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PEPNet Quality Standards for Youth Programs

In the context of PEPNet, "quality" means having a high degree of excellence, making an organization more likely to succeed. A "standard" is an element that defines quality: if an organization meets a standard, it has quality in the area the standard covers. As PEPNet neared its tenth anniversary, NYEC undertook a "PEPNet Enhancement Project." Professionals around the U.S. and abroad were using PEPNet and providing very positive responses to its resources. However, NYEC wanted to consider directions for the future that would make PEPNet even more useful. A group of 45 practitioners, researchers, policy makers and funders from around the country worked with NYEC to advise improvements to PEPNet, including enhanced standards, new tools and more supports for organizations using the information.

The PEPNet Standards provide a framework for youth programs to achieve quality -- that is, a high degree of excellence. This framework will be "customized" by individual programs, in response to their youth and mission. Therefore, the standards DO NOT stipulate specifics, such as:

  • how an organization should be structured;
  • how many people to hire or what to pay them;
  • how long participants should be in the program (duration) or many hours to spend on a specific activity (intensity);
  • the type of youth to serve.

The Standards present what research and field-based practice have found to work, organized within a clear framework. They represent the "gold standard," the ideal for which to strive. No organization will be able to meet all of these Standards fully all of the time; even the best organizations have areas they could enhance or modify. Rather, the challenge to those who work in or with programs is to determine precisely what programs do, or are not yet doing, to meet the standards and their "key indicators." Then they can design or improve their structures, systems, processes and collaborations in order to make their work with young people even more successful.

The PEPNet Guide to Quality Standards for Youth Programs provides detailed information on all of the standards as well as examples of how they work in practice.

Standard Categories

  • Management for Quality
    Standards for program management -- The foundation for program direction, systems and operations.
  • Programmatic Approach
    Standards for program design -- How the program is shaped, how the young person experiences the program, how the pieces work together.
  • Youth Development Competencies
    Standards for program offerings -- What youth need to know and be able to do to successfully transition to work and adulthood and how to help them gain those skills, knowledge and abilities.
  • Focus on Youth Results
    Standards for performance measurement -- Measuring, documenting and reporting youth outcomes and progress towards those outcomes.

See also PEPNet FAQ: "What are PEPNet's Quality Standards and Where Do They Come From?"

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