Support Staff in Nurturing Youth Social Capital
Support is the third domain of the Social Capital Framework. It focuses on supporting staff growth so that they are well positioned to nurture youth social capital.
Becoming a social capital promoting organization means not only supporting youth in their development and growth, but also supporting staff. Building strong relationships with all young people and effectively connecting them with opportunities and resources is a skill that takes practice. Reflect on how you can best support staff growth in three key areas: staff asset-based mindset, authentic relationship building, and brokering skills.
Key Principles to Support
Staff believe in youth assets and potential.
When staff believe in youth assets and potential they actively seek and acknowledge the strengths, skills, and unique talents that each youth brings to the table, rather than focusing on deficits or challenges. Staff will also be more likely to provide opportunities for youth to take on leadership roles, give them a say in decision making, and empower them to pursue their dreams and goals.
Staff engage in actions to create strong developmental relationships.
Building strong developmental relationships requires skills such as actively listening to youth, building mutual respect and trust, and genuine caring and understanding of youth’s unique backgrounds and experiences. Staff who engage in consistent and meaningful interactions, go beyond just the programmatic or task-oriented aspects of their roles to provide guidance, offer mentorship, and demonstrate a long-term commitment to youth’s wellbeing and development.
Staff connect youth with and facilitate access to relationships, resources, and opportunities.
Brokering skills refer to the ability to connect and facilitate relationships or access to resources and opportunities on the behalf of others. In the context of youth-serving organizations, staff with brokering skills can play a crucial role in supporting youth by acting as intermediaries to connect them with various services, opportunities, and valuable resources as they pursue their goals.
Success Story from the Field
Lincoln High School, a diverse urban high school, recognized the pivotal role of teachers and school staff in nurturing the social capital of its students. Lincoln High School initiated a paradigm shift in its approach to education. The administration understood that empowering students required an equally empowered staff. The school embarked on a comprehensive strategy to invest in its staff, providing them with the training and tools necessary to build strong relationships with students and effectively connect them with valuable resources and opportunities.
The high school decided to implement an initiative that focused on improving teacher’s relationship-building with each other and with students. A team of teachers and students was developed to lead the initiative. They worked together to identify strategies for integrating relationship-building and social-emotional learning practices into the school day. This led to the professional development and training opportunities for teachers focused on relationship-building and a new peer mediation program, where students can help resolve conflicts with one another and with the support of trained teachers.
Teachers were also given autonomy to use more flexible teaching methodologies to better connect with individual students.
Finally, the initiative developed a list of community resources and opportunities that both teachers and students could leverage to support students on their pathways towards success. As part of their training, staff were taught best practices for helping students connect to these resources, including how and when to use the resource list in class, helping students identify which resources they need, how to collaborate with staff to increase access to the resources, and modeling to students how they can access their needed resources.
The impact was profound. Students felt not only academically supported but also personally nurtured. The trust between staff and students deepended, leading to increased engagement, reduced drop-out rates, and improved academic performance.
As a student, Emma shared, “Before, I felt like just another face in the crowd. But now, I know my teachers care about my future. They’ve connected me with opportunities I didn’t even know existed.”
By investing in its staff and equipping them with the tools to nurture student social capital, Lincoln High School redefined the educational experience for its students.
The Youth Opportunity Checkup