization’s existing leadership team, as well as staff availability, training, and support resources. When assessing and identifying leadership teams, here are some action steps to consider. These action steps are meant to spark thinking about potential champions and leaders and how they can effectively support your long-term sustainability. You should use and/or adapt the questions and activities in this section to create a process that meets your needs.

Identify strong internal leaders

Successful leadership teams share responsibilities and roles when leading a program or service. This creates a sense of shared ownership and also allows for continuity when individuals transition out of leadership roles. When assessing the current leadership team, you may think about what you already have and what you need to support your sustainability efforts. Do you have one or more internal leaders who:

  • Can articulate the program or service’s mission, vision and goals to potential funders, external partners, civic leaders and community members?
  • Can manage the day-to-day operations of the program or service, including budgets and staff resources?
  • Have strong knowledge of the program’s or service’s work, the research and data supporting the approach, and how the work meets the community’s needs?
  • Stay connected to the diverse community groups and agencies that your organization wants to be a part of?
  • Can identify new opportunities and help develop and modify approaches and goals as community needs change?
  • Can actualize and operationalize new approaches or ideas that meet community needs?
  • Can identify best practices and establish standards in relevant areas of your work to help improve outcomes?
  • Can offer adequate training and support to develop and sustain the above areas?

Leadership team members do not always have to be executive-level program staff. Leadership team members can also include individuals from various professional levels within the organization. Diversity in culture, age, professional background, and experience provides an important mix of ideas and perspectives that can benefit the program’s or service’s approach and relationship with the community and its external partners and champions.

Keep organizational leaders engaged and secure their commitment

Leadership of the larger organization within which your programs or services are offered should be frequently engaged to maintain their commitment and understanding of your work. This can be accomplished by regularly inviting organizational leadership to staff meetings and sharing with them promotional materials, as well as evaluation and data results. It also can be accomplished by making sure organizational leadership is aware of community events you participate in and spearhead, inviting them to participate and, in some instances, having them speak about the program’s or service’s contributions to the community. Seeking out leaderships’ thoughts and guidance on particular issues or challenges is another way to keep leaders invested in the work, feel ownership over successes, and driven to overcome its challenges.

Community Champions

  • Business leaders;
  • Civic leaders;
  • Faith-based leaders;
  • Community or government-based organizations working with the same populations;
  • Philanthropists; and/or
  • Current or former program participants, including youth and parents

Identify external community champions

An important component to a program’s leadership team is its network of champions who are outside the organization and program. In successful collaborations, leadership roles and responsibilities are distributed among all partners to foster a spirit of shared ownership and group cohesiveness. Cultivating these community champions can help build name recognition and support for your work in the community. It can also help improve external partnerships, reveal funding sources, and share your message and goals with key leaders, community advocates, and community and government-based service providers. You may look back at the environmental assessment from Factor 2: Assess the Environment and determine which external partners could be a champion for your program or service and specifically consider the following questions:

  • Who are the current external champions and what aspects of the program or service can they promote to the community?
  • Are there areas of your programs or services that are not being adequately promoted to the community?
  • Can current external relationships identify champions who can promote the grant?
  • Does the program have a diverse pool of community champions (see list above)?

Promote leadership development

Most leaders aren’t born, they are made. An important aspect to building a strong leadership team is providing its individual members the training and support they need to fully realize their leadership potential and enhance the strengths and skills they already have. Helping leaders learn new skills, develop their capabilities, and grow their knowledge benefits your programs or services as a whole, but it also helps motivate leaders to sustain their participation. Your organization may not have the capacity to support in-house professional development opportunities for leadership team members, but you can still consider outside community training resources or mentorship or shadowing opportunities between staff to bolster individual’s leadership skills.

Having strong external partnerships also creates opportunities for peer-to-peer learning between program leadership, external champions, and other external collaborators and partners. By conducting cross-training events between partners on different aspects of leadership development, you also create opportunities to build stronger relationships with outside leaders and potential program champions. When planning leadership development, you may think about:

  • Determining what leadership skills trainings may be useful to leadership team members and whether those trainings can be offered in-house or through a community training or conference event;
  • Assessing the value and organization’s capacity to create mentoring relationships for leadership team members to learn from each other; and
  • Identifying opportunities to build relationships with potential community champions through cross-training, peer-to-peer learning, or information sharing forums.

End of section summary

  • Strong, diverse, and effective leadership can help sustain and grow programs or services; develop strong community ties; and secure reliable funding sources.
  • Take advantage of strong internal leaders already available within your organization that can effectively articulate the program’s mission and manage day-to-day operations while remaining connected to the community.
  • External community champions should be considered an important component to a leadership team.
  • Leadership skills can be enhanced with in-house professional development as well as outside training resources and mentorship opportunities.


The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions about building a leadership team. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about incorporating community leaders and partners into your leadership team.

  1. Identifying Internal Leaders
  2. Identifying External Champions
  3. Promoting Leadership Development

Factor 7: Create Strategic Partnerships

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Activities


Keys to Success

  • Develop strategic partnerships
  • Assess existing partnerships continuously
  • Establish a shared vision and commitment to sustainability
  • Engage partners to help market program successes
  • Leverage partner resources
  • Promote leadership development

In this section, you are encouraged to take a critical look at your current external relationships to seek out and maintain true collaborative partnerships that are effective and lasting. You are also encouraged to be strategic in forging new partnerships and to use partners to help them promote your program or service successes in the community (see also Factor 4: Secure Community Support). This section largely draws from the OAH Collaboration Toolkit, which provides an in-depth review of creating and establishing strategic partnerships

Learning objectives

In this section, you will assess your current and potential community partnerships. Specifically, you will learn about:

  • Developing strategic partnerships;
  • Assessing and cultivating current relationships;
  • Creating a shared vision and commitment to sustainability; and
  • Marketing your program or service successes through your partners.

Why is it important?

External partners are important sources of support, training, resources, and even staffing for many organizations. They provide meaningful opportunities for cross-training, peer-to-peer learning, and possible joint financial ventures or supporters when you seek out new funding. External partners can also be a link to larger community networks that can help market your organization’s work and reach new clients, funding, and resource bases. Strong external partnerships can also help you assess changing community needs and modify or tailor programs your services to changing community needs

Critical Action Steps

Every organization will seek out and secure strategic partnerships differently and may have different types of partners in the community, depending on how and to whom its programs and services are delivered. The manner in which you forge new partnerships will vary depending on staffing and resources available to seek out and maintain new partnerships. When assessing current and creating new partnerships, you may consider the following action steps. You can use and/or adapt the accompanying questions and worksheets and create a process that meets your capacity and needs.

Develop strategic partnerships

You will have a wide variety of informal and formal relationships with various types of community organizations. This may range from long-term collaborative partnerships to memberships in coalitions, networks, or work or task groups. The Collaboration Toolkit has defined partnership as “a group of organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal.” The goal of each partnership will vary, some focusing on narrow time-limited tasks, while others will seek to achieve long-term, broader goals.

To identify new partnerships, you may look back at the environmental assessment in Factor 2: Assess the Environment with a focus on the gaps in your current partnerships. Discuss why certain types of partners might be missing and whether adding additional partners could facilitate sustainability:

  • Identify the skills and resources new partners could bring to help realize sustainability goals.
  • Establish goals and objectives for new partnerships.
  • Brainstorm ways to elevate and formalize new relationships that could help sustain the work.

Figure 1: Types Of Partners

  • Public and/or private school systems;
  • Faith-based organizations;
  • Other community-based providers offering adolescent health services;
  • Other social service, health, and/or education community-based providers who serve the same population in a different capacity;
  • Policymakers;
  • Youth or parent-run advocacy organizations;
  • Relevant advocacy organizations; and/or
  • Government and school-based entities.

Keep in mind that whether a program or service is mature or new, at all stages, you can learn important lessons from each other about implementation, community readiness, and needs. For newer or smaller organizations, partnering with more established or larger entities may increase exposure to the community and provide opportunities for the smaller organization to create coalitions or strategic relationships it may not have otherwise been able to support or develop. Partnering with newer organizations could provide more seasoned entities with an opportunity to learn new and innovative techniques for delivering its programs or services.

Figure 1 provides a short list of the types of partners you may need to sustain services in the community. You may also consider partnership opportunities with nontraditional partners, such as local businesses or higher education institutions, to build relationships that stretch your program’s or service’s reach. Partnerships with a diverse group of organizations and individuals with a variety of backgrounds and skill sets increases the base of knowledge from which a program or service can draw.

Forging new strategic partnerships takes time and effort. You can incorporate partnership building into the everyday work of staff and board members. This may entail a range of activities that allow staff to meet and interact with potential strategic partners, such as participating in relevant coalitions and working groups, exhibiting or speaking at local conferences or symposia, or finding opportunities to participate in cross-training events with other adolescent health providers. It may also include taking extra time to build personal relationships with other social service providers with which the program works regularly or meeting with local civic leaders to discuss emerging or important issues relating to adolescent health.

Assess existing partnerships continuously

You may examine your current relationships as well as explore opportunities for new partnerships. You can look at your existing relationships to:

  • Assess the current strengths and weaknesses of your existing partnerships;
  • Examine which relationships are: (1) Informal, short-term without clearly defined missions or structure; (2) Based on a more formal arrangement, but relate to a specific goal or effort; or (3) More formal and long-term, with shared goals and commitments;
  • Identify the skills and resources each external organization could bring to help you realize one or several of your sustainability goals;
  • Identify goals and objectives for each new partnership; and
  • Brainstorm about ways to elevate and formalize relationships to help sustain the program or service.

Establish a shared vision and commitment to sustainability. When creating a formal strategic partnership, consider the following recommendations to help facilitate the partnership’s success and effectiveness.

  • A shared plan of action. Partner organizations should take time to define their vision and mission for the partnership and outline the goals they hope to accomplish together. By doing so, the partners will have taken their first step towards designing a realistic and useful plan for collaboration.
  • Shared leadership and responsibilities. Both partner organizations should have a sense of shared ownership over the goals and mission of the partnership. When creating a partnership plan, the partners should delineate duties between them, utilizing each partner’s strengths and capacities.
  • Clearly defined roles. The partnership plan should clearly state what each partner is expected to do and how and rely upon each partner’s strengths and abilities to delineate duties.

You may also find opportunities to regularly check-in with your partner organizations. Informal meetings to gauge progress, what concerns they may have, or what issues or challenges they may be facing can help strengthen and solidify the relationship.

Engage partners to help market program successes

Once you have identified those external organizations with which you want to partner and understand the goals you hope to achieve through these potential new partnerships, you can:

  • Identify program leadership, staff, board members, or, in some instances, existing partners to become your ‘messengers’ and help reach out to existing or new potential partners. In identifying which individuals to conduct outreach activities, consider the individual’s knowledge of the program, its mission and values and role in the community, as well as that person’s existing relationships with potential community partners;
  • Provide your ‘messengers’ with the resources necessary to communicate the importance of the program’s or service’s work and how potential new partnerships can help both organizations meet community needs and sustain efforts in the long-term; and
  • Create and use an outreach strategy and message that:
    • Is consistent and at the same time adaptable to the audience;
    • Is clear about its purposes, who its audiences are, and what matters to those audiences;
    • Clearly states the program’s or service’s goals and mission;
    • Aligns with larger marketing and outreach strategies and messages; and
    • Focuses on furthering the program’s or service’s mission in the community and increasing community awareness of its successes.

As discussed in Factor 4: Secure Community Support, each program or service needs a clear and consistent message to communicate to its target audience(s). That message should be a cogent and supported illustration of the program’s or service’s strengths, successes and value to the community. If the message is consistent and understandable, engaging partners to help share and spread that message will be easier. There are many ways you can engage your partners to market your successes, such as:

  • Asking partners to share with their networks written products or materials the program or service has developed;
  • Coordinating with partners to market to the community new services or programs offered;
  • Seeking opportunities to conduct trainings or learning sessions for partner organizations to inform them about the program’s or service’s work in the community and successes;
  • Inviting partners to participate, help build or lead workgroups or coalition to address relevant issues affecting the populations served; and
  • Finding opportunities to co-present at workgroups, conferences, and symposia with partner organizations to share the utility and success of the program’s or service’s work.

Leverage partner resources

In addition to having partners promote program or service successes in the community, there are other ways in which the partnership may be of benefit, including:

  • In-kind resources or supports your organization may receive from your partner organization; this may be in the form of staff time and expertise, donations, or facilities or space for events or trainings;
  • Opportunities to identify and seek out joint funding strategies and/or having partners help build relationships with potential funders;
  • Expanding your networks of community supporters through the relationships the partner has in the community; and
  • Helping you identify and recruit program or service participants as the partner organization works with you in some compatible or related capacity.

End of Section summary

  • External partners can be important sources of support, training, resources, and even staffing.
  • Environmental assessments can help your organization identify new partnerships.
  • You should examine your partnerships and relationships on an ongoing basis to better support your sustainability plan.
  • You should consider plans for engaging your partners, such as creating an outreach strategy and messages, and coordinating efforts to share those messages.


The following activities can be used and adapted by a program to coordinate discussions around building network maps and developing strategic partnerships. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about expanding your partnerships.

  1. Mapping your Individual Network
  2. Assessing Potential Partners

Factor 8: Secure Diverse Financial Opportunities

Go to Section: Objectives > Critical Action Steps > Activities


Keys to Success

  • Review the program budget to identify core activities and services
  • Create a budgetary line item
  • Identify and seek funding opportunities
  • Develop a strategy for securing funding
  • Build fundraising and grant writing capacity

Securing diverse funding streams is essential to establishing long-term sustainability and achieving successful programs and services. Relying on a single funding source may be workable in the short-term, but often cannot sustain a program or service for a long time. Continually explore diverse funding opportunities and secure a variety of funding streams when possible.

Securing diverse funding sources, particularly when resources are limited and state and local governments are facing budgetary constraints, is no easy task. First take a close look at what program activities are required to meet community needs and match funding requirements and opportunities to these needs. There are likely a number of opportunities available and you can devote both human and financial resources to exploring them. Not all of the options discussed will fit your needs or financial structuring interests. This section builds upon Factor 2: Assess your Environment; that section can help you in determining what funding streams or financial structures will work best for your programs or services.

Learning objectives

In this section, you will examine your own funding streams and explore alternative models to program financing. You will learn to:

  • Review your program’s or service’s budget against the core services needed to address community needs;
  • Identify alternative funding opportunities;
  • Develop a strategy for securing potential funding opportunities;
  • Devote a portion of program budget to sustainability planning; and
  • Build the capacity of your leadership team in fundraising and grant writing.

Why is it important?

Funding for programs or services can ebb and flow. Government, grant, and foundation funds will nearly always have time limits, so infuse financing research into day-to-day practices. By securing diverse funding streams, you are better able to adapt when some sources of income decrease or end.

Your organization’s approach to diversifying its funding sources will be unique. The following steps are provided to help you identify your community needs and to determine which programs or services are essential to meeting those needs. This section will also help you explore how sustainability planning and budgeting can be embedded into core program activities, as well as offer tools to help you identify potential funders and an action plan to seek alternative funding sources.

To begin, look at information gained by working through previous sections of this module (particularly Factor 2: Assess the Environment) to understand local community needs and the financial environment in which the program operates. When securing diverse funding opportunities, organizations should consider the following action steps:

Review the program budget to identify core activities and services

A deep understanding of the community’s needs is required to determine what core programs or services are provided to meet this need. Look back at the information gathered in Factor 2: Assess the Environment regarding the community environment before moving forward with the suggested budgetary analysis in this section. Using what was learned from that assessment, you can align your core services with community needs and ultimately with each line item in your budget. By exploring the minimum activities or services required to meet the needs of the community, you will gain a better perspective on what aspects of your services are essential and at what scale those services are needed. Explore:

  • What services are currently being provided?
  • What are the current costs of implementing the current services and programs?
  • What components of these services are absolutely necessary to address the community’s needs and fulfill the program’s or service’s mission?
  • What resources are required to implement those essential programs or services identified through this exercise (e.g. curriculum, staff, trainings, other resources)?
  • What are the cost differentials between current service delivery and services deemed essential?
  • What changes can or should be made to the funding of certain programs or services to plan for sustainability?

Once these issues have been addressed, walk through each line of the program’s or service’s budget and answer the following questions:

  • Is this expense essential to provide the program’s or service’s core activities or interventions?
  • Is this expense scaled correctly?

Create a budgetary line item

You may consider adding sustainability planning to your core budget. Creating a budgetary line item devoted to sustainability planning can aid in elevating its status and importance across an organization’s programs and services. You will be better able to track and monitor your sustainability planning as it relates to your entire program or service funding.

Identify and seek funding opportunities

In Factor 2: Assess the Environment, you had an opportunity to explore the financial environment in which you work. Using the activities from that section, you may reflect on this financial environment and:

  • Consider the impact your programs or services have in meeting community needs and your capacity to sustain services in the long-term;
  • Identify funding opportunities through organizations that support services to your current target population, such as local community organizations seeking to bolster services to your adolescent populations or with missions that specifically address adolescent health, pregnancy prevention, supporting expectant or parenting teens, or other related social issues;
  • Strategize how to identify and secure funding from organizations that work in or finance related work, such as regionally-based organizations, community or national foundations;
  • Identify internal and external supporters who can help promote your program and services to potential funders;
  • Consider innovative funding alternatives to grant or foundation funding, such as social enterprise business models or impact investing (see the sidebars for more information); and
  • Consider alternative financing opportunities, such as in-kind support, outsourcing select services, moving services under another community organization, or using a fee-for-service model.

Develop a strategy for securing funding

Once you understand the funding environment and have identified potential opportunities, you may develop a strategy to seek out and obtain new funding. Specifically, you may consider the previous sections and determine which funding opportunities or financing model most appropriately fit your program or service needs. It is likely that multiple options are viable and even critical for securing stable financing and ensuring program sustainability. To develop a successful strategy, you may:

  • Conduct regular budgetary reviews;
  • Determine your goals for securing alternative funding;
  • Identify the tasks needed to accomplish those goals;
  • Assign a staff person to be responsible for implementing each task; and
  • Identify success metrics, a timeframe, and the resources needed to accomplish each goal.

Build fundraising and grant writing capacity

Ensuring that your team has the knowledge and skills to fundraise for its programs or services is critical. Organizations wishing to build their staff capacity may see the benefit of devoting resources to it. Building this professional acumen requires you to explore the following questions:

  • What fundraising skills trainings may be useful to your team and can these trainings be offered in-house or through a community training or conference event?
  • Are there internal mentors that can teach grant writing or fundraising techniques?
  • What opportunities are available for increasing your fundraising and grant writing capacity through cross-training, peer-to-peer learning, or information sharing forums by utilizing your relationships with partners?

End of section summary

  • By securing diverse funding streams, you are better able to adapt when some sources of income decrease or end.
  • You can use what you learn during an environmental assessment to gain a better perspective on aspects of your services that are essential while also considering innovative funding and financing strategies.
  • You should develop a strategy to seek out new funding based on a model that will most appropriately fit your program and service needs.
  • You should consider ways that you can further build your organizational skill sets to enhance internal fundraising skills and the capacity to write grants.


The following activities can be used and adapted to coordinate discussions around identifying alternative funding opportunities and how to secure them. The activities are meant to allow you to think broadly and creatively about securing diverse funding streams.

  1. Reviewing your Program Budget
  2. Identifying and Seeking Funding Opportunities
  3. Developing a Strategy for Securing Funding

Case Studies

Go to Section: Overview > New Mexico > Arizona > South Carolina > Oregon > New York > San Bernardino > UC-Denver


The following case studies provide descriptions of some of the efforts that organizations across the country are engaging in to ensure that their programs and services are achieving meaningful and sustainable improvements in the lives of youth in their communities. Reviewing these examples may help you to define the scope of your own effort and help you decide how to formulate your approach to sustainability planning.

