Author: F. Soares, S. Babb, O. Diener, S. Gates & C. Ignatowski
Year: 2017
Agency: USAID
Full Citation: Soares, F., Babb, S., Diener, O., Gates, S., and Ignatowski, C. (2017). Guiding Principles for Building Soft Skills among Adolescents and Young Adults. Washington, DC: USAID’s YouthPower: Implementation, YouthPower Action.
Target Population(s): ,
Overview: This report identifies guiding principles and strategies that foster soft skill development among adolescents and young adults, ages 12–29, across different program contexts and youth characteristics.2 It shows the most basic methods that enable youth soft skill development and explains why they are thought to be effective. The report also describes ways that the guiding principles can be used in programs and activities in out-of-school as well as formal education contexts. The report addresses two main questions:
  • Are there common principles that have been successful in developing soft skills across different types of programs, target populations, and clusters of soft skills?
  • If common principles apply, how can they be used effectively in various programs in diverse settings?
This report focuses on guiding principles that are effective for developing soft skills in general. Where relevant, it highlights a subset of key skills that can help achieve positive outcomes across three different areas: workforce development, violence prevention, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH).
Methodology: This report reviews and analyzes recent literature, including literature reviews and meta-analyses, general guides on how to develop soft skills, and technical documents according to these criteria: 1) targeted at youth ages 12–29; 2) addressed at least one of seven key soft skills for crosssectoral youth outcomes, as identified by USAID YouthPower Action research; and 3) synthesized findings or recommendations regarding soft skill development through activities and programs.
  • The report found that seven skills enjoy strong and wide-ranging support across one or more areas, while also being age appropriate and adaptable during ages 12–29. These are: positive self-concept, self-control, higher order thinking skills, social skills, communication, empathy, and goal orientation. Where possible, this report shows how certain principles may be particularly effective for developing these soft skills.
  • The analysis revealed that across diverse youth programming, effective programs do indeed share a common set of characteristics that can yield guiding principles for designing and carrying out effective programs. Principles can foster the greatest skill development when applied in combination. The principles can guide program funders, implementers, and researchers involved in teaching soft skills for more extensive and higher quality youth soft skills programming and evaluation.

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