Bright Spot: YES! Youth Empowerment Model

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

This bright spot was originally published in the 100 Million Healthier Lives Change Library and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Detailed Description

The YES! Youth Empowerment ModelĀ® (The Model) is a three-pronged approach to empower youth in creating systemic, environmental, and policy change. The Model creates outcomes-based, youth-adult partnerships that develop skills, increase critical awareness, and identify opportunities for youth to engage in advocacy and sociopolitical processes.

Expected Outcomes

As a result of applying the YES! Youth Empowerment Model, communities become more democratic, policies and systems become more equitable, and there are significant increases in the capacity of the people and organizations involved to involve youth and participate in this type of work. YES! tracks and measures the number of youth who are equitably engaged in creating systemic, environmental, and policy change, as well as what changes happen as a result of their involvement. Of the youth and adults that were engaged in applying The Model in fiscal year 2015, 99.5% reported developing skills and critical awareness and 70% reported taking action. In this year alone, 37 instances of change occurred impacting over 1.5 million people.

Cost Details

The largest costs associated with applying the YES! Youth Empowerment Model are those tied to human capital. Since outcomes are tied to the level of investment, there is a continuum of costs that can be associated: from minimal costs in operating a volunteer-based intervention, to moderate-to-substantial cost tied to paid adult staff time and paid youth staff time. These costs paired with organizational overhead consume the bulk of the budget needed for this intervention. Additionally, ancillary costs associated with supplies and materials are minimal at most.

Key Steps for Implementation

Partner with Youth Empowered Solutions to:

  1. Assess the capacity and opportunities within your organization to apply The YES! Youth Empowerment Model.
  2. Train adults to understand and develop a strategic plan to implement The Model within the context or your organization's mission.
  3. Develop a recruitment and retention plan for incorporating youth into your work.
  4. Orient youth staff/stakeholders and organization simultaneously. Lead youth-driven community assessment to contextualize work.
  5. Train youth to understand the social determinants of health and root causes related to your work. Work with youth to develop advocacy skills.
  6. Create and implement action plan with outcomes-statement, steps, milestones, and deadlines where youth and adults share power and responsibilities.
  7. Re-assess and re-evaluate the extent that your organization, mission and work is being influenced by youth (ongoing).


Community partnerships that contribute to success are those that build authentic connections with youth and other partners that live, work, or go to school in the community that you want to work in. Examples of these partnerships could include connections with schools or teachers, clubs like Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), other youth-serving organizations, advocacy organizations, and community-based youth groups.

Policies, Laws and Regulations

Laws and Regulations that need to be considered are those that regulate and/or limit the presence of minors of legal employment age on the property or campus of your place of work. For example, if you work within a health department, are youth permitted to be present in the area of the building that you typically meet? Is there a time of day (after 5pm) when youth are restricted from accessing certain physical spaces of your buildings?

Additionally, as it pertains to youth serving on organizational Boards of Directors, N.C. General Statute 55A-8-02 states that "under NC law, there is no minimum age for members of the board of directors for non-profit corporations in North Carolina." The preceding statute (N.C. General Statute 55A-8-02) also mentions that there is no minimum age requirement for incorporation of nonprofit corporations."

Required Staffing (FTEs)

Evidence supports that adult staff time be set aside specifically and intentionally for the purpose of coordinating youth employees and stakeholders. While there are alternative strategies for doing this (interns, collaborating with other groups, partnering with college students), the more time that is financially dedicated to supporting implementation of the YES! Youth Empowerment Model, the higher return on investment you'll see.

Special Funding

No additional funding or supplies are needed that have not already been mentioned. For sustainability, it is critical to budget for what infrastructure is developed by applying the Youth Empowerment Model.

Special Infrastructure

In our observations, having a physical space that can be co-owned by the youth that are integrated into your work greatly enhances the supporting indicators of success. Having a space where youth are welcomed and feel safe and comfortable in helps to deepen the relationships between the adults and youth. Additionally, this helps to build the level of investment that youth have in your organization and in the ultimate success of the work. Note: there is a difference between having a space for your organization to do business and having a space that is empowering for youth. Often times, if work is done in space that youth don't consider comfortable and open, the level of productivity decreases, as does the likelihood of success.Evidence supports a strategy that compensates youth for their time and contributions to the organization and work (note: "compensation" rather than "incentive"). Equipment and materials are otherwise relative to the specific project deliverables.


To support implementation of the YES! Youth Empowerment Model with fidelity, YES! recommends adults and organizations attending two YES! Adult Leader Trainings focused on The Model, understanding current youth generations, and developing equitable recruitment and retention strategies. Similarly, once youth are recruited, YES! recommends that they attend at least one YES! Youth Leader Training focused on social determinants of health, equity and root causes, and advocacy strategies. Additional organizational technical assistance would bolster outcomes and return on investment.

Types of Staff

While no formal credentials are necessary, we would suggest a person who has experience in power-sharing scenarios or someone who is at least open to the idea. Experience in advocacy, public health, community organizing are also a plus.

Return on Investment Details

Over the past 3 years, YES! has collected Return On Investment information on the impact of the YES! Youth Empowerment Model. To do this, we've lifted up the correlation between the total organizational costs and the instances of systems, environmental and policy change that have occurred, as well as the correlation between the cost and the number of people impacted by those changes. This data is subjective and not peer-reviewed as YES! has not had the capacity to engage in a peer-review process. Additionally, YES! intentionally lifts up the fact that many systems, environmental, and policy changes do not occur in a vacuum, but rather through strong networking and collaboration. This suggests that there are additional costs associated with any additional level of impact.

Outcome Measures

Traditionally, outcomes are relative to the topic that the YES! Youth Empowerment Model is being applied to. As an example, here are outcomes that we have experienced:

  • Number of people living in a food desert who now have access to healthy foods
  • Number of people protected by tobacco-free or smoke-free public policies
  • Number of people who newly have access to culturally appropriate and affordable health care

Additionally, because our intervention centers on equity being a process as much as a destination, we measure outcomes related to:

  • Number of systems, environments and policies changed through implementation of The Model
  • Number of people impacted by those systems, environmental, and policy changes

Process Measures

Process measures within the application of the YES! Youth Empowerment Model are as follows:

  • Number of youth/adults trained in the YES! Youth Empowerment Model
  • Number of youth meaningfully empowered and active within your organization
  • Number of youth that have gained new skills
  • Number of new skills gained/demonstrated
  • Number of (or "amount of") resources invested into applying The Model (this is critical for capturing Return on Investment data)
  •  of action plans designed and implemented

 Related Topics

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Positive Youth Development

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Civic Engagement

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Children and Youth