New Mexico Public Education Department

New Mexico Expectant and Parenting Teen Program: GRADS+ Making Connections for Success

Relevant Sustainability Factors
  • Securing community support
  • Creating strategic partnerships

One of our program’s goals is to promote effective collaboration by creating “strategic” partnerships that support the GRADS program and expectant and parenting teens. We formed a GRADS+ leadership team that includes key state level partners who support the goals of our program. The statewide leadership team includes representatives from the attorney general’s office, teen pregnancy coalition members, the Department of Health and the forum for youth in community, among many others.

At the local level, our GRADS sites continue to strengthen strategic partnerships with school and community providers that assist in increasing teen family access to a continuum of health, behavioral health, educational and social services. Each site has a local advisory committee/resource team that includes key school and community stakeholders who promote the GRADS program. Some key partners include: school-based health centers (SBHC), school nurses, counselors and social workers, early childhood home visiting programs, early intervention programs, health clinics, mental health providers, domestic violence organizations, local workforce partners, universities/colleges, WIC, and public health offices. In addition to the GRADS teacher, the GRADS team may include the child care director, a GRADS case manager, a GRADS fatherhood mentor, and a SBHC representative, all of whom collaborate to meet teen family needs. Key GRADS partners are also regularly invited to attend annual GRADS trainings, which support collaborative relationships and provide opportunities for interdisciplinary networking and resource sharing.

Local strategic partnerships have been instrumental in saving GRADS programs that were recommended for closure. Two GRADS sites were able to effectively demonstrate the value of GRADS to their school administration through data and personal testimonies. The local GRADS advisory committee at one site sent letters from students and community partners to the superintendent and school board every day, calling for them to maintain the program.

Arizona’s Touchstone Behavioral Health

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP)

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) was established by Touchstone Behavioral Health in 2010 to address the growing need for awareness and education on teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. TPPP implements ¡Cuídate!, an evidence-based program designed for teens ages 13-18, to 1,000-1,500 youth each year. TPPP maintains a Local Advisory Committee (LAC), which consists of community members, various agencies, school officials, parents, and youth. The LAC’s goal is to increase awareness of teen pregnancy and create a sustainability plan for the program.

Relevant Sustainability Factors
  • Creating an action strategy
  • Securing community support
  • Integrating program services into local infrastructures
  • Creating strategic partnerships

TPPP made relationships with community partners, key stakeholders, and other invested parties a priority early. With one elementary school district, TPPP began discussing sustainability when the program was first approved by the school board. The district served on our Local Advisory Committee, and we were able to build a network of community resources to support programming.

To equip the district to sustain our program, we took an iterative and collaborative approach regarding implementation responsibilities. During years one and two, teachers and staff observed Touchstone staff implementing the program and offered feedback. In year three, we began training school counselors as curriculum facilitators so they could co-facilitate with TPPP staff. In year four, two TPPP staff delivered the Training of Trainers (TOT) for ¡Cuídate!. TPPP provided a TOT for school counselors so they could train school staff to implement ¡Cuídate!.

We have worked to empower and equip the school district early in program implementation so that continuation of services would be achieved. Working within their infrastructure and training their staff helps sustain the program. A key to the success of this approach was to obtain community buy-in and involve stakeholders in the implementation, as opposed to telling them how our work should be ingrained in their systems.

South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

It's Your Game, Keep it Real SC

Relevant Sustainability Factors
  • Assessing the environment
  • Securing community support
  • Creating strategic partnerships

The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign) is working with middle schools across the state to implement “It’s Your Game, Keep it Real,” an evidence-based 24 lesson curriculum for 7th and 8th graders. The SC Campaign, in partnership with ETR Associates, is conducting a randomized control trial of the program, with 12 intervention and 12 comparison schools. Starting in 2014, the comparison schools have begun implementation of the curriculum. From the start of this project, the SC Campaign has talked with school partners about the need to plan for sustainability and has reviewed the research literature on sustainability. We have also collected considerable data; conducted focus groups with parents, interviewed principals; and surveyed teachers and students about their perception of the program to help inform our sustainability efforts.

In the second year of the project, SC Campaign leadership began to visit every school district, whether in the intervention or comparison group. Implementation schools receive more than one visit and multiple contacts each year to support high quality implementation. The SC Campaign frequently called upon the schools and districts to assist with data collection. But, we realized that we needed to also contact schools when we did not need anything; creating opportunities to build deeper relationships, listen to the views of the district without an agenda, and identify obstacles. Therefore, each summer, when school districts are not as busy, we travel to partnering districts to meet with superintendents and other district leaders.

As a result, we have developed deeper relationships and are more responsive to the needs of the schools. In each case, we have learned more about the school environment, what is important to the school and how our program fits into the school environment.

Oregon Department of Justice, Crime Victim’s Services Division

Safer Futures

Oregon’s Department of Justice, Crime Victim’s Services Division’s (CVSD) Safer Futures project supports seven non-profit victim advocacy organizations to place advocates on-site at Child Welfare branch offices, local Public Health departments, and other healthcare clinics. Each site offers: advocacy intervention, accompaniment, and supportive services by an on-site advocate; case consultation and provider training and technical assistance; and organizational and partner capacity building.

Each site has convened local leadership teams comprised of key stakeholders and collaborators who participate in project planning, training, and evaluation. The leadership teams are the mechanism by which the sites ensure success of the project. The teams are tasked to 1) explore how the project can improve and expand on-site advocacy services, especially for teens and underserved populations; 2) develop new or improve existing protocols and forms for partners to use in referring victims; 3) adapt new or existing tools used for assessing and identifying inter-partner violence; 4) develop a sustainability plan, which will include implementation strategies focused on sustaining the project; and 5) implement lessons learned from evaluation into practice.

Relevant Sustainability Factors
  • Creating an action strategy
  • Building a leadership team

Membership on these leadership teams includes management and direct service representatives from the Child Welfare branch office, the local Public Health department, and local healthcare clinics. Some leadership teams also include other community providers who are interested in the safety and well-being of pregnant and parenting women who are victims of violence.

Successful collaboration of the leadership team requires considerable communication, time, and commitment from all project partners. CVSD observes that technology has been an important tool for communicating with and disseminating information to leadership teams, project partners, and key stakeholders. The local leadership teams have also agreed to and signed the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding, which has helped outline expectations of the group. Safer Futures project managers facilitate the work of and regular communication with the leadership teams, helping to motivate and maintain buy-in from members by connecting the team’s work to something of value for each individual member.

New York Morris Heights Health Center

Changing the Odds

Relevant Sustainability Factors
  • Securing community support
  • Creating strategic partnerships
  • Integrating program services into local infrastructures
  • Securing diverse financial opportunities

Changing the Odds is implemented in 12 high-risk middle and high schools in Bronx, New York. Many of these schools are classified as priority or focus schools and have been at risk of being shut down due to low student performance, high truancy and low graduation rates. We provide the Teen Outreach Program (TOP©) curriculum once or twice a week during the school day and after-school for grades 6 through 12. We have cultivated an extensive list of community service partners to provide our 500 students with 20 hours of community service learning. We provide an in-classroom facilitator and, over the years, have had a handful of teachers serve as facilitators, but our experience has been that providing outside facilitators better suits the program.

We regularly meet with the principals of our participating schools to determine (1) if they like the program; (2) if they have seen changes in their participating students as a result of the program; and (3) how they would sustain the program if they are interested in doing so. These efforts have led to many fruitful conversations, including principals committing to setting aside money in their budgets to not only sustain the program, but expand it. This support and expansion efforts relate to the success of the program and the need for our project to continue to cultivate stakeholders, especially principals. Throughout the grant period, we have met with principals on a regular basis to report on the program and share our data. As a result, we have principals who are committed to our work and some who are looking for ways to integrate our project into their school curriculum.

San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools

Positive Prevention PLUS: Sexual Health Education for Youth

The California Education Code requires HIV/STD prevention education in all middle and high schools, and provides guidelines for comprehensive sex education. All California school districts, therefore, have HIV/STD education policies in place, which are typically overseen by the director of Secondary Curriculum or Director of Student Services in each community. The challenge lies in expanding each district’s commitment to providing exemplary instruction beyond what is minimally required, assigning this instruction to well-prepared and credentialed health teachers, linking this instruction to Common Core State Standards and expanding collaborative partnerships to include community agencies, health services providers, and the parent community.

Relevant Sustainability Factors
  • Being adaptable
  • Securing community support

Traditionally we have provided classroom curriculum and sexual health-related trainings to high school science and health teachers who in turn implement the Positive Prevention PLUS curriculum in their classrooms. The School Board, school administrators and the parent community have been largely uninvolved in these efforts. However, in the interest of increased collaboration, awareness and support, we are modifying the format of our monthly one-day curriculum trainings to include a one-to-two hour “Network Meetings” for interested school administrators, PTA representatives and community agency partners. The purpose of these meetings will be to share program/policy/services updates, prior to the actual teacher training. These stakeholders will also be invited to observe the curriculum in-service.

We are also moving beyond curriculum trainings into pressing topics, such as assuring safe and inclusive environments for transgender students and assuring student access to reproductive health services. This expansion has drawn the attention of school district leaders and collaborating agencies who are interested in meeting and discussing these issues. As a result, our agency is being asked to provide a variety of additional support materials, resources, consultations, and presentations to stakeholder groups. As we produce outcome data to share with stakeholders, and as we move beyond a focus on classroom lessons to other timely issues, HIV/STD prevention and comprehensive sex education is gaining visibility and traction as a valuable and acceptable component of K-12 education.

University of Colorado Denver

Circle of Life

Circle of Life (COL) is a sexual risk reduction program for Native American youth ages 10 to 12. It is the only culturally specific sexual risk reduction program for Native youth. Originally class room-based, the curriculum was adapted to an on-line format with supplemental adult-led group activities to meet the needs and interests of youth today, particularly Native youth, many of whom live in remote areas.

Relevant Sustainability Factors
  • Being adaptable
  • Assessing the environment

Since the curriculum is in the public domain, this increases its accessibility, but sustainability depends on the extent to which it is user friendly and well received by students. To this end, we have worked with the program developer to improve a number of user interface issues and have developed a comprehensive set of facilitation materials that are easy to use. These include a facilitator’s guide, lesson plans and information on community development, as well as short YouTube videos that show how to teach each class.

Experience with the new online version of the intervention is limited to a research setting and we are still learning how it will be taught in the real world. To help answer these questions, we will provide technical assistance to those who are interested in implementing the intervention, which will also teach us about the challenges and successes communities are facing when using it in real world settings. This will also allow us to tailor information on the website to better meet the needs of the public and may spawn new ideas for ways to support implementation. We will also collect information about traffic to our website. This will include data on factors such as number of hits, number of pages viewed, time spent on pages, etc. This will provide an additional perspective on how the website and intervention are being accessed and potential areas for improvement.

In a research setting, we have already seen differences between sites in terms of how the intervention has been implemented. Although our goal was to have all sites implement it the same way, there have been logistical factors, technological problems, staffing and competing demands on student schedules that have affected implementation. We have come to recognize that sites will need to adapt the intervention to their unique circumstances. We hope to continue collecting information on real life implementation so that we can provide better guidance to sites that are interested in our intervention.



Each of the eight factors discussed in this module is supported by existing literature and research on the sustainability of social welfare and health programs as well as on-the-ground experiences of OAH grantees and other Federal sustainability frameworks.

The purpose of this module, combined with OAH’s accompanying sustainability resources, is to help organizations effectively leverage their resources to facilitate the continuation of their programs or services, leading to long-lasting improvements in the health and well-being of adolescents. This module provides practical and actionable steps by which organizations can begin planning for sustainability and infuse sustainability conversations and activities into their day-to-day work. It aims to help organizations better prepare to take on strategic sustainability planning and facilitate long-lasting improvements in adolescent health and well-being. Organizations should use all of the materials in the OAH Sustainability Resources collection as flexible, modular tools that can be adjusted to meet their individual needs.

While this module is not meant to provide a list of all factors necessary for every program or service to succeed, it does aim to identify common challenges and issues that organizations might face as they explore their own needs and capacities in building sustainable programs. Below is a summary of the key points from each section.

Factor 1: Create an Action Strategy

  • By systematically approaching sustainability planning, organizations can be more effective in addressing and forecasting future program and service needs.
  • Early planning is helpful to creating a sustainability plan. Organizations should clearly articulate a vision which is shared by their partners and community leaders.
  • Daily program operations should incorporate sustainability conversations and efforts.

Factor 2: Assess the Environment

  • Environmental assessments are key to establishing a foundation upon which organizations can develop a strong sustainability plan.
  • You can conduct formal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analyses to assess strengths and weaknesses and pinpoint specific areas that may benefit from an environmental assessment.
  • After completing an environmental assessment, you should use the information to analyze the relationships between your programs and services; your partners; and your financial and political environments.

Factor 3: Be Adaptable

  • Maintaining a sustainable program requires the ability to adapt services to changing environments and community needs.
  • You should regularly examine your particular community’s needs and match your services accordingly.
  • You should keep informed on innovative policies and services that address your community’s needs. Leveraging relationships with partners and similar organizations can help you keep abreast of new practices.

Factor 4: Secure Community Support

  • Establishing community buy-in is essential for creating a successful sustainability plan.
  • You should focus on crafting consistent, clear, easy-to-replicate messages to establish a broad base of supporters within a community.
  • Promoting your programs and services can also increase community awareness of specific, relevant issues.
  • Community champions can enhance an outreach effort.

Factor 5: Integrate Program Services into Local Infrastructure

  • You should identify opportunities to restructure programs that can result in increased integration with other service delivery systems in order to deliver services more efficiently.
  • Successful programs are integrated into the community infrastructure so that they provide long-term benefits.
  • It is important to develop linkages with other programs and services that are addressing your target population’s needs.

Factor 6: Build a Leadership Team

  • Strong, diverse, and effective leadership can help sustain and grow programs or services; develop strong community ties; and secure reliable funding sources.
  • Take advantage of strong internal leaders already available within your organization that can effectively articulate the program’s mission and manage day-to-day operations while remaining connected to the community.
  • External community champions should be considered an important component to a leadership team.
  • Leadership skills can be enhanced with in-house professional development as well as outside training resources and mentorship opportunities.

Factor 7: Create Strategic Partnerships

  • External partners can be important sources of support, training, resources, and even staffing.
  • Environmental assessments can help your organization identify new partnerships.
  • You should examine your partnerships and relationships on an ongoing basis to better support your sustainability plan.
  • You should consider plans for engaging your partners, such as creating an outreach strategy and messages, and coordinating efforts to share those messages.

Factor 8: Secure Diverse Financial Opportunities

  • By securing diverse funding streams, you are better able to adapt when some sources of income decrease or end.
  • You can use what you learn during an environmental assessment to gain a better perspective on aspects of your services that are essential while also considering innovative funding and financing strategies.
  • You should develop a strategy to seek out new funding based on a model that will most appropriately fit your program and service needs.
  • You should consider ways that you can further build your organizational skill sets to enhance internal fundraising skills and the capacity to write grants.

Further Resources

This module is based on information that was developed for the Office of Adolescent Health’s Building Sustainable Programs: The Resource Guide.

You can also access a number of other tools and information related to sustainability on the Office of Adolescent Health’s website.


Announcement of Grants to Support Expectant and Parenting Teens, Women, Fathers, and Families

Announcement of Grants to Support Expectant and Parenting Teens, Women, Fathers, and Families

Friday, July 7, 2017
The Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces the award of $22,023,940 in 16 grants through the OAH Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) Program to states and tribes to improve the educational, health, social, and economic outcomes for expectant and parenting teens, women, fathers and their families. The grants start on July 7, 2017.
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Engaging Select Populations E-Learning Module


Go to Section: Introduction > Recognizing Diversity > The Power of Diversity > Defining Vulnerable Youth > Vulnerabilities


This course on Engaging Select Populations provides programs working with expectant and parenting adolescents and young adults (referred to as expectant and parenting youth in this course) with an overview of principles and strategies to more successfully reach diverse, vulnerable, and at-risk youth and, specifically, how to work in partnership with them. In this module, we use the term “select populations” to refer to groups of diverse youth with many different characteristics, including, in some cases, vulnerability. The diversity of a population includes the ways in which people differ on characteristics such as age, race, language, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, and physical and mental abilities. Vulnerable youth populations, sometimes referred to as “at-risk populations,” are identified by characteristics that put them at increased risk for negative outcomes.

Successfully engaging select populations of expectant and parenting youth doesn’t just mean translating materials into other languages or assuming that expectant and parenting youth would universally respond to a “one size fits all” approach. Principles for engaging select populations can and should be incorporated into the design, delivery, and implementation of program services. To reach and engage select populations, programs must be flexible, adaptable, and open to customizing materials for a variety of audiences.

This E-learning module on Engaging Select Populations teaches practitioners working with expectant and parenting youth how to:

  • Define select populations
  • Identify the select populations they serve within their target population
  • Identify supports and ways to engage the select populations they serve
  • Develop specific strategies for engaging select populations of youth

Recognizing Diversity

Youth represent diverse groups, with respect to their characteristics and their needs and are often vulnerable youth.

What is Diversity?

Recognizing and responding to diversity within a target population is critical for successful design, delivery, and implementation of program services. Diversity encompasses a number of characteristics, attributes, and contexts, including:

  • Race, ethnicity, language, and culture
  • Gender identity (including transgendered or gender non-conforming)
  • Developmental or acquired disabilities
  • Faith-based beliefs (religious or spiritual)
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or youth questioning their sexual orientation
  • Socio-economic status
  • Variability in language skills and/or reading level

These aspects of diversity can influence the ways in which youth participate in program activities and the approach facilitators use to present information. Engaging diverse participants requires cultural competence, flexibility, and the creation of a safe environment to express opinions. Programs should hire staff and/or train staff to be culturally competent in their engagement of and interactions with youth. In addition, the organization or agency as a whole should embrace, practice, and support cultural competency. “Cultural competence” means having an attitude of acceptance, respect, understanding, and appreciation for another’s cultural uniqueness and a willingness to learn about another’s culture. Cultural competence in program delivery allows for facilitators to establish a rapport with participants, as well as deliver content effectively and respectfully.

Acknowledging Diversity

Successfully acknowledging diversity is more than just accepting differences; it requires:

  • Respecting, appreciating, and understanding the varying characteristics of individuals.
  • Understanding the dynamics of privilege, power, and oppression; that is, historically power differentials have existed between majority and minority groups, and those power differences often result in social privileges or advantages for those in majority groups while simultaneously resulting in oppression and prejudice toward those in minority groups.

Be aware of what may hinder program staff from being culturally competent:

  • Stereotypical thinking: making assumptions about a person or a group of people based on a particular generalization, without regard for individual differences.
  • Ethnocentrism: the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture and to believe that this culture is superior to that of all others (or inferior).
  • Denial of one’s own biases: ignoring personal beliefs or assumptions about groups of people, rather than acknowledging and addressing them.

