Create a Relationship-Rich Climate
Create is the second domain of the Social Capital Framework. It focuses on strategies for creating a relationship-rich climate.
A Relationship-Rich Climate Builds Strong Developmental Relationships
Youth-serving organizations have relationship-rich climates when young people experience the space as safe and culturally responsive–where youth have a strong sense of community and belonging, and are given opportunities to explore their interests, passions, and sparks. When all of these conditions are in place, it is ripe for cultivating young people's social capital development.
Key Principles to Create
An environment where all youth feel accepted, welcomed, and respected.
Young people are able to explore their passions and overcome challenges when they feel physically and emotionally safe to explore, take risks, and try out new tasks and ideas. It is important to create an environment where all young people feel accepted, welcomed, and respected for their authentic selves.
Uses practices to promote inclusivity, diversity, and equity.
Organizations can create a safe environment by engaging in culturally responsive ways. Embedding culturally responsive practices (e.g., programming that reflects the cultural diversity of youth, cultural competency training) in your organization promotes inclusivity and diversity, and ensures that all youth feel seen, heard, and valued. It can also help address and rectify systemic inequalities and biases, ultimately creating a more equitable and just society for youth.
Youth and staff feel seen and valued.
It is important that all young people feel that they belong. Organizations can create spaces where young people feel a part of something bigger than themselves, where they feel emotionally connected to staff and peers, and where they feel accepted and a part of the community. This sense of belonging will naturally lead to more positive relationship -building across the organization.
The opportunity to explore interests, passions, and talents.
Young people thrive when organizations allow them to explore deep personal interests, talents, and passions - what are also known as sparks. Youth may be more likely to make progress towards life goals when opportunities and resources are aligned with their spark.
Success Story from the Field
To see what creating a relationship-rich climate looks like in practice, see how The Young Entrepreneurs Club implemented these four principles in their organization.
The Young Entrepreneurs Club (YEC) is a program where teens learn about marketing, economics, and business while prototyping their own business idea. The YEC is committed to fostering a relationship-rich climate and leverages positive connections between young people and staff to support student success.This commitment is vividly illustrated through the experiences of Antonia, a program participant who considers the YEC her second home, expressing, “I feel safe here and the people are really supportive, and that's something I can’t always say about other places.”
The YEC’s dedication to emotional safety and inclusivity is reflected in every facet of the environment. The physical space is warm and inviting, with comfortable gathering areas and examples of student work around the room. In this space, YEC staff facilitate collaborative student groups, ensuring that everyone has a role to play and encouraging positive and productive interactions so each student’s contributions are valued. Here, program participants like Antonia not only feel physically safe, but also emotionally secure, enabling them to embrace their authentic selves.
Cultural responsiveness is deeply embedded in the YEC’s programming. Recognizing the diverse backgrounds of the youth it serves, the organization invested in cultural humility training for all staff members. This training equipped staff to not only acknowledge cultural diversity but to use culturally responsive approaches to strengthen their relationships with YEC students.
Moreover, systems were established to support staff in ongoing reflection to improve their interactions with the young people they serve.
Maria, a devoted staff member at the YEC, emphasized the significance of youth as decision makers within the organization. This value is a part of the program’s ethos, where youth are encouraged not only to make strategic decisions about their own projects, but to also be involved in decisions impacting their experience in the program. Staff consistently act on youth feedback about the program, reinforcing a true sense of belonging and importance at the YEC. The bond among program participants, staff, and the local community are further solidified through showcases of student work to family members and influential community members.
For Rosa, another participant, the YEC provided the tools and space to chase her dreams of becoming a businesswoman. The program recognizes the importance of nurturing personal interests and passions. Staff invest time in deeply understanding the motivations that drive each young person’s interest in entrepreneurship. While they may not always have immediate resources at their fingertips, they excel at establishing connections within the community to provide access to those resources, helping youth explore and cultivate their passions.
By fostering this relationship-rich climate, the YEC had successfully created a space where relationships and young people’s social capital could flourish. It empowers young people like Rosa and Antonia to chart their pathways towards their goals, embodying the essence of youth empowerment and community support.
The Youth Opportunity Checkup