Building Youth Infrastructure: Early Lessons From the Youth Systems Collaborative


  • Clare Ignatowski University of Pennsylvania and Creative Associates International
  • Rachel Blum Education Development Center
  • Pia Saunders Campbell International Youth Foundation
  • Ricardo Perez-Pineda Education Development Center



international positive youth development, youth systems, systems change, sustainability


In recent years the international youth development field has increasingly acknowledged that purposeful action at the systems level is critical for achieving positive outcomes for youth, sustainably, equitably, and at scale. In 2018 a group of international organizations formed the Youth Systems Collaborative, a community of practice whose aim is to promote international learning on youth systems change efforts. Building from the collective learning of this group, this paper offers a framework for understanding how widespread and sustained positive youth development outcomes can be achieved in low- and middle-income countries. Five enablers that advance systems change are presented: stakeholder collaboration; vision and goals; systems mapping; data, evaluation, and learning; and capacity development, as well as 4 domains within which system change occurs: policies, services and practices, norms and mindsets, and resource flows. Each of these 9 dimensions is illustrated with lessons learned from both U.S. and international youth systems change efforts. The paper concludes with a call to action for diverse system actors to apply these lessons as they support youth to reach their full potential.

Author Biography

Clare Ignatowski, University of Pennsylvania and Creative Associates International

Rsearch Fellow, The Center for Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Senior Advisor, Youth and Systems Thinking, Creative Associates International


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