Program providers should reflect upon their own diverse characteristics and backgrounds, their personal values and beliefs that stem from them, and the ways in which their values and beliefs affect their interactions with others. Diversity can manifest itself in any number of ways, including:

  • Gender roles
  • Family structure
  • Perceptions of time and space
  • Use of humor
  • Speech norms
  • Orientation to authority
  • Attitude toward future and life planning
  • Degree of openness toward members of other cultures
  • Degree of openness about personal issues
  • Individualistic vs. collectivistic values
  • Direct vs. indirect communication (i.e. eye contact, assertiveness)
  • Level of formality of communication
  • Importance of spirituality

When accounting for diversity in designing and implementing programs for expectant and parenting youth, it can be helpful to assess your program’s sensitivity to diversity by asking the following questions:

  • Do any barriers exist that would restrict select populations from participating?
  • Does program scheduling, location, or content restrict participants from attending based on their religious beliefs or days of observance?
  • Are there barriers to participation for youth with no or little income or those with physical disabilities?
  • Do program materials and staff members take into account varying levels of English language competency and reading level without causing embarrassment to participants?
  • Is there a cultural mismatch between the program and the participants? For example, are there conflicts or challenges in the protocol or program messages that differ from the cultural values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations of the select populations served by the program?

Implementing Diversity Programming

One key consideration in engaging diverse expectant and parenting youth is that some aspects of diversity may be in transition. That is to say, during adolescence and young adulthood, young people may “try on” various roles as they develop their identity and gain more independence and autonomy. It is important to keep in mind static versus non-static aspects of diversity and identity and be aware of the transitions that youth may be experiencing. Gender identity, sexual orientation, and religious or spiritual faith, among others, are aspects of identity that may be evolving as young people navigate their transition to adulthood.

Other tips for implementing programming with cultural competence when engaging diverse populations:

  • Do not assume that everyone’s needs and wants are the same – this rings true for program staff and program participants. View the participant as an expert on his/her cultural experiences.
  • Remember that there are subcultures within cultures, and that individuals may identify with many different (and sometime conflicting) cultural identities.
  • Remember that words and phrases are culturally-conditioned (meaning that they may be rooted in one particular culture or may be culture-specific) and that meanings may differ between people and subcultures.
  • Do not rely on past experiences to deal with every new situation – stereotypes and assumptions, whether derived from personal experience or not – can contribute to negative interactions.
  • Consider the cultural knowledge that you possess as possibilities not absolutes; that is, consider that personal values and beliefs are just that – personal – and other values and beliefs are equally as salient to those who espouse them. Be flexible in seeing things from a different worldview.
  • Be aware of and examine your own biases constantly.
  • In the process of acknowledging personal biases, make a good faith effort to think about the positive attributes that different groups bring to the table – not just the negative attributes that are sometimes associated with that group. Treat cultural differences as a resource – look at differences between groups and individuals as an opportunity to learn and be able to tolerate ambiguity or discomfort in learning something different or in contrast to your culture, beliefs, and attitudes.

The Power of Diversity

Select populations or expectant and parenting youth, both diverse and vulnerable, face numerous challenges on their path to self-sufficient, positive adulthood. Programs can benefit from a strengths-based approach to working with select populations, which means focusing on the capacities or gifts that select populations have to offer, not on perceived shortcomings or what is absent.

Bohach (1997) writes: "Every individual, no matter how deprived or disadvantaged he may feel he is or be perceived to be, still has an endless supply of unique, positive, and valuable abilities that are gifts…. Using their gifts, we can focus on areas of strength (the positive) rather than only focusing on areas of need (the negative)."

Group diversity holds many strengths and benefits for programs working with expectant and parenting youth from select populations, including:

  • Diverse experience - Diverse backgrounds bring unique experiences and perceptions to groups and teams. Pooling the varied knowledge and skills of diverse youth can be fruitful. All youth possess unique strengths and weaknesses derived from their cultures, their individuality, and their life experiences. With thoughtful facilitation, diversity can be leveraged, and the strengths of each person can come together to form a group that is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Opportunities for learning and growth - Another advantage of group diversity is the opportunity for youths' personal growth. Being exposed to new ideas, cultures and perspectives can help individuals to reach out intellectually and gain a clearer view of their surroundings and their place in the world. By slowly breaking down conscious or subconscious barriers of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, youth can become more well-rounded members of society.
  • Improved group effectiveness and better decision making - Homogenous groups tend to be comfortable around each other, which is great for camaraderie, but not so great for exploring complex solutions to problems. Diverse groups can break up “group think.” Diversity among team members can bring new and varied ideas to the table; in fact, the mere presence of different groups may be enough to get people out of their comfort zones and thinking differently about the situation.

Defining Vulnerable Youth

There is no universal definition of the term “vulnerable youth.” Generally, youth are perceived as vulnerable if they experience situations, such as pregnancy or homelessness, that put them at risk of developing problem behaviors and outcomes that may potentially damage their communities, themselves, or both. Being “vulnerable” does not necessarily mean that a young person has already engaged in risky behavior or experienced negative outcomes, but it does mean that he or she is in a position or situation where they are more likely to engage in those risky behaviors and thus experience negative outcomes.

Who are vulnerable youth?

Researchers have identified multiple groups of youth who are more vulnerable to experiencing poor outcomes as they enter adulthood. Some of these groups include:

  • Homeless and runaway youth
  • Young mothers and fathers
  • Youth involved in social service systems (e.g., juvenile justice, foster care)
  • Youth who have experienced abuse, neglect, and/or other trauma
  • Disconnected youth (youth detached from the labor market or school settings)
  • Undocumented or non-citizen youth
  • Youth engaged in substance abuse

Youth of color and those living in poverty are overrepresented in vulnerable populations due in part to their exposure to poverty, crime, racism, and lack of access to systems of care, such as health care and vocational assistance.

Vulnerable youth face many obstacles that may make it difficult to avoid negative outcomes and, moreover, difficult to thrive. In some cases, vulnerable youth may not even have their basic needs met – they may experience a lack of food, shelter, and health care. Vulnerable youth might also have to contend with unstable family support systems or homes, a lack of educational opportunity or attainment, or difficulty securing employment that provides adequate wages and health insurance.

Due in large part to these challenges, vulnerable youth are more likely to suffer from physical and mental illness, to engage in criminal activity, and to experience negative reproductive health outcomes, such as:

  • Earlier and higher levels of sexual activity during adolescence
  • A greater number of sexual partners
  • Lower levels of contraceptive use
  • An elevated risk of sexually transmitted infection
  • Higher levels of teen pregnancy and childbearing

Young Parents

Being a parent at any age poses challenges, and expectant and parenting youth are often faced with added financial, societal, emotional, and physical difficulties that put them and their children at higher risk for a number of negative outcomes. Expectant and parenting youth with additional vulnerabilities (that might be present before, during, or after they become parents) may be forced to contend with even greater challenges and barriers. In fact, simply by becoming parents, their risk of further vulnerability increases.

Frequently, young people experience multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities. For example, young women who are homeless, have run away, or are in foster care are more likely to experience teen pregnancy. Of course, when taking these complex and compound vulnerabilities into account, it is important to remember that a factor such as being in the foster care system or being homeless is not necessarily the singular impetus for engaging in the risky behaviors that can lead to teen pregnancy. Rather, for many youth, vulnerabilities are interrelated and emerge from shared root causes. For instance, their risky sexual behaviors may be linked to the experiences of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, which caused these youth to be placed in foster care or to become homeless to begin with.


A young person is placed in foster care due to family instability; she is now considered vulnerable. This increases her likelihood of becoming a teen parent. She gives birth as an adolescent and subsequently drops out of school. This young person now falls into three vulnerable populations: being involved in a social service system (foster care), being a teen parent, and being disconnected from school.

For select populations of youth who are pregnant or become parents, programs should be designed and implemented with their vulnerabilities and risk factors in mind, so that the needs of program participants are supported both as teen parents and as vulnerable youth.


Engaging select populations involves both an understanding of the many unique and diverse characteristics of individuals and groups and of the obstacles faced by them. The challenges faced and programmatic support needed by expectant and young parents stem from these myriad factors and the ways they interact.

Diversity and vulnerability are intertwined: diversity can result in vulnerability, and it can also intensify vulnerability. When considering diversity among youth who are vulnerable, remember that diverse characteristics or contexts may predispose or expose a young person to vulnerability (which might be the case for, say, racial minority or low economic status youth) or they may exacerbate their vulnerability through marginalization in society (which might be the case for youth with marginalized sexual orientations or without documented citizenship status).

A working understanding of societal dynamics of privilege, power, and oppression can help ensure that programs take into account multiple perspectives and life experiences, as well as the barriers faced by certain groups or individuals. For example, a young person who identifies with an ethnic or religious minority group may not necessarily be vulnerable based on this identification alone, especially if they have access to support networks and resources such as a stable home, school, and neighborhood.

However for vulnerable youth who also identify as an ethnic or religious minority, this identification may compound their vulnerability due to further marginalization and greater barriers to resources and care. This is particular important for program providers to understand, as vulnerable youth—such as those who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning; have undocumented citizen status; have developmental or acquired disabilities; or have limited English proficiency or low reading ability—are at higher risk of engaging in problem behaviors and experiencing negative outcomes.

Select populations of expectant and parenting youth often represent vulnerable populations, and they face complex barriers to success that may include pregnancy discrimination. Pregnancy and childbearing discrimination is illegal and refers to treating an individual unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Although most reported cases of such discrimination involve females, there have also been cases where males have faced the same type of discrimination. In the case of young parents, pregnancy and childbearing discrimination might include not inviting a pregnant youth to the prom, not allowing a pregnant teen to walk at graduation, or denying a pregnant teen an internship opportunity. These unique barriers may result in teen parents being further disconnected from society or their peers. Even when overt discrimination does not occur, being a young parent, female or male, may be isolating. These young mothers and fathers may face negative reactions or outright rejection from their families, peers, schools, or employers. Especially with rates of teen births at an all-time low, teen and young parents are that much more stigmatized and marginalized.

Programs that serve select populations will be most successful if they are cognizant of the challenges faced by and sensitive to the needs of minority and vulnerable populations. Program leaders and staff should consider asking themselves the following questions:

  • Does the programming offered make any assumptions about what is “the norm” or make any assumptions about participants?
  • Does it provide space for all voices to be heard safely and equally?

Asking questions like these may be helpful for recognizing the many potential layers of diversity and in identifying unintended exclusion or cultural bias.

The 4 S's of Engagement

Go to Section: Introduction > Setting > Support > Structure > Strategy > Exercises


Part 1 of this e-learning module highlights the benefits of engaging select populations and explores the four S's for engaging youth: Setting, Support, Structure, and Strategy. These elements help programs achieve success in reaching and retaining select populations of youth, and they lay the foundation to develop partnerships with youth.

Benefits of Youth Involvement

Direct youth involvement offers potential benefits both to select populations of youth and to the organizations that serve them. To name just a few: youth gain experience and confidence; organizations gain a fresh perspective on youth culture; and develop more effective outreach strategies. However, organizations must clearly identify and articulate these benefits if youth and adults are to embrace the concept of youth involvement.

Involving young people may provide an organization with the following benefits:

  • Fresh ideas, unshackled by the way things have always been done
  • New perspectives on decision-making that integrate relevant information about young people's needs and interests
  • Candid responses about existing services
  • Additional data for analysis and planning that may be available only through speaking with youth directly
  • More effective outreach that provides important information peer-to-peer
  • Additional human resources as youth and adults share responsibility
  • Greater acceptance of messages, services, and decisions because youth were involved in shaping them
  • Increased synergy from partnering youths’ energy and enthusiasm with adults' professional skills and experience
  • Enhanced credibility of the organization to both youth and advocates

Involving young people may benefit young people in these ways:

  • Increased status and stature in the community
  • Improved competencies and agency
  • Increased self-esteem and sense of self
  • Stronger skills and experience as leaders
  • Greater knowledge and understanding of other cultures
  • Increased self-discipline and schedule management
  • Greater appreciation of the multiple roles of adults
  • Broader career choices


Highly trained staff and a welcoming program space are essential to engaging select populations of expectant and parenting youth. Combined, these two components can create an appropriate environment for serving select populations of youth. In fact, regardless of who is providing services, which select populations are being served, and where they are being served - the principle remains: a warm and welcoming program environment will facilitate program engagement.

The following strategies can help create an appropriate environment for serving select populations:

  • Cultivating a culture of acceptance and maintaining a no-tolerance policy for discrimination
  • Developing and espousing cultural competence among staff and program participants alike
  • Incorporating developmentally- and culturally-appropriate practices into program services and delivery
  • Utilizing youth voices in the development and delivery of program services
  • Recruiting, training, retaining, and compensating highly-skilled and culturally-competent staff
  • Setting up a process to deal with and overcome challenges when they occur

Concrete suggestions for developing highly skilled staff and a welcoming program environment include:

  • Hiring Criteria -- by identifying and applying appropriate staff selection criteria and by a implementing a thorough interview process, programs are more likely to hire people who are a good fit for the program. It is important to remember during this process that there is not necessarily a single set of ideal staff qualities to look for when hiring – a diverse staff brings the same elements to the table that a group of diverse young people brings, experiences, culture, and understanding.
  • Training staff -- staff should be trained and mentored to build their capacity to understand and address the complex influences and risk factors that lead to teen pregnancy; to adopt culturally sensitive practices and celebrate diversity; to help youth recognize the positive and supportive resources that can be maximized; and, to acknowledge where supplemental support is needed. A high functioning staff is one that is well-trained in topics relevant to their work, which, in the case of expectant and parenting youth, can include adolescent development, reproductive health, positive youth development, and trauma-informed approaches.
  • Holding staff accountable – after staff are hired and trained, program leadership should develop guidelines to maintain quality of service delivery and staff-participant interactions. Program leaders should monitor and track services provided, evaluate staff performance, and hold staff accountable in the process.
  • Maintaining staff morale -- direct service staff have articulated the following as desirable qualities for long-term employment: relevant skills training, technical assistance, appropriate infrastructure supports, and comparable benefits and salary. Notably, most of these qualities relate to support – staff also benefit from a warm and appropriate environment!


If the secret to success in real estate is “location, location, location,” in the field of youth development, the mantra is: “relationship, relationship, relationship.” The relationships between young people and adults and among youth and their peers are the single most influential contributor to the success of any youth serving organization. Youth may be attracted to the program for various reasons, but they will remain engaged because of their relationships with program adults and other youth they encounter.

Program staff should strive to become “adult allies;” adult allies are those who take a strengths-based approach to working with youth (meaning, when they work with youth, they recognize and utilize the strengths that youth have to offer), those who endeavor to share power and decision-making with youth, and those who will advocate on behalf of youth when others portend negative stereotypes and assumptions.

Becoming an Ally

Strong and effective adult allies will:1

  • Work alongside youth as allies and build authentic relationships. These mentors build the bridge between young people and the adult world. The key to successful youth-adult relationships is an understanding of the concept of partnership. In many youth-adult relationships experienced by expectant and parenting youth, adults either dictate the “agenda” of the relationship, or they neglect the young person and abdicate responsibility for what happens to them. In a strong youth-adult partnership, the adult ally and young people work “shoulder to shoulder,” sharing ideas and expertise, translating information about one another’s worlds, creating a mutual agenda, and taking joint responsibility for outcomes. Effective partnerships establish clear goals and an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. They also include balance control; if youth have no power to make decisions their participation is not one of partnership. Authentic relationships are particularly important for vulnerable populations who may be disconnected from stable adults (or any adults, for that matter), or who have lost trust in adult relationships due to their negative past experiences with adults.
  • Model positive behavior. Relationships in the teen and young adult years pave the way for future relationships. Given the tendency of young people to mirror the behaviors of those around them, program staff should model healthy relationships by treating young people and each other with respect and courtesy. Ideally this should be effortless – respect and courtesy should be the default. In challenging situations, it can be easy to lose one’s cool, but these situations offer an additional opportunity to model positive and productive ways to compromise, negotiation, and, of course, respect other people’s views and beliefs. Modeling healthy relationships skills is especially important when working with select and vulnerable populations who may have had limited access to positive adult role models throughout their lives. Consistently modeling positive and healthy behavior will help these young people to navigate difficult situations, change negative behaviors, and continue to display positive behavior into adulthood.
  • Use motivational interviewing techniques to help expectant and parenting youth envision a better future. Motivational interviewing is a person-centered, non-directive form of communication that promotes individual change. It is a collaborative communication technique, which can include pointing out ambivalent or contradictory statements and reframing thoughts into opportunities for change. The technique of motivational interviewing seeks to help people think differently about their behavior and ultimately to consider what might be gained through change. The strategy is to help expectant and parenting youth envision a better future for themselves and their families and to become increasingly motivated to realize that vision. Adult allies should help open doors for youth and increase their access to the resources needed to achieve their goals.
  • Empower program participants to be program ambassadors and share their stories with other youth and encourage participation. Program staff should recognize that young people are assets and are oftentimes willing and able to advocate on behalf of youth and the program. Of course, program staff should consider the fact that young people vary widely in their development and in their ability, readiness, and willingness to assume responsibility. Like adult program staff, program ambassadors should be committed, reliable, and effective. Adults should prepare youth to meaningfully engage in the decision-making and leadership roles available while they participate in programming and once they become alumni.

Strategies for Effective Programs

To work effectively with select populations of youth – especially vulnerable youth who may not have access to supportive networks and resources – program staff can employ the following strategies:

  • Be open to and nonjudgmental about young people's insights and suggestions. Letting expectant and parenting youth know that their perspective, opinions, and involvement in a program matter can help promote program engagement and can ensure that youth will participate in meaningful ways.
  • Set realistic and overt expectations. Be honest about program expectations, including what youth are expected to contribute and how they should participate. Expectations should be realistic, and hold youth accountable.
  • Remain flexible and offer support. Expectant and parenting youth have numerous needs – their own and their families.’ Programs should account for their diverse needs and the kinds of support (financial, logistical, training, emotional, and so forth) it will take to keep youth engaged and for who will be responsible for responding to these needs and providing this support.
  • Take time to build a relationship. Remember that it takes time to develop trust and rapport with youth; many youth are unsure about adults' intentions, especially those who have been neglected, abandoned, or abused by adults in the past. Take the time and make the effort to develop a good relationship with youth at the onset of the program.
  • Make the work interactive, fun, and valuable. Like adults, youth are more likely to get involved and remain active and engaged in projects that are interesting and fulfilling. Having fun is important. Whenever possible, find a way to balance learning, work, and fun in program services.

Other Suggestions

Concrete suggestions for strengthening participant-provider relationships include:

  • Ensure staff retention -- maintaining a consistent staff and minimizing turnover ensures program quality and continuity and makes it possible for participants and providers to develop strong relationships.
  • Train on best practices -- providers can benefit from technical assistance and training that provides examples, case studies, and success stories of successful strategies and best practices for communicating and building relationships with youth.
  • Be transparent and consistent -- participant-provider relationships will thrive when trust is present. With openness, consistency, and honesty, young people and adults can develop trust within their relationship, which will in turn facilitate strong working relationships and youth-adult partnerships.
  • Use what you learn -- deliberate inclusion of teen feedback in program planning can improve program delivery and, ultimately, increase youth engagement. Programs should have a specific plan on how to include and foster the input expectant and teen parents provide. A stronger relationship is forged when youth feel their voice is heard and respected.


To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Promising strategies and existing gaps in supporting pregnant and parenting teens: Summary of expert panel workgroup meetings January and July 2013. Washington: D.C. 


As noted earlier, expectant and parenting youth – especially vulnerable youth – face many barriers to service access and utilization. To improve program recruitment and engagement, program providers should identify the range of barriers that select youth populations face, and think strategically about how to overcome these barriers. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come – program structure must preempt or account for factors that would impede upon successful engagement. Adults who endorse the concept of engaging youth and forming youth-adult partnerships must be willing to identify and alter the program structure and organizational environment that act as barriers for select populations.

