State of the Field Report: Holistic, Cross-sectoral Youth Development

The purpose of this paper is to provide information on the latest research and trends in the area of cross-sectoral and holistic strategies for positive youth development globally and particularly in developing countries. These approaches incorporate efforts that intentionally leverage resources, networks, and expertise across multiple development sectors in a collaborative fashion in order to respond to the complex development challenges of youth. They also include multiple components to address diverse needs, such as interventions providing wraparound services for youth.

This paper presents information on positive youth development frameworks and foundational principles that undergird holistic, cross-sectoral strategies, as well as other sector-specific topics. Concepts from this paper are also discussed in two other reports which have been written on the topics of youth education in conflict- and crisis-affected environments and youth workforce development (USAID, 2013a & b).

This paper addresses six key questions:

  • Why should international donors invest in positive youth development (PYD) programs?

  • What are the current trends in international youth development with regard to holistic, cross-sectoral programming?

  • What are the most relevant PYD frameworks?

  • How can a comprehensive PYD approach contribute to positive outcomes in sectors such as health, education, employment, family life, democracy and governance, crime prevention, and conflict mitigation?

  • Based on existing reports, evaluations, and meta-analyses, what is the evidence that holistic youth programs can be effective?

  • What are the gaps in research and the important next steps for policy and practice?

USAID/E3/ED will use the information presented in this report to create a youth-focused research and evaluation agenda in support of the USAID Education Strategy. This agenda will inform the design of future USAID youth development programs based on evidence, and will also guide USAID Missions in designing their evaluations of youth programs. USAID has made great strides toward ensuring that its programs are based on strong evidence through publication of its recent Project Design Guidance and Evaluation Policy, which discuss the importance of incorporating strong monitoring and evaluation techniques into program design (USAID, 2011c).

USAID also intends to use this research and evaluation agenda in coordination with other donors, governments, practitioners, and youth stakeholders to build up an evidence base around positive youth development. 


Last updated: May 07, 2019