Consider the following structural factors that might inhibit engagement of select population of expectant and parenting youth:

  • Meeting and Work Hours – An agency’s hours of operation usually coincide with times when young people are at school or work. To engage youth, program planners must find nontraditional times at which to hold important meetings or provide services. Often, scheduling conflicts can be difficult to overcome. However, compromise is vital if an organization is to create youth-adult partnership. For adults, this may mean altering schedules to hold meetings in the late afternoon, early evening, or on the weekend.
  • Transportation – Many young people do not have access to transportation. Program planners should schedule meetings or programs in easily accessible locations. They should also provide youth with travel vouchers and/or immediate reimbursement for the cost of travel.
  • Food – Few young people have the income to purchase meals in business districts or dinners in restaurants. When a meeting occurs at mealtime, the organization should provide young people with food or with the means to obtain food. For example, a gift card for a nearby restaurant.
  • Equipment and support – Agencies should provide youth with the same equipment as other employees, such as computer workstation, mailbox, voice mail, E-mail, and business cards. Failure to do so carries a powerful message that these youth – whether they are volunteers, interns, or peer educators, full-time or part-time – are not important or, at least, are not as important as adult employees.
  • Procedures and policies – With input from both youth and adults, organizations should develop policies on youth/adult interactions. Organizations may consider establishing policies requiring the consent of a parent or guardian for youth’s participation in activities or for youth being transported by organization staff, for example. The setting and purpose of each youth-adult partnership will help determine other institutional factors that may need to be addressed in the organization’s policies and procedures.


Concrete suggestions for improving program structure include:

  • When possible, outreach should come from peers, program alumni, or trusted adults.
  • Allow for adaptability and flexibility (locations, hours, modes of service delivery, etc.) Adaptability means that staff should continuously review material and strategies to ensure they are culturally sensitive and appropriate and make adaptations such as modifying role plays in existing curricula to fit the population. Flexibility means that programs can engage select populations more effectively if they are flexible in the times they offer services, provide food during meeting times, and are bi-lingual and/or bi-cultural. Programs should strive to be gender diverse to engage male and female youth – such that both are able to participate in activities.
  • Consider offering incentives when working with vulnerable expectant and parenting youth (including food, diapers, condoms, gas cards, and so forth). Take transportation barriers into account and provide support for youth to get to program services within reasonable amounts of time.
  • Work with partner and referral agencies to offer critical services such as child care, so that expectant and parenting youth can stay in school, or housing options for homeless and runaway youth. Young people are more likely to remain in programs if their needs are being met. Programs need to develop capacity/partnerships in the community to respond to the concrete needs of expectant and parenting youth (e.g., food, health care, and paying internships).
  • When possible and appropriate, involve the teen’s whole family in the program. Programs should integrate a focus on establishing healthy relationships -- youth may need to learn ways to maintain and, in some cases, re-establish healthy family relationships. Programs should also take into account changing perspectives -- programs may need to broaden the client definition, from the individual teen to recognizing and embracing the whole family as a unit in need of service. For example, programs can include grandparent support groups, offer intergenerational parenting education, and target younger siblings who are at increased risk for pregnancy.

To make youth engagement feasible, authentic, and impactful, these elements of a workable and intentional structure should be taken into consideration to support a system of opportunities. This combination of setting, support, and structure ensures that youth are seen as valuable participants, are prepared to take on meaningful roles in addressing relevant issues, and work in partnership with adults who respect, listen to, and support them. These elements set the stage for youth to engage in the design, delivery, and implementation of programming.


Programs fare better when they offer accessible and meaningful activities. This is especially true for serving select populations who may face additional barriers to participation or who feel marginalized by programming that is not relevant to them. Youth are more likely to participate if the program is:

  • Serving their needs
  • Supporting their ability to participate
  • Addressing issues which are important to them, and
  • Fostering strong adult-participant relationships

Like adults, many youth want active, hands-on activities that can be accomplished in short-term timeframes and easily-accessible settings. Others are interested in longer commitments that provide increasing opportunity to share ideas, influence decisions, or support their growth.

Working in partnership

To make a program approachable for diverse youth, agencies can create a continuum of opportunities for engagement that increase the extent to which youth share authority and accountability in program activities, planning and decision-making. It is also important to avoid "tokenism" in which one or two youth are consulted or invited with little expectation that anyone will heed their suggestions.

Consider these four strategic pathways to engagement:1

  1. Involvement–youth involvement includes allowing youth to actively participate in volunteer opportunities and meetings initiated by adults, to have input on the program activity planning and day-to-day operations, or to take on projects within initiatives.
  2. Consultation–youth consultation is the intentional creation of mechanism for youth input and advice on important issues facing their neighborhoods, schools and communities while the adults retain the authority to make final decisions.
  3. Representation–youth representation means providing youth with the opportunity to participate in ongoing program planning on behalf of their peers, with the ability to help set the agenda and vote in decision making.
  4. Shared leadership–shared leadership is when youth share positions of authority with adults as colleagues and share accountability for the goals and outcomes of the activity.

The pyramid shape does not imply that any one pathway has a greater value than another, but rather to demonstrate that activities increase in their depth and intensity as they move from the base to the apex. The pyramid shape is also indicative of the fact that the potential number of opportunities and the corresponding number of youth involved tends to decrease as the type of involvement increases in complexity.

Avoiding tokenism

Too often, the attitudes of well-intentioned adults undermine effective youth involvement. Programs may involve young people merely as token representatives. Programs may involve youth without sufficient preparation of either staff or youth. Tokenism and insufficient preparation are both recipes for failure. Both youth and adults may have high expectations about successful cooperation. However when planners put little time and effort into building the skills of both adults and youth to work in partnership or attempt to use young people in meaningless ways, efforts to involve youth will seldom succeed.

Tokenism can appear in many forms such as:

  • Having young people around with no clear role to play;
  • Assigning youth only those tasks which adults do not want to fulfill;
  • Having youth make media appearances without any voice in developing the messages, programs, or policies that the youth are expected to talk about; or
  • Having one youth on a board of directors or council to point to as “youth involvement.”

Tokenism will leave young people feeling used rather than empowered. The key to avoiding tokenism is to share with youth the power to make real decisions. Youth-adult partnerships are not ways to hide or obscure the fact that programs are designed, implemented, and run only by adults, but should be meaningful and beneficial for all involved: youth, adults, and the program/organization/agency as a whole.


To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 National League of Cities, Institute of Youth, Education & Families. (2010). Authentic youth civic engagement: A guide for municipal leaders. Washington: DC. Retrieved from: http://www.nlc.org/Documents/Find%20City%20Solutions/IYEF/Youth%20Civic%20Engagement/authentic-youth-engagement-gid-jul10.pdf

Exercise 1

What are some potential benefits to serving a diverse population? Select all that apply:

Exercise 2

Which of the following are examples of a workable and intentional program structure? Select all that apply:

Exercise 3

True or False: Good youth mentors are adults who tell them what to do and correct mistakes as they see them, helping guide young people toward appropriate behavior and goals.

Exercise 4

Which of the following describes a technique for avoiding tokenism in youth engagement?


Go to Section: Introduction > Communication > Partnerships > Exercises


In general, youth can be a difficult group for program providers to reach – and with the time and financial demands of parenting, expectant and parenting youth can be even more difficult to reach! When you add the various vulnerabilities of diverse populations (and the barriers to service access and utilization that they often face), reaching select populations of youth can be a daunting task. This section describes promising strategies for engaging youth.

  • Develop partnerships with pediatrician offices -- pediatric waiting rooms offer an opportunity for reaching out to teen parents either to provide resources or to introduce subsequent pregnancy prevention materials. The information could be presented on the screen in the waiting room or in the form of flyers and brochures. Additionally, the information should be culturally and developmentally appropriate as well as friendly and enriching.
  • Visit hospital emergency rooms -- for those teen mothers without health insurance, babies are often seen in emergency rooms; therefore hospital emergency departments could provide opportunities for reaching out to expectant and parenting youth. A similar strategy is to offer services at Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program locations; expectant and parenting youth use this Federal program for food and health assistance, education about nutrition, and obtain help with finding health care and other community services. Offering programs or services at WIC sites may be an avenue for reaching select populations of expectant and parenting youth.
  • Work with the social service systems – as noted earlier, expectant and parenting youths’ lives often intersect with social service systems, such as the criminal justice system. Working with these systems provides an opportunity to reach the most vulnerable populations (and, thus, the populations who are most in need of program services). Reaching these populations also offers an opportunity to affect positive intergenerational change; for instance, children of incarcerated parents are at higher risk of teen pregnancy. Targeting this group could be a good avenue for reaching youth and offering services to expectant and parenting youth and their families.
  • Go where youth congregate -- youth gathering places, which can vary widely across groups and regions, offer a direct way to reach youth where they congregate. Examples could include shopping malls, nail salons or Native American youth powwows. For this strategy to be most successful, program staff should consider working with youth or community liaisons and partners in identifying and gaining access to these locales.
  • Use social media -- utilizing social media sites that youth frequent to advertise programs could be helpful. Given today’s technology-driven youth, social media could be used to reach out to youth virtually. (Popular sites will vary regionally but may include sites such as Foursquare, Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter, Meetup, LinkedIn, etc.). When using social media to recruit program participants, it is imperative that program staff take into consideration the safety of the youth they are digitally reaching. For example, identifying these youth as expectant or parenting youth might put them at risk of negative reactions from parents, peers, and other members of the community.
  • Develop partnerships with the faith-based community -- religious communities and programs for expectant and parenting youth can work together productively. Both have a shared interest in strong families and in the healthy development of young people, and this shared interest can be leveraged to gain access to youth settings, to reach youth groups, and, in some cases, to develop partnerships for ongoing program service delivery. This partnership provides an excellent foundation for mutually-beneficial activities.


When working with select populations of youth, effective communication can facilitate active engagement. Effective communication is dependent on appropriate communication styles, meaningful consultation and roles, and openness and responsiveness to feedback from youth.

Communication styles in content delivery

Working with diverse and vulnerable youth can often highlight language and communication differences. Different styles of communication can create communication barriers – which can lead to misunderstanding or misinterpretation and, ultimately, disengagement. But differing communication styles are not necessarily indicative of disrespect, disinterest, or different goals and expectations. Youth and adults say that the best way to resolve conflicts that arise out of different communication styles is to ask questions when one does not understand what is being said or why.

Good communication can produce strong youth-adult relationships, which can improve program engagement. Take the time and make the effort to create shared meaning through communication and to develop a good relationship with youth before expecting things or making demands of them. A common metaphor used among youth workers is “young people as a bank account” – you cannot expect to withdraw something without having made any deposits.

The activities, services, expectations and roles of programs may be new to youth; take the time to explain. When information is presented in a hurried manner, youth can interpret this as a sign of disinterest in youths’ participation; so, go slowly and explain what's going on. Understanding, being able to identify, and being responsive to the communication styles of diverse and vulnerable populations will aid in the ability of staff to communicate with these groups effectively and remain open to hearing youth, thereby reducing conflict or miscommunication and encouraging program engagement.

Good communication leads to meaningful engagement

Consider these strategies when seeking to meaningfully engage youth:

  • Consult and involve youth in the design and development of programs. A core premise of youth development is that young people gain more from experiences with which they have active involvement. Research also suggests that programs for youth that are developed through youth-adult partnerships are highly effective in building young people's skills and have a greater impact on the young people served than do programs who do not involve youth. Program providers should also elicit ongoing feedback from youth participants.
  • Make youth an integral part of the implementation of the program. If youth cannot be involved in the design and development, attempt to involve them in program or service delivery. This allows youth to move beyond passively receiving the program to actively gaining a sense of self and agency.


What are important elements of effective youth-adult partnerships? It can be challenging to build effective, sustainable, genuinely collaborative youth-adult partnerships.

Successful partnerships have some important elements in common:

  • Establish clear goals for the partnership. Youth and the adults must understand what their roles and responsibilities will be in achieving the goals. Ensure that each adult and young person enters the partnership with a clear understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Not all adults will want to work with youth and not all youth will want to work with adults in a partnership capacity.
  • Share the power to make decisions. If youth have no power to make decisions, their participation is not one of partnership. Get the highest levels of the organization to commit fully to youths’ participation in the organization’s work. Treat youth as partners. Ensure that all members of the group, regardless of age, share the decision making power, having an equal voice and equal vote.
  • Select carefully. Young people vary widely in their development and in their readiness and willingness to assume responsibility. Being clear about the goals of the partnership and the roles that youth will play will help in identifying young people who are committed, reliable, and effective. At the same time, effective partnerships are selective about adult participants. Adults must believe that young people are assets and be willing and able to advocate on behalf of youth when stereotyping or negative assumptions about youth arise.
  • Provide capacity building and training. Effective partnerships don’t set young people up for failure by throwing them into situations for which they are not prepared. Youth may need training in skills, such as communication, leadership, assertiveness, or interviewing, as well as in topic areas, such as HIV prevention education, teen pregnancy prevention, or substance abuse, to name a few. Similarly, effective partnerships don’t set adults up for failure by throwing them into situations for which they are not prepared. Adults may need training in communication, collaborative work, interviewing, or working with youth as well as in specific areas of expertise, such as HIV prevention education or teen pregnancy prevention.
  • Value youths’ participation and what they bring. Effective partnerships hold high expectations for participating youth and are not afraid of holding youth accountable for their responsibilities. Welcome, encourage, and affirm contributions and insights from both youth and adults. Include room for growth – next steps. Where can youth and adults go next? For example, peer education programs are often great vehicles for empowering young people and helping them develop important skills. However, these programs seldom include opportunities for advancement or for peer educators to assume more responsibility over time. Effective programs ensure that youth and the adults who work with youth have opportunities for advancement. Both youth and adults will have valuable experience and insights to bring to more senior positions in the organization.

Exercise 1

What are some of the potential barriers to achieving successful youth engagement? Select all that apply.

Exercise 2

Which of the following are ways of effectively engaging youth through communication?

Exercise 3

True or False: Youth engagement is more beneficial to youth than to organizations or agencies in practical application.

Summary and Resources

Go to Section: Conclusion > Resources


This course provided you with an overview of the challenges and opportunities of engaging select populations in programs and services. You learned:

How to identify select populations of expectant and parenting youth

  • Select populations of expectant and parenting young people have diverse experiences and characteristics that sometimes make them vulnerable or put them at risk of developing negative outcomes.
  • Common examples of select populations that are considered to be vulnerable include homeless and runaway youth; youth in foster care; youth who experience abuse, neglect, or other trauma; undocumented or non-US citizen youth; and expectant or parenting youth.

How to recognize diversity and vulnerability

  • Program staff should be trained in cultural competence, meaning an attitude of acceptance, respect, and appreciation for another’s cultural uniqueness and a willingness to learn about another’s culture.
  • Diversity can refer to many individual characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, language, culture, gender identity, faith-based beliefs, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.
  • More than simply being tolerant of differences, valuing diversity requires respecting, appreciating, understanding, and accepting the varying characteristics of individuals and understanding the dynamics of privilege, power, and oppression.
  • Some aspects of diversity are static and rarely change across the life course whereas as others may evolve as an adolescent transitions to adulthood.

How to utilize the four S’s for engaging youth

  • Program providers can improve engagement through setting; they can harness the power of diversity, set the stage with highly trained staff, and develop community partnerships to reach select populations.
  • Program providers can improve engagement through support; they can foster healthy relationships between young people and adults and among youth and their peers.
  • Program providers can improve engagement through structure; programs should be workable and intentional and should allow for adaptability and flexibility.
  • Program providers can improve engagement through strategy; they can utilize the four strategic pathways to engaging select populations: involving youth, consulting youth, ensuring youth are represented in planning, and establishing shared leadership among youth and adults.

How to develop strategies for engaging select populations

  • Recognize and utilize the benefits of youth involvement (to young people and adults).
  • Successful engagement is often a function of careful communication.
  • Be attentive to logistical and organizational barriers that can hinder engagement. Develop a plan for overcoming these barriers.
  • Successful youth-adult partnerships are formed with purpose and intention, have clear goals and roles, shared responsibility, capacity building and training, and contributions from youth and adults.

Expectant and parenting youth are considered vulnerable by definition, but when they also represent other diverse or vulnerable populations, engaging them successfully in programs and services requires additional effort and commitment on the part of the entire organization.


Adolescent Males

Black Youth

Foster Care

Hispanic Youth


Intimate Partner Violence


Native American/Alaska Native Youth


Tips and Tools

Other Resources

The views expressed in written training materials, publications, or presentations do not reflect the official policies of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Any statements expressed are those of the parties responsible for developing this training content, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Final Exam

Go to Section: Final Exam Intro > Final Exam

Final Exam

You have nearly completed the Engaging Select Populations E-Learning Module!

To finish the module, you must correctly answer the 14 of the following 16 questions.

Question 1

Which of the following is an aspect of diversity?

Question 2

True or False: Being culturally competent meanings ignoring your own biases about people who are different from you.

Question 3

“Ethnocentrism” can be defined as when someone:

Question 4

True or False: Individuals may have many different (and sometime conflicting) cultural identities.

Question 5

Which of the following is a true statement about diverse identities?

Question 6

True or False: Oppression occurs when there is an imbalance in power and privilege between minority and majority groups.

Question 7

Which of the following groups does NOT represent a “vulnerable” population?

Question 8

True or False: Youth of color are overrepresented in vulnerable populations due in part to their exposure to poverty, crime, racism, and lack of access to systems of care.

Question 9

Which of the following is a true statement?

Question 10

True or False: Diversity among youth groups should be avoided – differences between group members will lead to conflict and lack of group agreement and subsequent lack of group engagement.

Question 11

Effective and authentic youth-adult partnerships do NOT involve:

Question 12

True or False: Even when adults involve youth in program or group decisions, adults should always determine the “agenda” of the youth-provider relationship, so that the program or services that are being delivered do not get off-track.

Question 13

Which of the following BEST represents “shared leadership” among youth and adults?

Question 14

True or False: Youth involvement can enhance the credibility of an organization to both youth and advocates.

Question 15

Which of the following is NOT an example of “tokenism”?

Question 16

True or False: Differing communication styles are indicative of different goals and expectations.

Performance Management E-Learning Module


Go to Section: Overview > Objectives

This Toolkit is intended to support organizations in the adolescent pregnancy prevention and expectant and parenting teen fields in developing and improving internal performance management systems and practices that harness the power of data for informed, strategic decision-making and quality improvement. It includes information, helpful tips and examples of concepts and tools such as logic models, performance dashboards, and indicator development. The process of performance management is also highlighted for organizations as they move towards implementing or refining these concepts.

An important first step for grantees is to determine personal and organizational levels of understanding and commitment to performance management. The Office of Adolescent Health has developed an assessment to help grantees determine where their organization is strong in performance management and what might need improvement. Taking this assessment before you complete these sections will be helpful.

Such systems and practices support the ongoing operational success of grantees, support strategic planning efforts, and improve grantees' understanding of their own organizational strengths and challenges - a key tenet in strategic partnering. Performance management also allows grantees to better demonstrate their stated goals and measure identified outcomes.

The Toolkit provides information and resources that will enable organizations to achieve the following objectives:

  • Improve existing performance management knowledge and infrastructure by learning key performance measurement concepts;
  • Identify strengths and areas for organizational improvement through the examination of performance management processes and practices; and
  • Increase awareness of available performance management resources.

The first section covers key concepts in performance management and focuses on developing a logic model as a guiding tool, implementing performance dashboards, and developing key indicators. The second section discusses organizational practices that are essential to a successful performance management system and how to implement them. Lastly, specific resources have been gathered to assist grantees in developing their own performance managment procedures and learning more on performance management.


Go to Section: Logic Models > Performance Dashboards > Indicator Development

Logic Models

Key Term: Logic Model

A logic model is a visual representation of the underlying assumptions and anticipated outcomes related to an organization's work.

One of the most helpful tools an organization can create to begin practicing performance management is a logic model. Logic models are visual representations of underlying assumptions and anticipated outcomes related to an organization's work. Logic models are widely used in both nonprofits and the business world, with good reason. With a one page document, an organization can convey to staff, organizations, key stakeholders, clients, and funders what it is they do, why they do it, and how they accomplish stated goals. Many funders like to see a logic model when they consider funding an organization because it shows that the organization has thought seriously about the work they are doing and set attainable goals and outcomes that will be regularly evaluated.

Logic models can take on many different visual forms, but they all have the same core components. To illustrate the components of a logic model, an example of a school-based program working with pregnant and parenting teens will be used. The ultimate goal of this example program is to reduce subsequent unplanned pregnancies thereby increasing the likelihood that the teens graduate from high school. See the template below as an example logic model based on this program.


These are the resources that an organization invests to make their work happen. Examples include staff time, office space, and funding.


Activities are the daily operations of an organization. These are actual things an organization does such as providing services, offering trainings, and community outreach.


Outputs are what are produced by the organization or program as a direct product of the activities. Outputs are quantifiable and are usually easy to verify with basic program data.


Outcomes are the effects and changes achieved by the program. They are often separated into short term and long term outcomes. Short term outcomes are the immediate effects of a program while long term outcomes are meaningful changes, often in a person's status in life or effecting a large population of society. Outcomes are the key components of a program that can be evaluated to determine if an organization's underlying assumptions are correct about the change their work produces.

Finally, an important component of a logic model and performance measurement process is the feedback loop or evaluation process. Once an organization has undergone the practice of determining their actual outcomes and evaluating their performance, using this information to inform future work is key. This ensures that the time, energy, and resources put into performance management are not wasted by data sitting unused on a shelf. A logic model should be a living document that staff refer to often and use when making decisions regarding operations and services. Particularly in an environment where funds are scarce, having a logic model in place helps leaders justify the allocation of resources and funds towards the organization's primary goals and allows other staff to see the basis for these often tough decisions. This ensures that an organization's work is aligned with its primary objects and keeps mission creep at bay.

Performance Dashboards

Key Term: Performance Dashboard

A performance dashboard is a powerful tool that allows management to gauge progress on the objectives they have determined are important to their operations and goals.

Another tool that was first created in the business world but remains applicable to human services is a performance dashboard. A performance dashboard is a powerful tool that allows management to gauge progress on the objectives they have determined are important to their operations and goals. These objectives can be taken from the development of a logic model or determined through other types of strategic planning. A dashboard is an electronic system that is able to provide the user with a visual representation of how a program or organization is performing both at a specific point in time and over a period of time. It provides a way for organizations to monitor, analyze, and manage their programs and gain a quick snapshot of performance.

Dashboards allow organizations to monitor their program’s processes and activities. This can include day to day operations such as how many clients each case manager has or the number of attendees at parenting classes. In addition to daily operations, users can monitor their strategic goals. These goals could include reaching a target audience, achieving a fundraising level or expanding program operations. An approach called a “balanced scorecard” is a common way to monitor strategic goals and can be considered a type of dashboard. In addition to using historical data, a balanced scorecard offers reliable information about future performance to enable organizations to make informed decisions that will better benefit their agency and program. This is done by developing a measurement tool that provides the user with combined information from across the organization; utilizing data from an organization’s financial, client, business, and human capital processes/perspectives. Again, a balanced scorecard is just one approach but is a common performance measurement tool and one worth considering when deciding to implement a performance management system. To read more about balanced scorecards, see the “Strategy” section in the Resources section at the end of this toolkit.

In addition to simply viewing an organization’s performance data, dashboards allow users to analyze this data across the different departments or layers within an organization. This can be used to find the root cause of any issues an organization or program may be experiencing or attempt to predict the outcome of a specific management decision. In order to implement this step, a dashboard must have the capability to integrate data from a variety of sources.

Organizations are also able to manage their programs and organizational information via dashboards. Dashboards facilitate communication, often allowing managers and their staff to interact via performance notes, threaded discussions, and formulation of action plans. They can be created with the ability to produce graphs and charts related to the program’s performance so that managers can view performance quickly and create visuals to depict performance for other interested stakeholders such as administrators, funders, and other staff.

Dashboards can either be built internally by an organization or can be purchased from an outside vendor and then customized to fit an organization’s needs. These systems are often a significant financial undertaking, particularly if an outside vendor is hired to create one for an organization, so the decision to pursue one should be considered in light of financial resources. The Minnesota Department of Human Services has developed a dashboard to keep the public informed of progress on a variety of key indicators of community health and well-being. The dashboard provides one example of how this tool can be utilized. It can be viewed at: http://dashboard.dhs.state.mn.us/default.aspx.

Indicator Development

When setting up a performance management system, it is important to decide how success will be defined and how progress towards that success will be measured. In the field of performance management, this measurement is referred to as a performance indicator. To decide what should be used as performance indicators, organizations must ask themselves what is most important to our organization or program? This can be influenced by many factors, including what outcomes funders wish to see, the organization’s mission, a strategic goal the organization has committed to work towards, or the environment within which the program is operating. This is when it is very helpful to have a logic model for your program because this question can often be answered by reviewing the short and long term outcomes. These may not be the only significant indicators but are a good place to start the process of indicator development. Though indicators can vary and be developed from different sources, they should always be quantifiable. Once indicators are created, they can be used within a dashboard or other performance management system to monitor progress.

Practices & Implementation

Go to Section: Overview > Plan > Measure > Analyze > Improve > ...Repeat


Though each organization’s performance management procedures may look different, it is helpful to follow the basic process of performance management to ensure that all the proper steps are in place. By following these recognized steps, those outside an organization can easily see and understand that performance management is a priority. The process is cyclical (see diagram) because, as discussed in the previous module on logic models, the information gained from analyzing and evaluating the organization’s work should be used to both improve existing work and inform new work. However, it is often possible, even necessary, to move back and forth between each step as an organization’s needs dictate. The process is also important as it allows time and space for challenges to be addressed. The basic phases of the performance management process and tips on implementing a process follow.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve


During the planning phase, identifying goals and appropriate benchmarks for success are the key activities. Consider how success will be defined- by a number, by satisfaction of clients, by meeting a specific outcome? These will be the goals that are evaluated through the performance management process. During this phase, staff should also identify the resources that will be deployed in support of the goals and be sure enough of the resources (time, space, funding) are available.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve


Once an organization has planned what benchmarks need to be measured, processes need to be designed to collect data and measure progress towards the benchmarks. This can include designing an instrument or using one that has already been created, perhaps with a few tweaks. Examples include surveys, forms, case logs, and electronic tracking systems. There are a variety of electronic performance management systems (such as the dashboards discussed in the previous section) that exist to help program administrators track and measure their work. These are usually available for a cost and are often a significant investment. Something administrators may wish to consider is the amount of time it will take staff to utilize the measurement instrument. If it is a form already in place, then obviously the time investment is minimal. However, if they need to learn an entirely new electronic system, that will require additional staff time and training.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve


This process takes the raw data collected in the Measure phase and examines it for trends, goal completion and other needed data. Then, it is important to compile it into a consumable format for stakeholders. The format can be a report, presentation or even an email if that is all the stakeholder requests. Electronic performance management systems (mentioned previously) often include an analysis component that easily provide the user with trends, averages and progress towards programmed benchmarks. The analysis phase is based on what the organization feels is important to know. This can be dictated by funders, such as a need to know the total number of clients served, but it can also be based on an organization’s goals and information needs. Even if data is easily collected, consider if it’s relevant to the specific goals and benchmarks set by the organization and if not, there isn’t a need to spend time analyzing and reporting it.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve


Once the analysis is complete, it is important to integrate the findings into regular program operations. For example, if a program offers four parenting classes a week and one is found to have significantly lower attendance than the others, perhaps the less popular class is cut so that resources can be directed elsewhere. This ensures that the ultimate goal of performance management, improved performance, is achieved. To achieve this step, organizations should set aside time to discuss how the data gathered effects current work. This could be in the form of a standing meeting or the responsibility of one key staff member. During this phase, organizations can also address any program challenges that were found during the performance management process.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve


Much like a logic model shouldn’t sit on a shelf once it’s developed, a performance management system should be an ongoing process. Once findings are integrated into program operations, the process begins again so that an organization is constantly improving its services and operations.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve


Go to Section: Conclusion > Resources


Effective performance management systems support the ongoing operational success of grantees, bolster strategic planning efforts, and improve grantees’ understanding of their own organizational strengths and challenges. In order to implement effective performance management practices, it is critical to have a clear understanding of how your organization will define success. It’s also important to recognize that effective performance management is an ongoing process that relies on data in order to ensure that programs are achieving their intended outcomes. Remember, not only do effective performance management practices assist organizations in managing their programs in systematic ways, but they also help to ensure the sustainability of those efforts.

In this toolkit, you've been introducted to:

3 Key Performance Management Concepts

  1. Logic Models
  2. Performance dashboards
  3. Indicators

4 Steps for Effective Performance Management

  1. Plan
  2. Measure
  3. Analyze
  4. Improve


Make sure to explore the resources section of the toolkit where you will find links to a number of resources to assist your efforts to implement, or fine-tune, your organization’s performance management system.

The resources below are provided as a supplement to this toolkit for those who wish to find more information on performance management and associated tools. They are organized into sections to make finding the type of resource simpler.


This section provides information on the basic precepts and premises of performance management.


This section provides information on performance management practices and strategies organizations can use to enhance their performance management system.


This section provides links to virtual tools that help organizations make performance management more effective and efficient.

Quality Improvement

Quality Improvement is the ultimate goal of performance management. This section explores activities that facilitate positive change based on accumulated performance data.

The views expressed in written training materials, publications, or presentations do not reflect the official policies of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Any statements expressed are those of the parties responsible for developing this training content, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Go to Section: Exam Intro > Exam

Final Exam

You have nearly completed the Performance Management E-Learning Module!

To finish the module, you must correctly answer the 13 of the following 15 questions.

Question 1

A logic model is:

Question 2

The order of the components of a logic model is:

Question 3

True or False: All logic models look the same no matter which organization is creating them.

Question 4

A performance dashboard is:

Question 5

True or False: A performance dashboard can be created within an organization or developed using an outside vendor that specializes in such applications.

Question 6

One common type of performance dashboard is called a:

Question 7

True or False: A performance indicator is a measure of important factors related to an organization’s work.

Question 8

True or False: Performance indicators can be used within a performance dashboard once they are created.

Question 9

The process of performance management follows the following steps:

Question 10

True or False: The process of performance management is cyclical.

Question 11

True or False: It is not important to plan what is going to be measured when undertaking performance management.

Question 12

True or False: It is not a good idea to use instruments and forms an organization already has in place (such as case logs, forms and electronic tracking system) to measure data for performance management.

Question 13

When data is analyzed for performance management, it is then put into a consumable format such as:

Question 14

Once data analysis is complete:

Question 15

True or False: Logic models and performance management systems are living, ongoing processes that should not sit unused on a shelf.

How to Select an Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program


Go to Section: Objectives > Overview of the Steps


So you want to implement an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program...

Excellent news! The Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) has developed this e-module to help you choose the program that is best suited to meet your specific needs and goals. Program selection does not occur in a vacuum; it is a process that involves thought, planning, and coordination. The steps laid out in this module will walk you through the process of program selection, the first in a series of steps involved in implementing evidence-based programs (EBPs). We also touch briefly on aspects of implementing an EBP in the section entitled "After Program Selection."

At the conclusion of this e-learning module, participants will be able to:

  1. Define the term "evidence-based";
  2. Discuss the importance of implementing evidence-based programs;
  3. Identify the four main steps in selecting the most appropriate evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program for their particular needs; and
  4. Describe how program selection fits into a larger process of high quality program implementation.

Overview of the Steps

There are four main steps involved in the selection of an EBP. The sections that follow will cover each of these steps in greater detail. You may want to download the Program Selection Checklist handout to assist you throughout the process of selecting an EBP. You should consult it regularly and frequently for reminders and guidance from start to finish.

1. Identify the problem(s)

Key Questions: What issue(s) or concern(s) do you want to address? What are your specific needs and what resources do you already have in place to begin to address them?

In this section, you will learn about the critical role that needs and resource assessments play in achieving sustainable impacts in teen pregnancy prevention, including why they are important and how they relate to the EBP selection process.

2. Develop a logic model

Key Questions: What process will you use to address this issue? What are the long-term outcomes you hope to eventually achieve? How do you plan to achieve them? What resources will you need in order to achieve those outcomes?

In this section you will learn about the role and importance of developing a logic model as part of your EBP selection process. The development and use of a logic model will provide you with a detailed roadmap for reaching your goals and outline the criteria by which you will judge the success of your initiative. Your logic model will also provide you with criteria you will use to judge the appropriateness of potential EBPs for teen pregnancy prevention.

3. Identify potential programs

Key Questions: What interventions could you implement as a part of your process for addressing your issue of concern?

There are quite a few EBPs for teen pregnancy prevention out there. How will you narrow your search to find the program that is right for you? This section will walk you through the process of using the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Evidence-Based Programs Database and accompanying implementation reports to identify potential programs. You will become familiar with information that is provided on each program, learn how to set search parameters, and sort through results.

4. Assess fit

Key Questions: Of the different interventions you have identified, which are most applicable to your population of interest and community.

Once you have identified programs that meet your basic criteria using the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database, you must assess whether they are pertinent for your priority population and whether they are relevant and acceptable to both the specific implementation setting and the broader community. This section will teach you how to assess the various dimensions of population and environmental “fit” to find the program that is best possible match for you.

It may be tempting to rush through the first two steps of this process so that you can jump right into reviewing programs. However, these steps are critical to ensuring that the decisions you make in steps 3 and 4 are well-informed and will best position you to successfully impact teen pregnancy prevention in your community. Organizations that don’t spend adequate time identifying the problem and developing a clear understanding of how they plan to address that problem among their target population may end up investing time and money in a program that looks great but isn’t actually a good fit for their community, organization, or target population.

The following video, developed by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence at Cornell University, helps to demonstrate the importance of careful program selection. [This video was produced by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence. HHS is not responsible for the content of this video and does not endorse or recommend any products, processes, services, manufacturers, or companies referenced therein.]

Before we get started with these steps, however, we should have a clear understanding of what it means to be an EBP and why we should limit our selection to programs that meet these criteria.

About EBPs

Go to Section: Introduction > Study Criteria > Key Outcomes > Testimonials from Practitioners > Activity


Regardless of background or professional role, we all want our efforts to improve the lives and trajectories of adolescents to be successful. If we spend time or money to address a problem, we want to ensure that we will see a return on our investments. This is where evidence-based programs (EBPs) come in. The teen pregnancy prevention programs in the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database are proven to reduce teenage pregnancy, behavioral risks underlying teenage pregnancy, or other associated risk factors among teens age 19 and younger. In other words, if you select an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program that is appropriate for your setting and population and implement it with fidelity, you are more likely to experience the same results as those described in the program evaluations.

Study Criteria

In order to understand the benefit of using an evidence-based program, it is helpful to know how programs become evidence-based. Not only will you have a better idea of what sort of information to look for when assessing the effectiveness of a particular program, but you will also be able to explain the benefits of using an EBP to your staff and other key partners, such as school administrators, teachers, funders, and other community partners.

A program is deemed evidence-based if:

  • Evaluation research shows that it produces positive results;
  • The results can be attributed primarily to the program itself, rather than to other extraneous factors or events.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) maintains a list of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs that is located in the Evidence-Based Programs Database. HHS considers the following criteria and others to determine if a program is evidence-based (for more information on the HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review criteria, please refer to the systematic review by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the Resources Section):

Type and Number of Participants

Rigorous evaluations include a minimum number of participants in both the treatment and control groups. If a study has too few participants, it is difficult to say that the same results could be reliably achieved again. Evaluations of teen pregnancy prevention programs, specifically, must also limit their study participants to individuals ages 19 or younger. When a program is evaluated among a well-defined population, the confidence that comparable results can be achieved when implementing the program among individuals with similar characteristics is increased.

Study Design

To be designated as “evidence-based,” a program must be evaluated using an experimental or quasi-experimental design and sound statistical methods. Experimental designs randomly assign participants to a treatment and a control group and assess whether the outcomes for the treatment group are statistically significantly different from those in the control group. Random assignment allows researchers to claim that the intervention is responsible for the difference, instead of other reasons (e.g., that people who choose to be in the study are more motivated to change). Quasi-experimental designs also divide participants into treatment and control groups, but do not do so randomly. Consequently, experimental studies provide stronger evidence for program success than do quasi-experimental studies, though both are considered more rigorous than non-experimental evaluations.

Key Outcomes

An EBP for teen pregnancy prevention will have demonstrated change on one or more of the following outcomes:

  1. Sexual activity
    • Delay sexual initiation. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program wait longer to begin having sex? How much longer?
    • Decrease the frequency of sexual intercourse. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program have sex less often? How much less often?
    • Decrease number of sexual partners/increase monogamy. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program have fewer sexual partners? How many fewer partners?
  2. Increase use or consistency of use of contraception. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program use contraception more frequently (count of overall usage) and/or more consistently (ratio of usage to sexual encounters)? How much more frequently/consistently?
  3. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Did the incidence (and prevalence) of STIs among adolescents significantly decrease following implementation of the program?
  4. Pregnancies. Did the incidence (and prevalence) of pregnancies among adolescents significantly decrease following implementation of the program?

The following video was developed by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence at Cornell University and describes in a bit more detail what makes a program evidence-based. [This video was produced by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence. HHS is not responsible for the content of this video and does not endorse or recommend any products, processes, services, manufacturers, or companies referenced therein.]

Funders have placed increased pressure on organizations to implement EBPs because of their increased likelihood of success. However, as you could see from the video, EBPs are not one-size-fits all, and the growing number of EBP options can make identifying the right program a challenge. The remainder of this e-learning module will focus on the process of identifying and selecting the EBP that is right for you.

Testimonials from Practitioners

The following testimonials come from OAH TPP grantees with experience selecting and implementing EBPs. In the following testimonials they discuss the benefits and challenges they have experienced:

Linda Rogers (Iredell-Statesville Schools)

As an OAH grantee, we replicated two evidence-based programs: Making Proud Choices and Be Proud! Be Responsible! Be Protective! Using these programs enabled us to deliver a consistent, medically accurate, and age appropriate curriculum to over 3,500 middle and high school students in Iredell-Statesville Schools. We set our initial goals based on the research findings of these programs. We are proud to say that we have seen positive outcomes in our teen pregnancy rate, intentions on using birth control and condoms, and an increased intention to be abstinent. Without using these evidence-based programs, we do not believe we would have had these positive results.”


Francine Levin (Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County)

Providing our EBP with fidelity seemed like it would be nearly impossible in our conservative community at first. We weren't sure how the inclusion of a condom demonstration would be received by school boards and parents. We spoke directly to the program developer who insisted that the condom use skills were essential skill-building for program effectiveness, and that not including this important aspect was essentially a "deal-breaker." When approaching schools, and later garnering parent permission, our approach was total transparency. We provided the evidence that supported the program’s effectiveness, the importance of implementing the program with fidelity, and explicitly stated that a condom demonstration using an anatomically correct penis model were part of the program. Only two school districts opted out, and both have since decided to offer the program after learning about its success at other local schools. Of the permissions slips returned by students, less than 1% of parents did not allow their child to participate. When students were asked which activity they liked best, the condom demo was listed more than any other activity. When students were asked what was the most important thing they learned, "correct condom use" was listed more than anything else. The requirement to follow the EBP with fidelity gave us the courage and credibility needed to advocate for a more comprehensive program in schools. To our surprise, the community not only saw the need but overwhelmingly gave support for a truly comprehensive approach.”


Melissa Peskin, Ph.D. (University of Texas School of Public Health)

We are implementing an evidence-based sexual health curriculum that provides detailed step-by-step lessons about building skills, changing attitudes, and increasing knowledge about healthy relationships and adolescent sexual health, which may be challenging topics. The response from teachers, students, and parents to the curriculum has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers have reported not only the successes achieved by their students, but also their own successes in becoming better all-around teachers. It is truly amazing to see the reach of the curriculum and the positive impact it is having on both students and teachers.”


Jasiel Fernandez (Vale Esperar)

Implementing an evidence-based program has provided great learning opportunities for our grass-roots organization. It has allowed us to establish more consistent standards to ensure the medical-accuracy of program content as well as more effective delivery. Likewise, it has afforded leadership and staff clear metrics for development and improvement of our department. Training on our EBP model allowed for consistency in terms of increasing the capacity of community partners and their facilitators. It takes a bit of effort to manage the different elements at first, but it is well worth it.”


Andrea Gomez, RN (Tulare Community Health Clinic)

[An] evidence based curriculum reduces the risk for adolescents; it helps decrease pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STDs) rates. Reducing the Risk (RTR) and Draw the Line/Respect the Line enhance the ability for students to comprehend the importance of making informed decisions. RTR emphasizes the importance of having a healthy relationship. It gives the students the opportunity to think about the future and their goals in life, and allows them to practice skills to get out of situations they are uncomfortable in. Students are encouraged to initiate a conversation with their parents and guardians regarding sexual health. Independent evaluation of our OAH TPP Grant has shown that students consistently (over the 4 year study) have a high increase in knowledge of STD/HIV after completing the lessons in the evidence based curricula. Our team has seen a positive impact in our students. The following are examples of the students’ ‘I learned’ statements completed on the last day of class: ‘I learned that there are diseases that come from having sex;’ ‘I learned that sexual intercourse has a lot of consequences and things that can affect you, your partner, and you and your partner’s body and future;’ ‘Abstinence is the only way to stay protected 100%;’ ‘I noticed that I wanna wait to have sex. I’m not trying to have a kid at 15.’”


Now that you have heard about some of the benefits and challenges that other OAH TPP grantees have experienced when implementing an EBP for teen pregnancy prevention, complete the Benefits and Challenges to Implementing an Evidence-Based TPP Program  worksheet to help you start thinking about how your organization might benefit from implementing an EBP and what challenges you might face.

Step 1: Identify the Problem(s)

Go to Section: Key Questions > Needs and Resource Assessment > Example Needs and Resource Assessment

Key Questions

What is the problem(s) you would like to address? Think beyond simply “high number of teen pregnancies in my school district/community.” Are there particular groups in which the high rates are more prominent, (e.g., age groups, race/ethnic groups, specific schools or neighborhoods)? Are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) of concern as well? Are adolescents simply uninformed about the existence of services or resources in their area, or is there a lack of relevant services? Do adolescents even know what these services and resources are or what purposes they serve? Be as specific as possible. You can’t identify solutions until you understand your problem(s).

Needs and Resource Assessment

A needs and resource assessment is a systematic way of gathering information that describes, in detail, the needs and resources of the target population and larger community. A need is a lack of some resource, tool, or program that puts adolescents at a disadvantage or places them at risk for negative health or social outcomes, including teen pregnancy. Resources are types of support, services, or programs that are available in the community, such as a reproductive health care clinics or out-of-school-time programs.

Conducting a needs and resource assessment provides a sound understanding of the needs and conditions of a priority population, which is critical in implementing a program that addresses those needs. Needs and resource assessments are helpful – even if you have already selected or are implementing a program – and should be conducted on a regular basis. Some of the benefits of conducting such an assessment include the following:

  • Identify a priority population by assessing the data
  • Learn more about suspected needs and possibly uncover new ones
  • Identify common sexual risk-taking behaviors
  • Identify the determinants (i.e., the risk and protective factors) of those behaviors
  • Design programs more strategically
  • Gather baseline data that can help with program planning and evaluation
  • Strategic use of resources (i.e., staff, funding, materials)
  • Gain support from stakeholders through strategic planning
  • Update information about your priority population and program participants
  • Review for program improvement
  • Use for future program planning

The following are good sources of data for your needs and resource assessment (refer to the Best Practices for Conducting a Needs and Resource Assessment for additional sources of data):

Local Data

  • County or municipal public health reports
  • School district reports

State Data

National Data

Refer to the Needs and Resource Assessment Checklist to help you assess the comprehensiveness of your data collection plan. Remember, the more thorough your needs and resources assessment is, the better informed you will be when it comes to selecting an EBP that will truly make a meaningful difference in your community. Consider conducting focus groups with youth, parents, or community leaders to gain insights about attitudes, values, and norms, and identify potential barriers to implementation; learn about existing and previous teen pregnancy, STI, and HIV/AIDS prevention efforts; assess the existence and accessibility of health services for teens in your specific area; ascertain the important determinants (i.e., risk and protective factors) that influence sexual risk-taking behaviors; and identify potential collaborations or partnerships you could leverage to support your efforts.

Example Needs and Resource Assessment

The following is an example of a community that was able to better target their teen pregnancy prevention efforts through a careful assessment of community needs and resources.

A community that is currently targeting high school students with its teen pregnancy prevention efforts is still experiencing high pregnancy and STI rates. A needs assessment reveals that many students are already engaging in risky behaviors in middle school, highlighting the need for starting teen pregnancy prevention efforts at earlier ages. In this example, conducting a needs assessment revealed why an existing intervention was not having its intended effect and helped identify more relevant foci for prevention efforts.

Now that we understand the importance of doing a careful and comprehensive needs and resource assessment, we will explore how that information can be used to develop a logic model that can help to guide the EBP selection process.

Step 2: Develop a Logic Model

Go to Section: What is a Logic Model? > Outcomes > Outputs, Activities & Inputs

What is a Logic Model?

A logic model is a graphical depiction of your desired outcomes and your plan for obtaining them. Logic models consist of four major components—inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes—and serve two purposes.

First, program staff use logic models as tools to strategically, purposefully, and scientifically identify the causal pathways between goals and interventions. In other words, they allow program staff to make sure that there is scientific evidence and theory to support a link between a particular intervention and the outcomes that are being targeted.

Second, they also point program staff to the process and outcome indicators to be measured and evaluated, helping them to evaluate the fidelity of program implementation and make corrections along the way. This process of using data to inform program implementation is a key component of performance management. To learn more about performance management, you can check out the performance management resources on the Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Resource Center.

Why are Logic Models Important?

Logic models are the foundation of all good program planning and implementation. They are an important planning tool that will help you identify all of the resources and actions necessary to achieve your goal(s). The development of a logic model facilitates the program selection process by honing in on the specific outcomes of interest and thinking critically about the actions necessary to attain these outcomes and the resources and capacities necessary to carry them out.

Selecting a program without first developing a logic model leaves organizations vulnerable to a number of difficulties and problems later on. For example, the individuals implementing the program may discover upon starting that they lack certain resources or capacities to carry out the program with fidelity. Alternatively, implementing a program with a different population than it was originally designed for may not yield similar results to those achieved in the evaluation study. Logic models help to prevent such pitfalls by establishing an informed framework for program selection. Logic models are also useful for evaluation of your efforts later on.


Working Backward

In developing a logic model, it is important to work backwards and begin at the end with your desired outcome(s).

Logic model: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Outcomes


Outcomes are the benefits for participants during or after their involvement in a program. They should be directly related to the problem that you identified through your needs and resources assessment, as described earlier in this module. Examples include delay of sexual initiation, decreases in the frequency of sexual activity or number of partners, increases in condom/contraceptive use, and reductions in the incidence of teen pregnancy. Outcomes can be measured at different points, ranging from immediately following the conclusion of a program to several years later.

Remember, outcomes should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, a “SMART” outcome might be to reduce incidence of teen pregnancy in Smith County by 20% within six years. By denoting the amount of reduction desired, the outcome is specific. It is also measurable as the information needed to assess it is available via vital statistics for Smith County. A 20% reduction over a period of six years is a realistic undertaking, making the outcome an achievable one. Assuming Smith County has a high teen pregnancy rate compared to neighboring counties or within the state, it is a relevant goal as well. Finally, specifying a deadline of September 2020 makes the outcome time-bound.

Clearly identifying and articulating the teen pregnancy prevention outcomes that you hope to address will help you to narrow your search for TPP programs that are known to impact the outcome you have identified.

  • Short-term outcomes. Short-term outcomes are the immediate effects of a program and often focus on change in knowledge, attitudes, and skills. For example, an organization wishes to reduce teen pregnancy by delaying sex. A short-term outcome in this example would be an increase in teens’ positive attitudes about delaying sex.
  • Intermediate outcomes. Intermediate outcomes are achieved within 3-5 years of program initiation, and often include change in behavior, norms, or policies. In the example, an intermediate outcome would be adolescents’ delaying of sex (a behavior).
  • Long-term outcomes. Long-term outcomes are achieved within 4-6 years of program initiation and include changes in organizations and systems. In the example, the long-term outcome would be a reduction in the incidence of teen pregnancy (a systemic change).

Outputs, Activities & Inputs

Working Backward Continued: What Leads to Outcomes?

After deciding what you want your short-term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes to be, you can keep working backwards to see what will get you there:

Logic model: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Outcomes


Outputs are the products of a program’s activities. While this is an important part of the logic model, you won’t be able to fill most of this part in until you have selected your program. However, you may be able to identify targets such as the number of youth you hope to reach and the number of locations you plan to implement the program. Examples of outputs include the number of classes taught, participants, or brochures distributed. Being able to identify expected outputs makes it easier for you to assess whether you need to make adjustments in how you are implementing your program. For example, if you intended to deliver the program to 50 participants but have only recruited 30 youth, you may need to adjust your recruitment strategies accordingly.


Activities are what a program does —the actual events that take place—to fulfill its mission. This section is where you will document the activities that are associated with the program that you select. Examples of activities can include lessons, condom distribution, etc. While you won’t know the specific activities until you have selected your program, you should note any restrictions to keep in mind. In particular, you should use this section to document community norms and values, such as parent attitudes about sexual health education or local policies about sexual health education in schools that will influence which program activities you can conduct. For example, if your community requires abstinence-only education, you should not select a program that includes condom demonstrations. Similarly, if time constraints require you to limit class sessions to 50 minutes, you should not select a program with 90-minute sessions.


Inputs are resources a program needs to achieve its objectives. Examples include staff, volunteers, facilities, equipment, curricula, and money. This component is especially important because you will need to consider all of the resources that will be required, including training, in order to implement the program with fidelity. Once you have determined the necessary inputs, you must assess your current resources and capacities and identify where gaps or deficits occur. Doing a thorough job of assessing your current capacities will be critical as you move on to Step 3: Identifying Potential Programs.

For additional assistance in designing your own logic model, refer to the Logic Model Template and Logic Model Data worksheets.

Step 3: Identify Potential Programs

Go to Section: Identify Potential Programs > Using the Database > Implementation Reports > Activity

Identify Potential Programs

HHS’s searchable database of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs provides an efficient way to filter through the myriad interventions by program type, setting, length, age, race/ethnicity, outcomes affected, and study rating. You may want to start your search by only excluding programs that you know don’t apply. For example, you should have already identified both an outcome and a target population, so you may be ready to exclude programs that don’t target your particular outcome or that are not designed for the age group you are targeting.

As you narrow down your search by including more parameters, you will obtain a shorter list of potential programs. If you make your search too specific, you may not end up with any programs that match all of your criteria. In that case, you should consider which of your criteria are absolutely necessary, and which criteria are merely preferences. Remember, the decisions about your search criteria – including things like age of participants, setting, and target outcomes – should be informed by the needs and resource assessment that was described in “Step 1: Identify the Problem(s).

Upon retrieval of your search results, read through each program’s implementation report for more detailed information to further narrow your options and ultimately decide on a program selection. You can do this by clicking the program name in the list of search results. First, let’s turn to the database itself and walk through the various search criteria.


Using the Database

Filter Options

You can filter programs through the following options:

Program Type

What type of program are you looking to implement? Teen pregnancy prevention can be a goal of several types of programs, including abstinence programs, clinic-based programs, programs for special populations, sexuality education programs, or youth development programs.

Abstinence programs are those that focus on delaying sexual initiation. Clinic-based programs are designed to be implemented in clinical settings, such as health centers. Programs for special populations are those that target specialized groups, (e.g., expectant and parenting teens, youth in juvenile detention). Sexuality education programs generally include information on (or otherwise promote) both the benefits of abstinence and risk mitigation through condom and contraceptive use for sexually active adolescents. Finally, youth development programs combine elements of abstinence and sexuality education with broader services, such as mentoring, health services, or case management. You may want to select “all” to begin with, unless you are targeting a specific population.

  1. Abstinence
  2. Clinic-Based
  3. Sexuality Education
  4. Youth Development
Implementation Setting

Where are you looking to implement your program? Not all programs are designed to be implemented in all settings, though some can work in more than one. The database will allow you to choose one or more implementation settings. These settings include after school/community-based organizations (e.g., YMCA), schools (elementary, middle, and/or high schools), health clinics, or other specialized settings. If you have not already identified a particular setting, you may want to select all to begin with. However, if you know that you will be partnering with a school or a local after school program, you can specify that here.

  1. In School: Elementary School
  2. In School: Middle School
  3. In School: High School
  4. Alternative School
  5. After School
  6. Community-based Organization
  7. Health Clinic
  8. Home-based Case Management
  9. Correctional Facility
  10. Online
  11. Other
  12. Show Me All Types of Settings
Age Group

What are the ages of the adolescents with whom you work? Here again, not all programs are designed for all youth. Younger adolescents (e.g., 13 -year-olds) differ quite dramatically in terms of development, cognition, and physical attributes from older adolescents (e.g., 18-year-olds). Be sure to select the age range that most closely matches your participants in order to filter out programs that were not designed or evaluated with adolescents in that range. In general, you should consider specifying this criterion at the start of your search.

  1. 13 years or younger
  2. 14 to 17 years
  3. 18 to 19 years
  4. 20 years or older
  5. Show me all age groups

Another important demographic characteristic to consider during program selection is population. Programs designed for and evaluated with African-American adolescents may not yield the same outcomes for Latino adolescents, for example. If your priority population includes adolescents of varied populations, select each applicable option to limit your results to those evaluated with these different sub-populations.

  1. Female
  2. Male
  3. Latino
  4. African American
  5. White
  6. Asian
  7. Any race/ethnicity 
  8. Pregnant or parenting
  9. Incarcerated youth
  10. Foster care youth
  11. Homeless youth
  12. Sexually active
  13. LGBTQ
  14. Show me all target populations

Implementation Reports

Each program has an associated implementation report that provides you with the following information:

  1. Developer(s): Name(s) of the individual(s) who initially authored the program
  2. Program description and overview: Brief and general introduction of the program
  3. Core components: Key program components, including content, instructional techniques (e.g., lecture, role plays, video), and implementation requirements (e.g., number of lessons, number of facilitators required)
  4. Target population: Specific population with which the program was evaluated as well as any other potential target populations identified by the developer for which the program may be applicable
  5. Program setting: Specific setting in which the program was evaluated as well as any other potential program settings identified by the developer that may be applicable
  6. Program duration: Time frame required to implement the program (i.e., number and length of sessions)
  7. Curriculum materials: All of the materials necessary to implement the program (e.g., manual, worksheets)
  8. Adaptations: Any allowable adaptations to the program authorized by the developer(s) and/or OAH that have been determined not to interfere with the program’s integrity or results; note that allowable adaptations are not available for all programs
  9. Program focus: Program’s type or approach (e.g., abstinence, sexual health, youth development)
  10. Research evidence: Citation for the article or report of the program evaluation, setting in which the program was evaluated, characteristics of the participants evaluated, study design utilized in the evaluation, strength of the evidence yielded by the evaluation, and the evaluation’s overall findings

You can access each program’s implementation report by selecting the program of interest in the “Find a Program” menu on the Evidence-Based TPP Programs page of the OAH website. The implementation reports will be immensely useful during your program selection decision-making process. The information they offer goes far beyond what a simple database search can yield. For instance, while some programs have only been evaluated in one setting, the program developers may have identified other settings in which the program could be implemented without interfering with its efficacy. While this information would not come up during your initial database search, you would be able to acquire it by reading through the program implementation reports.


Now it’s your turn to practice using the database to search for EBPs based on specific criteria. Consider the following examples:

Scenario 1: A community that has already established after-school teen pregnancy prevention initiatives now needs a program that can be implemented within its middle schools during the school day. In the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database, use the search functions to narrow programs by implementation setting to obtain a list of programs that will meet this community’s new needs.

Scenario 2: A community-based organization partners with a school district to provide a teen pregnancy prevention program after school to middle school students. Based on time constraints, they must select a program that has no more than 15 sessions. Use the search functions in the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database to identify programs that satisfy the implementation setting, age, and intervention length criteria.

Scenario 3: A school board authorizes the implementation of a teen pregnancy prevention initiative in its middle schools, but specifies any program implemented must be an abstinence-based program. Use the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database to sort by program type to view only abstinence programs

Step 4: Assess Fit

Go to Section: Assess Fit > Population Fit > Environment Fit > Adaptations > Activities

Assess Fit

Once you have conducted your search and narrowed down your list of program options, it is time to assess the degree to which they fit your target population and the larger environment in which they are to be implemented. This section will provide you with a number of items to consider as you assess the fit of each potential program.

As discussed previously, the implementation reports developed by HHS for each program in the database present a range of information that will help you to assess how well each potential program fits with your population, community, and organization.

Before you read the implementation reports for the programs that you identified in Step 3, you should develop criteria based on the “Population Fit” and “Environmental Fit” items presented here. Remember, the criteria you develop should be based on your needs and resource assessment and your logic model. It can be tempting to read through each program to see if any seem particularly relevant, but spending the time to develop your criteria will help you to select the program that is best suited to your particular situation.

Population Fit

At this stage in the program selection process, it is important to verify that your program of interest is actually applicable to the population with which you are working. For example, implementing an EBP that was determined to be effective among low-income African American students in urban environments may not yield the same results for tribal youth in rural settings. How does your population compare to that in the study of that EBP? If there are differences, are they likely to compromise your results? (Remember, you can get more detailed information about the adolescents involved in the evaluations by referring to the implementation reports.) Assessing population fit includes consideration of the following:

  1. Age
  2. Race/ethnicity
  3. Sex
  4. Socioeconomic status
  5. Language
  6. Immigration status
  7. Sexual orientation
  8. Culture
  9. Other considerations (e.g., juvenile justice, parenting teens)

Environment Fit

In addition to assessing the extent to which an EBP fits your target population, you must also consider how it fits within the environment in which it is to be implemented, by answering the following questions:


Does this program fit within the organization’s overall mission? Examine the organization’s broader goals (often captured in a mission statement) and consider whether your potential program(s) will help work toward the attainment of these broader goals. If not (or if they are in some way counter to those goals), it may be best to return to your search until you find one that is a better fit.


Are there local laws, policies, or other norms that would be violated by certain components of this program? For example, are there laws prohibiting condom demonstrations in schools? Is it administratively feasible, given the policies and procedures of the implementing organization? Does the program align well with local norms and customs? Are there community cultural considerations you should take into account?


Is this the appropriate setting for this program? If you are planning to implement your program in a school but the program you are considering is designed to be delivered in an after school setting, you should make sure that it is also acceptable for delivery in a school. Consider whether any differences in setting are likely to compromise the intervention’s effectiveness. The program implementation reports will let you know if program developers have identified other potential settings.


Based on your needs and resource assessment, do you have the capacity to implement this program with fidelity? Four key capacity concerns include (1) training, (2) implementation requirements, (3) time, and (4) cost. For example, will you be able to obtain all of the resources required? Will you be able to provide adequate training for your staff? Do you have enough staff members to implement with fidelity, and if not, do you have the resources to hire more? For instance, if a program requires two facilitators and you know that your organization will not be able to hire more staff, you may need to consider a program with fewer staffing needs.

Be honest and realistic in your assessment of fit. Wishful thinking is just that, wishful. An accurate appraisal up front can save time and energy later attempting to hastily and retroactively make modifications that will likely compromise the integrity of the program. Find a program that will work with the population and setting with which you are actually working to strengthen your odds of success. If the fit is not appropriate, you may have to go back and re-evaluate your program selection.

The following video, developed by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence, describes some important elements of program implementation and demonstrates how important it is to thoroughly assess both population and environmental fit when selecting a program in order to avoid some of the challenges of implementation. [This video was produced by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence. HHS is not responsible for the content of this video and does not endorse or recommend any products, processes, services, manufacturers, or companies referenced therein.]


A Note about Fidelity & Adaptations

Implementing EBPs with fidelity increases the likelihood that participants served by programs will experience similar outcomes to those found in the original evaluation study. Implementation with fidelity minimizes the need for adaptations, but does not mean never making adaptations.

Adaptations are changes made to the core components of the program including the program content and program delivery. Adaptations are often proposed because the EBP selected for implementation is a poor fit for the needs of the target population, implementation setting, and/or capacity of the implementing organization. To reduce the need for adaptations, organizations should focus on selecting EBPs that are a good fit - that is, the program matches the needs of the community and population to be served, the implementation setting, the capacity of the implementing organization, and the targeted outcomes.

Some adaptations are minor (i.e. do not significantly change the core components) and may be necessary to make the program culturally relevant, current, and/or more engaging. Examples of minor adaptations (often referred to as green light adaptations) include:

  • Adding icebreakers, team-builders, energizers, or reflection activities
  • Adding a session on general reproductive anatomy
  • Providing updated statistics or information about local statistics
  • Providing information about local resources (e.g. teen friendly health centers)
  • Adding implementation strategies to better engage youth population (e.g. using more music)
  • Revising materials to ensure LGBTQ inclusivity (e.g. creating gender neutral language in role plays)
  • Changing minor wording (e.g. the term “group rules” to “group agreement”)

Other adaptations are major and do significantly change the core components of an EBP. Major adaptations could compromise a program’s fidelity and might affect the intended outcomes. As a result, major adaptations should be avoided, if at all possible. If not possible to avoid, major adaptations should be carefully considered and implemented with great caution. Examples of major adaptations (often referred to as yellow light or red light adaptations) include:

  • Omitting a lesson or activity such as a condom demonstration
  • Decreasing the number or length of sessions
  • Increasing student to teacher ratio
  • Shortening or eliminating program videos

Adaptations to extend the program to a new population or setting are unique and could be classified as either minor or major depending on the circumstances. Since it is impossible to evaluate all potential settings and populations for which a program might work, it is to be expected that some implementers will propose extending the program to a population and/or implementing it in a setting in which the program has not been tested. Implementing an EBP with a different population or in a different setting is considered a minor adaptation, as long as the developer has indicated that the EBP is appropriate for the population or setting.

In the event that adaptations may be necessary to proceed with program implementation, it is important to think about them ahead of time, rather than making unplanned adaptations. Resources available to help organizations in planning for adaptations are available in the Adaptation Section of the OAH TPP Resource Center. Program-specific adaptation kits are also available for select programs from ETR Associates.


Now that you are familiar with the process of selecting an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program – including how to use a needs and resource assessment and a logic model to guide your selection process – it is time to put your knowledge into action. Read through the following scenarios and see if you can identify how each organization should proceed, based on the information provided.

Population Fit: Other Considerations

An organization is charged with working with a special population, expectant and parenting teens. How should this organization proceed with its program search?

Population Fit: Sex

Question: An organization is interested in implementing the Aban Aya Youth Project program, which has only demonstrated impact on males, but the organization reaches both males and females. How should the organization proceed with its selection process?

Population Fit: Context

An organization would like to implement Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) in schools but only has 45-minute class periods instead of the 90-minute periods required for BART. Recognizing that some programs require more time than others (e.g., 45-minute sessions in Making Proud Choices versus 90-minute sessions in Becoming a Responsible Teen), what is the best course of action for this organization?

Population Fit: Capacity

An organization shows interest in the program, Project AIM, but learns that the program requires two facilitators. To ensure environmental fit, the organization must assess whether they have the resources to implement a program that requires two facilitators. If they find they do not have the resources to provide a second facilitator, what is their best course of action?

After Selection

Go to Section: Evaluation and Monitoring > CQI and Sustainability

Evaluation and Monitoring

Program selection on its own will not lead to the outcomes envisioned in the logic model. It is important to view this element in context, understanding that the most successful teen pregnancy prevention programming efforts are those that evaluate the implementation of the program as well as its outcomes; use evaluation data to continuously improve their programs; and plan in advance how they will sustain the program past its initial implementation.

Organizations may find it useful to use a program planning framework, like Getting to Outcomes (GTO), Communities that Care, SAMHSA’s Strategic Planning Framework (SPF), or PROSPER to guide their work. While each framework is slightly different (e.g., PROSPER is intended to provide guidance for University partnerships), they generally include the steps that were covered in this module, as well as activities and planning related to the following:

Process/Implementation Evaluation

Process evaluation is the ongoing assessment of the quality of program implementation. Process evaluations examine the “outputs” segment of the logic model and assess whether (1) program activities were carried out in the manner prescribed (i.e., with fidelity); (2) levels of participant attendance, satisfaction, and retention; and (3) external circumstances that may have interfered with the quality of implementation among other things. Process evaluation should take place throughout the implementation of the program and is useful both for informing future implementation and making links between the program and its outcomes. You can check out these resources related to program implementation on the Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Resource Center. You can also refer to OAH's Fidelity Monitoring Guidance for more information on monitoring your activities to ensure that you are implementing your selected program with fidelity.

Outcome Evaluation

Outcome evaluation is the process of assessing the success of the program in achieving its desired goals. As mentioned in the section on developing a logic model, outcomes are written to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). By framing your outcomes this way in advance, you are able to specify the indicators you will measure to determine whether or not they have been achieved. Conducting an outcome evaluation can provide you with results that you can share with community stakeholders and funders alike to increase interest in your program and obtain funding to maintain it. You can check out the evaluation resources on the Office of Adolescent Health website.

CQI and Sustainability

Continuous Quality Improvement

Outcome evaluation is the process of assessing the success of the program in achieving its desired goals. As mentioned in the section on developing a logic model, outcomes are written to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). By framing your outcomes this way in advance, you are able to specify the indicators you will measure to determine whether or not they have been achieved. Conducting an outcome evaluation can provide you with results that you can share with community stakeholders and funders alike to increase interest in your program and obtain funding to maintain it. You can check out the evaluation resources on the Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Resource Center.


Sustainability refers to the plan of action to keep the program in place after its initial implementation. Unfortunately, a common reality we face is that even successful programs may not continue if/when their initial funding runs out. Planning for sustainability from the very beginning of this process will help ensure that you can continue to provide high quality programming for youth regardless of issues like financing. For more information, see OAH’s Built to Last: Planning Programmatic Sustainability tip sheet and Building Sustainable Programs: The Resource Guide.


Go to Section: Review > Resources


Reducing rates of teen pregnancy is no easy undertaking. Applaud yourself for taking the first steps to address this issue within your organization. Even the most effective programs will not make a difference by themselves, which is why forethought and planning are so critical. Taking the time and effort to (1) identify your specific needs and existing resources; (2) develop a strong plan for action with steps that are directly connected to your desired outcomes; (3) filter through program options based on your relevant characteristics; and (4) ensuring that your final program selection is applicable to the adolescents you serve, makes sense, and is acceptable within the larger community, puts you on the path for success.

The Program Selection Checklist handout will assist you throughout the process of selecting an EBP. Consult it regularly and frequently for reminders and guidance from start to finish.


Refer to the following resource list for additional information on any of the topics presented in this module:


What Does it Mean to be "Evidence-Based?"

Identify the Problem(s)

Develop a Logic Model

Identify Potential Programs

Assess Fit

After Program Selection


Go to Section: Quiz Intro > Quiz


You have nearly completed the How to Select an Evidence-Based TPP Program E-Learning Module!

To finish the module, you must correctly answer the 8 of the following 10 questions.

Question 1

Which of the following is not a requirement of an EBP?

Question 2

True or false: As long as you implement an EBP, you can be guaranteed to see positive results.

Question 3

Which of these is not a component of a logic model?

Question 4

The component of a logic model that is most important to consider when selecting an EBP is:

Question 5

Which of the following is not one of the four steps to selecting an EBP that were discussed in this module?

Question 6

Which of the following is the best option if a program requires more time than you will have available?

Question 7

Which of the following is not a criterion that you can use to sort programs in the HHS database?

Question 8

Which type of adaptation can you make without affecting the core components of the underlying EBP?

Question 9

Which of the following should not be considered when selecting an evidence-based program?

Question 10

Which of the following is not an important aspect of implementing an evidence-based program?

Collaboration Toolkit



Getting Started

This module includes three chapters, each with several sections:

  • Chapter 1 talks about building strategic partnerships.
  • Chapter 2 covers effective outreach strategies.
  • Chapter 3 explains how to craft effective communications.

Move through the module in the order that makes sense to you.

Please take the Pre-Module Knowledge Assessment Survey before beginning this module.

This Toolkit is intended to assist organizations in the adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting field with cultivating strategic partnerships, implementing innovative outreach strategies, and developing robust communications that target the diverse organizations and populations in their communities. The Toolkit offers guidance for performing self-assessments of current partnership and outreach strategies that organizations are using to collaborate with and engage agencies and individuals in their communities. The Toolkit also offers tools for building on these strategies to boost organizational capacity.

Such strategies are vital in order for adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting organizations to improve the health and social outcomes for vulnerable adolescents, build support and capacity within their local communities for these adolescents, and foster increased awareness of the important services these organizations provide to vulnerable youths. Although many of the examples provided throughout the Toolkit focus on adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting organizations, the concepts in the Toolkit are applicable to a wide range of organizations that provide services to vulnerable adolescents.

The Toolkit provides information and resources that will enable your organization to achieve the following objectives:

  • Identify opportunities for forming strategic partnerships with other organizations in your community;
  • Identify priority target populations for outreach; and
  • Develop action-oriented messages tailored to specific audiences that will help engage your community in your efforts.

By achieving these objectives, your organization will be able to attain the following long-term capacity-building goals:

  • Stronger partnerships with other organizations working with vulnerable adolescents;
  • Increased awareness of the services offered by your organization;
  • Expanded access to a wider range of resources for adolescents and their families; and
  • Enhanced support for vulnerable adolescents.

Chapter 1: Building Strategic Partnerships

Go to Section: Summary > Defining Strategic Partnerships > Building and Implementing Partnerships > Resources > Case Study


At a Glance

This chapter provides information on how to:

  • Bolster your organization's understanding of the diverse types of partnerships
  • Identify potential partner organizations, negotiate and build strategic partnerships
  • Maintain these partnerships in a way that is mutually beneficial to both parties

Strategic partnerships with other organizations can be vital to the success of your organizations goals and initiatives. Partnerships with other organizations have the potential to concentrate the community's focus on a particular problem, create alliances among organizations that might not normally work together, and keep the community's approach to issues consistent. Most importantly, partners can advocate for your organizations goals while contributing their own contacts, skills, talents and assets, allowing your organization to broaden its impact while accessing new audiences.

Recognizing the importance of partnerships is not difficult, but understanding how to build those partnerships is critical. Partnerships with other organizations take time and effort, but if managed well, they can help your organization achieve its goals more effectively and with fewer resources. Remember, when forming partnerships your organization should strive for quality, not quantity. Not all partnerships result in accrued benefits for your organization or your clients. Partnerships should be formed strategically, based on the value the partnership brings to your organization and your clients. Working with organizations that do not have a mission or values that complement your own does not typically bring added value to your organization.

The tools and resources provided with this chapter will supply your organization with worksheets, assessment tools, and examples to facilitate your partnership building process.

The case study at the end of the chapter centers on a community based program that seeks to provide training and education to teenage mothers. It details their use of the tools in Chapter 1 in forming a strategic partnership to pool resources, developing political clout to push their agenda, and creating long-term community-level change that would lead to a decrease in adolescent pregnancy.

Defining Strategic Partnerships


The term partnership and related terms such as collaboration, coalition, network, task group, work group, cooperation and others, are used to describe a wide variety of relationships and structures. For purposes of this Toolkit, partnership refers to a group of organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal. That goal could be as narrow as obtaining funding for a specific intervention, or as broad as trying to improve the overall quality of life for pregnant and parenting adolescents in the community. Likewise, the organizations involved might be drawn from a narrow area of interest, or might include representation from every segment of the community.

Key Term: Partnership

A group of organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal.

A partnership is strategic when it provides your organization with the means and methods for advancing your mission. Strategic partnerships can later develop into stakeholder groups that can leverage greater influence in reaching elected officials and policymakers. Civic leaders, policymakers and other key influencers tend to have priorities that organizations can leverage to underscore the urgency of improving programs and services to adolescents including:

  • Improving access to education to foster economic development and work skills;
  • Enhancing public safety by preventing crime and reducing risk behaviors; and
  • Encouraging civic engagement and service to a new generation.


Partnerships may consist of loose associations in which member organizations work for a short time to achieve a specific goal. In contrast, they can be long-term, and may even become organizations in themselves, with governing bodies, particular community responsibilities, funding, and permanence. Partnerships may draw from a community, a region, a state, or even the nation as a whole. Regardless of their size and structure, they exist to create and/or support efforts to reach a particular set of goals. Some common types of partnerships are:


Look to organizations working alongside you on the front lines of your community. Local nonprofits may find that your values fit well with theirs, even if you are offering different types of services.


Local governmental institutions may also be an excellent partner organization to explore. In particular, schools and educational institutions may be excellent partners and provide access to the populations your organization serves. State-wide Departments of Health and Education partnerships are also important because of their data repositories.


If their mission aligns with yours, partner with local religious institutions. Places of worship are often regarded as important resources for a community, and have diverse congregations with various skills.


There are a number of reasons why developing a partnership with other organizations might be beneficial. In general terms, partnerships can concentrate the community's focus on a particular problem, create alliances among those who might not normally work together, and keep the community's approach to issues consistent. Some more specific reasons for forming a partnership might be:

  • To bring about more effective and efficient delivery of programs and eliminate any unnecessary duplication of effort. Gathering all the organizations involved in a particular issue can result in a more cohesive and comprehensive intervention. Rather than duplicating efforts, organizations can split up or coordinate responsibilities in ways that afford more participants access to programs and allow for a greater range of services.
  • To pool resources. Together many organizations may have the resources to accomplish a task that none of them could have accomplished independently. In general, organizations form partnerships to do just that—accomplish together what they cannot do alone.
  • To increase communication among groups and break down stereotypes. Bringing together organizations from many sectors of the community can create alliances where there was little contact before. Working together toward common goals can help organizations break down barriers and misperceptions, and enable them to trust one another.
  • To build networks and friendships. Partnerships result in social benefits for staff, volunteers and clients in that people can form networks and friendships through involvement with the organization.
  • To revitalize wilting energies of members of groups who are trying to do too much alone. A partnership can help to bolster efforts around an issue. For organizations who have worked too long in a vacuum, the addition of other hands to the task can be a tremendous source of new energy and hope.
  • To plan and launch community-wide initiatives on a variety of issues. In addition to addressing immediately pressing issues or promoting or providing services, partnerships can serve to unify efforts around long-term campaigns. To develop and use political clout to gain services or other benefits for the community. A unified community partnership can advocate more effectively than a number of disparate organizations working alone. In addition, a wide-ranging partnership can bring to bear pressure from all sectors of the community, and wield a large amount of power.
  • To create long-term, permanent social change. Real change usually takes place over a period of time through the process of individuals gaining trust, sharing ideas, and getting past their preconceptions in order to understand the real issues underlying community needs. A partnership, with its structure of cooperation among diverse groups and its problem-solving focus, can ease and accelerate the process of change in a community.
  • To obtain or provide services. It may take a partnership either initially or over the long term to design, obtain funding for, and/or run a needed intervention in the community.


Partnerships can range from informal, minimal work between two organizations to very formal, contractual arrangements with the exchange of funds. There is sometimes an evolution with specific partners that grows into an active relationship of exchange and support.

Continuum: Coordination to Cooperation to Collaboration to Partnerships

The continuum of steps that results in a partnership often starts with coordination, progresses to cooperation and collaboration, and ultimately results in partnerships. Each and every step is important and worth pursuing. Your organization will likely work with organizations in each stage of the continuum outlined below, but you will not necessarily work through all steps in the continuum to form a partnership with every organization you develop a relationship with. Some of your efforts toward developing partnerships with other organizations will only progress through a couple of stages and result in cooperation among the organizations; whereas, others might result in a full partnership.


At this level, organizations learn about the services and clients served by the other organizations. They also learn about each organization’s motivation for participating in a partnership. There is a lot of organizational independence. Self-interests and resources are defined. Coordination may include an exchange of information and materials.


Cooperation among organizations brings increased understanding of target audiences and motivations to participate in a partnership. There might be a minimal agreement, and the organizations may still be defining their roles and contribution. There is usually a greater appreciation of resources and skills that the partnership can bring. Joint strategies start to emerge.


With collaboration, there is increased recognition of the values of each organization, trust, respect, a clear understanding of the benefits for each partner, and innovative ideas are presented to meet a common problem. There can be challenges, but they are usually well worth the effort to benefit a group of clients or the community. At this stage, organizations are able to work together on a specific project to reach clients, provide education, or develop a marketing campaign. Often organizations in collaborative relationships start to put plans in writing.


In a partnership, there is a high level of trust and communication. Roles and responsibilities of each organization are well-defined and developed. There is a feeling of “us.” There might be shared space and staff, shared authority and decision making, and plans and agreements are in writing. Overall, there is a vision. Challenges continue especially in the area of funding streams and support.

It is important to note that the continuum process may sometimes be cyclical due to changes in the nature, type and extent of the partnership. For example, partnerships with school districts often require modification due to changing personnel at all levels and locations, as well as social and political factors influencing decision-making of administrators.

Building and Implementing Partnerships

Readiness for Partnering and Identifying Prospective Partners

Are You Ready?

The first step in pursuing a strategic partnership is to know your own organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

The first step in pursuing a strategic partnership is to know your own organization’s strengths and weaknesses. This will help you determine the type of partnership that will be the most beneficial. Once these have been identified, involve your staff in narrowing down a list of organizations within your community that may fill your needs (compliment your strengths and address your weaknesses). Aids such as the Organizational Readiness Assessment and the Barriers and Challenges to Partnerships tool in the Tools and Resources section can serve as a helpful guide for assessing your organizational readiness, defining your organization’s goals, and identifying prospective partners.

Do not ignore the strengths of your organization. A partnership is a two-way street, and you have valuable resources to offer.

Because you have a deep understanding of an adolescent’s needs, your organization’s greatest asset is the ability to help these adolescents deal with the challenging situation they find themselves in, and you bring these strengths to the partnership.

Before entering into a partnership, give some consideration to how you will evaluate the effectiveness of such a relationship in the future. Knowing what success will look like before you start will help you know when you achieve it.

It is important to assess potential partnerships at the beginning to ensure that you will work well together and that you are striving for the same goal. The tool Evaluating Potential Partners can guide your organization through this analysis.


Align Interests

All parties in a partnership negotiation may need to compromise on particulars. Making sure all parties have similar interests helps compromise succeed.

Negotiating a Partnership Agreement

Partnership negotiations should be oriented toward finding solutions or dealing with problems in a mutually beneficial way.

To ensure that organizations get what they need from a partnership, partners must come to the negotiation table with a sincere interest in working together and drawing from one another’s strengths. Your organization should clearly articulate what they can bring to the partnership, as well as understand what potential partners offer. The Collaborative Practices Inventory is designed to help individuals or groups who are involved or about to be involved in collaborative efforts understand their practices and behaviors when working with others.

Negotiation is a skill that must be practiced. The following guidance can help advance partnership negotiations and produce desired results:

Honor the relationship. The negotiation process involves partners you may work with over many years. If, in addition to the process of negotiating, your priorities include developing the relationship with your partners—for example, developing honest communication and trust—it can be easier to know when bending on a particular point may yield short-term gains but long-term costs.
Create a negotiation environment that encourages innovation. Partners expand partnership options by engaging in brainstorming techniques and thinking outside the box. If partners can respond to new ideas and be open to the unexpected, they will find unlimited opportunities to take a fresh look at their practices and beliefs about serving their clients.
Be realistic and fair. Partners are more likely to follow up on their commitments and less likely to circumvent the negotiation process if they feel the agreement is fair. Sometimes a neutral, external facilitator can help to ensure that the negotiations are realistic and fair to all. Partners should always consult with their programs’ legal and financial advisers before finalizing an agreement.
Recognize that each partnership is unique. Each partnership needs to be structured to meet the needs of the organizations involved. Although you may know of an interesting and successful partnership in a nearby community, the partnership you are designing need not be the same.
Engage in active listening. Focus on what others say, both on their actual words and the underlying meaning. This will help you understand the interests upon which agreement can be based. When your response makes it clear that you have really been listening, your partners, too, may be more prepared to listen. Active listening can produce better, more long-lasting relationships.
Know your bottom line. We all enter negotiations knowing what we ideally want. Thinking through alternatives to the ideal outcome, however, allows you to understand your points of flexibility. Be clear about fallback positions and their consequences before you start to negotiate. Also, evaluate your partners’ options beforehand. In negotiation, it is important to think several moves in advance and anticipate your partners’ needs.
Know the difference between positions and interests. When you focus on your organization’s motivation for partnering and your potential partners’ motivation, then you are looking at interests. When you get bogged down in achieving a particular goal, then you are distracted by positions. Interests form the building blocks of lasting agreements.
Come prepared to commit resources. Any request to take on greater responsibility must be accompanied by an offer of resources. Approach this issue with an earnest commitment to supporting the goals and the needed change. Resources can take the form of funding, staff, materials, supplies, transportation, and facilities, often in combination. An adequate commitment of funds and other resources demonstrates your commitment to, and full support of the partnership.
Take a fresh look at practices and standards. Use the negotiation process to address areas that need improvement, such as increased outreach activities and staff development activities. Challenge yourself to examine existing practice: Is this truly the practice that needs to be adopted by all, or is there a new way to meet standards? Set short-term, realistic goals, yet keep sight of where the partnership needs to be.
Allow sufficient time for partners to work out details. Remember that the negotiation process is not a one-time meeting that results in a partnership agreement. Partners often need several meetings to develop an agreement that reflects everyone’s needs and capacities and provides sufficient detail to ensure success and enhanced services.

Partnership agreements should be put in writing, and reviewed annually. The agreement should contain sufficient detail to guide the partnership and serve as a mechanism by which partners assess the fulfillment of their commitments and contributions. As a legal document, the agreement protects all partners’ best interests. Many partnership agreements also include an addendum that describes how the partnership conducts business. This addendum might specify who does what, when, how, with whom, and for what purpose. It may also contain specific outcome goals and a plan to measure achievement.

Implementing & Maintaining

When the right organizational partners are identified and established, start building the relationship slowly. A good idea would be to start working on small projects together instead of jumping into the big ones. These can be scaled over time once each organization understands its role. As noted in the partnership continuum described previously, collaborative relationships are the building blocks for the vast majority of partnerships. Organizations should strive to establish these collaborative relationships before they are needed and maintain these relationships, even if they are not immediately actionable.

One way to grow a relationship between partners is to involve them, where appropriate, in the culture of your organization. Help them understand what you have learned about the issues surrounding adolescent pregnancy and parenting and why your organization does the things it does. This may include client meetings or internal strategy meetings. Turn the tables and attend some of their meetings, as well. By understanding how each organization operates, you will foster a mutual understanding of the challenges each face.

5 steps to implementing a partnership:
  1. Identify and engage the stakeholders.
  2. Establish personal relationships, and begin to build trust.
  3. Clarify the goals and objectives each partner wants to accomplish.
  4. Choose and implement a partnership that is mutually beneficial.
  5. Establish governance, procedures, ground rules, and decision-making structure.

Successful Partnerships

In summary, successful partnerships germinate from these common seeds:

A Shared Purpose

Carefully consider the compatibility of the purpose and goals of the partnering organizations, the value-added by partnering and expectations around each organizations participation. Make these clear in the partnership. Examine how each organization defines the partnership. Discuss your professional ethics. Developing a partnership is not unlike developing a personal relationship. Choose your partner with forethought and mutual understanding.

Complementary Strengths

All partners are accountable, and it is necessary to award equal opportunity and participation for all involved. Holding a preliminary information-sharing meeting for all participating staff is recommended. Expectations, roles and responsibilities, and available resources should be clarified and put in writing.

Agreed Upon Boundaries

Thinking through and negotiating differing work styles, organizations and management structures can be challenges faced by organizations attempting collaboration. A simple, written memorandum of understanding (MOU) may be helpful in articulating a partnership agreement.

Flexibility and Willingness to Collaborate

Once partnership participants have been identified, it is important that the process be transparent reflecting the nature of the partnering organizations, appreciating the structures already in place and the development of new structures the partnership may require. The following efforts will help in creating any necessary new structures:

  • Staff members need to be aware of their own organizational systems, management structures and work styles. By understanding their own organization, they are better able to help themselves and their partners appreciate and understand the value and expertise they bring to the partnership.
  • Organizational charts, mission statements, job descriptions and other materials should be exchanged between partnering organizations, allowing all organizations to better understand each other’s goals and objectives, as well as the time and effort that goes into each other’s jobs.
  • A broadly defined structure often works best, providing guidance while permitting partners to make periodic adjustments, assess effectiveness, and allow for creativity and learning. Periodically review the partnership in relationship to where it’s headed and what it will take to get there.

Case Study: Building Strategic Partnerships


The following case study centers on a community based program that seeks to provide training and education to teenage mothers, with the goals of helping them obtain a high school diploma and preventing or delaying a second pregnancy. The case study details the use of the tools in this chapter in forming a strategic partnership to pool resources, developing political clout to push their agenda, and creating long-term community-level change that would lead to a decrease in adolescent pregnancy.

Mary is the current director of the community based program Delivering Education, Leadership and Training Assistance (DELTA) 4 Girls, in Mississippi. The program, in existence for 9 years, seeks to provide training and education to teenage mothers, with the goals of helping them obtain a high school diploma and prevent or delay a second pregnancy. With a staff of seven and approximately ten volunteers, the program has been successful, with over 70% of girls graduating high school and preventing over 80% of girls from experiencing a repeat pregnancy during their high school years. This program appeared to be making a positive impact on the community.

The program itself was influenced by Mary’s own childhood experiences, when she witnessed two of her sisters experience teenage parenthood and struggle to finish high school. Mary saw that two of the largest barriers to finishing high school for her sisters were childcare during school and lack of free time to study. The DELTA 4 Girls program offers free and reduced childcare for its program participants and an after school study room for them to use to complete their homework. Further, the program develops and hones the participants’ business skills, offers résumé building assistance and tutoring, as well as other skills.

Unfortunately, consistent with many other community-based programs, the presence of a nationwide recession was threatening the program’s funding. With 35% of the program’s funds coming from government grants (federal and state funds) and 65% from private foundations and groups, it was likely that some of the funding would be eliminated.

To prepare for this possibility and build the best case for continued support, a member of Mary’s staff suggested that DELTA 4 Girls consider partnering with other community based organizations and services to a) pool resources, b) develop and use political clout to push their agenda, and c) create long-term community-level change that would lead to a decrease in adolescent pregnancy. During a special staff meeting devoted to brainstorming the possible partnerships, Mary used the Organizational Readiness Assessment and the Barriers and Challenges to Partnerships worksheets to determine if a partnership was wise and if her organization was ready to engage. After group discussion about the pros and cons of such an endeavor, the organization decided to move forward with a plan to develop a new partnership.

The DELTA 4 Girls team brainstormed about their collective strengths, weaknesses and organizational values to identify which organizations would be best to partner with. Based on these findings, the biggest weakness identified for their program was its narrow focus on pregnant teens. It neglected addressing needs of other related at-risk groups such as the partners of teenage mothers, the parents of teenage mothers, or children living in abusive environments, thereby limiting the organization’s understanding of the overall challenges in adolescent pregnancy prevention. By the same token, the program’s main strength was their ability to identify and obtain resources to run their program, as their funding had increased 300% over the previous seven years. Therefore, DELTA 4 Girls decided to identify programs, persons, and organizations that addressed other at-risk groups and who could also benefit from their expertise.

After this decision was made, Mary and her staff used the Evaluating Potential Partners Worksheet to identify potential organizations to partner with. Based on their current program and identified strengths and weaknesses, DELTA 4 Girls identified high schools (specifically school counselors in the schools), the county health department, the social services administration, local business organizations, area religious organizations, the local Boys and Girls Club, and area prevention specialists as possible partners. Once complete, the team used the Evaluating Potential Partners worksheet to conduct a preliminary analysis of how well each group would mesh with their organization.

As part of this research, they examined the organizations’ official mission/values statements, their past activities, and their personal experiences with the organization itself. Further, they surveyed their program’s current and former clients about their experiences with each entity. Once the research was completed, two local religious organizations, a local school counselor, the social security administration and health department, the local Boys and Girls Club chapter, the Delta Business Administration and the local sexuality education coordinator, were chosen to be approached.

Mary began to set up meetings with identified leaders at each organization. This was done to 1) introduce the idea of collaboration to the organizations, 2) discuss what DELTA 4 Girls had to offer to a potential joint effort, 3) discuss the proposed goals of a collaboration and 4) determine if the other groups were able and willing to partner. All but one group agreed that adolescent pregnancy prevention was a goal they shared and were willing to work collaboratively to affect adolescent pregnancy in their community.

After the partner list was settled, Mary began the task of assessing where in the partnership continuum each group was, what the partnership’s overall goal should be and, ultimately, Mary began developing a working agreement amongst the partners. A half-day introductory meeting was planned for the new partners to meet one another. Prior to the meeting, Mary asked each partner to brainstorm 1) the strengths and weaknesses of their organization, 2) the skills or resources they were willing to contribute, and 3) the goals or outcomes they would like to see achieved from the partnership. The results of each individual analysis were to be brought to the first team meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Mary asked each partner to introduce themselves and explain their program or organization to the group and discuss why the issue of adolescent pregnancy prevention was important to them. After completion, the group discussed the results of the pre-meeting brainstorm exercise. Finally, Mary asked each partner to complete the Collaborative Practices Inventory to determine where each group would fall in the partnership continuum and how to proceed with the work. Overall, the majority of individuals indicated they were at the cooperation stage, as many were comfortable working with other organizations and agencies to accomplish their goals, but were still protective of their own resources to ensure the viability of their programs.

The results of this exercise were used to inform the next phase of the project: Partnership Agreement. However, based on the majority of the partners being on in the cooperation stage, everyone agreed that they needed more time to get to know each other, better understand their respective programs and goals, and negotiate what could be accomplished. The items in the How to Negotiate a Partner Agreement section were distributed for each individual organization to review in order to determine their position, interests, and the bottom line for each.

Armed with this task, Mary returned to DELTA 4 Girls and discussed each element with the staff. It was agreed that their primary interests were to prevent pregnancy (both first and repeat) among teenage girls and increase the graduation rate among teenage moms. However, their bottom line was that a commitment to developing and implementing effective educational strategies for teen moms must be included in the final mission of the partnership.

Over the next three months, the members of the newly developed partnership met several times. Each meeting was spent discussing what the primary goal of the partnership should be and how they would meet this goal. As the partners became more comfortable with one another, the group began to find new ways of compromising and combining resources to make their partnership a reality. In the course of negotiations, secondary pregnancy prevention became a back burner issue, with primary prevention becoming the focus of the partnership. However, the final mission did include the goal of providing mentoring and educational services to girls to help them graduate high school or obtain their GED. Further, the school counselor agreed to develop a program where high school students could get course credit by tutoring teenage mothers.

Finally, after three months of talks and negotiation, the partnership was comfortable with developing a partnership agreement. Mary, having already identified the Developing a Partnership Agreement tool, distributed it to the group. Over a day-long retreat at a local hotel, the group addressed each component of the tool to ensure each item was met, culminating in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to guide their current and future collaborations.

Chapter 2: Effective Outreach Strategies

Go to Section: Summary > Performing Assessments > Leveraging Assets > Outreach Strategies > Resources > Case Study


At a Glance

This chapter provides strategies to:

  • Increase your organization’s understanding of the community you serve
  • Enhance the community’s general knowledge of your organization’s mission
  • Maintain these partnerships in a way that is mutually beneficial to both parties
  • Coordinate your outreach to community members
  • Set objectives for outreach efforts
  • Engage your staff in outreach efforts

Chapter 2 of the Toolkit is designed to help your organization bolster your efforts on forming relationships with individuals in your community. To do so, this chapter will provide information, resources and tools that will assist your organization to first understand the dynamics of your community and subsequently develop effective strategies for community outreach and engagement.

For those who work in the adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting field, it is essential to have a robust understanding of the particular community you work with. Taking the time to get to know your community assets and deficiencies is crucial, because engaging the community in your efforts to improve services will require that you are familiar with the people, the issues, and the history of the community.

This chapter will provide methodologies to help you increase your organization’s understanding of the community you serve and conversely design strategies to enhance the community’s general knowledge of your organization’s mission and goals. Strategies for coordinating your outreach to community members, engaging your staff in outreach efforts, and setting objectives for your outreach efforts are also included.

The tools and resources provided with this chapter will supply your organization with worksheets, assessment tools, and examples to enhance your understanding of your community and facilitate your implementation of effective outreach strategies to engage community members in support of your efforts.

The case study at the end of the chapter centers on a community-based organization that coordinates local adolescent pregnancy prevention services. The Case Study details the organization’s efforts to perform a community assessment in order to delve deeper into their community’s issues, and describes the organization’s campaign to leverage their community’s assets and strengths.

Performing Assessments

Community Assessments

In order to enhance your outreach efforts, you should understand how community needs and trends affect your services. This information will contribute to the overall success of your outreach strategy. A community assessment process can also provide the baseline rationale for creating new programs and eliminating duplication of services and programs. Some of the following information can help your organization obtain more accurate insights into your community:

  • Demographic data (e.g., age, race, socioeconomic and educational attainment data, family structure, and language use)
  • Homelessness statistics
  • Substance abuse trends
  • Teen pregnancy statistics
  • Other service providers’ attitudes and policies about pregnant and parenting teens
  • Geographic boundaries of the community
  • Length of time the community has been in existence
  • General history of the community
  • Key people and leaders in the community
  • Issues of most concern to the community
  • Morale and involvement levels
  • Key allies and rivals

Formal or Informal?

Use a formal or informal Community Assessment to better understand how your services fit into your community.

A community assessment will help your organization’s overall outreach efforts by mapping trends, getting to know key players in your neighborhood and community, and collecting information about other services that are available in the community.

The assessment process can be a good opportunity to showcase your organization and its programs and services as well as build trust within the community. A community assessment will also be essential in understanding community strengths. For example, despite high adolescent pregnancy rates, the community may have low premature birth rates. A community assessment will aid in identifying and delineating these strengths in order to build on your organization’s understanding of the community.

Formal/Informal Assessments

The formal approach to a community assessment entails review of data and statistics as well as potentially running your own survey of the community. While this can be costly, city and county health boards, school boards, and public health agencies often have some of this information publicly available.

The informal approach to community assessments focuses on building relationships with other organizations in the community and pooling knowledge and insight. This includes connecting with those public agencies that have data publicly available as well as non-governmental organizations that have compiled their own statistics or could compare anecdotal information with you. Having a group of organizations pool information on their clients can result in a useful body of data that can guide coordinated program, funding, and outreach decisions.

Assessing this information can help you target your own survey to fill in any gaps.

Whether you do a formal or informal assessment, the community assessment will require your organization to engage in and maintain an ongoing dialogue with community members. The findings of the assessment can help you better build and frame awareness of your program and services. The Preliminary Community Engagement Strategy tool guides you through the questions and priorities that your organization should be aware of in developing your community outreach strategies.

Leveraging Assets

Key Term:
Community Assets

Anything that is used to improve the quality of community life.

While a community assessment typically focuses on identifying gaps in services in the community, another key factor that will contribute to the development of successful outreach strategies for community engagement is gaining an understanding of your community’s existing resources or assets and leveraging them to support your outreach efforts. The members of your organization can be more powerful community actors when they are not exclusively focused on needs, problems, and deficiencies.1

A community asset or resource is anything that is used to improve the quality of community life. 2 Broadly defined, there are five different categories of community assets. These include:

  1. Local residents: their skills, experiences, passions, capacities and willingness to contribute to the project.
  2. Local voluntary associations, clubs, and networks: e.g., all of the athletic, cultural, social, faith-based, groups powered by volunteer members – which might contribute to the project.
  3. Local institutions: e.g., public institutions such as schools, libraries, parks, police stations, along with local businesses and non-profits – which might contribute to the project.
  4. Physical assets: e.g., the land, the buildings, the infrastructure, transportation, etc. which might contribute to the project.
  5. Economic assets: e.g., what people produce and consume, businesses, informal economic exchanges, barter relationships3 – which might contribute to the project.

These assets can be used by your organization to meet community needs and improve community life. They are especially important when external resources (e.g., federal and state money) are not available or are not specifically targeted for the services you wish to implement or the population you wish to reach. Identifying and mobilizing community assets enables community residents to better influence, gain control and become active shapers of change. Improvement efforts are more effective and longer-lasting when they are from programs based on assessment efforts that focused on gaps between what a community has/d (assets) and what it needs/ed (deficits) to achieve the desired change. Community Assets: Potential Uses and Engagement Strategies contains a list of potential ideas your organization can utilize to engage and mobilize your community’s assets in order to further your efforts.

Understanding community assets plays a critical role in outreach because:

  • a) it allows your organization to better target gaps or factors that limit your capacity to be effective;
  • b) it provides a means to cost-effectively enhance your efforts through the use of existing resources and;
  • c) by their very nature, community-assets are already being used to form and maintain efforts that increase the probability of your outreach strategies and tactics to be successfully implemented.


To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Kretzmann, J. and McKnight, J (2005). Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization’s Capacity. http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/images/kelloggabcd.pdf
2 The Community Toolbox, Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/index.aspx
3 Kretzmann, J. and McKnight, J (2005). Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization’s Capacity. http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/images/kelloggabcd.pdf