Positive Youth Development (PYD)

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Positive youth development (PYD) is a globally recognized and research based approach to youth development that considers young people as assets and partners in the community, and not as problems who need solving. PYD does not focus on one single activity or program, but rather is a general approach and philosophy incorporated into all of our 4-H programming in Canada.

Using the 4-H Canada Positive Youth Development Formula, we are building responsible, caring and contributing young people who are empowered to be successful through our supportive structure.

The 4-H Canada Positive Youth Development Formula, is our recipe for building responsible, caring, and contributing young people who are empowered to be successful through our supportive 4-H structures.

At the centre of the Formula is our three essential elements. We know we are achieving these core ingredients if we hear members saying statements like:

“I feel safe, comfortable and able to participate. I am also having fun!”

“I feel supported and valued by the adults involved.”

“There are opportunities for me to try things out myself, to learn from my direct experience and to reflect on my actions.”

On the outside of the formula are the six key assets that we believe 4-H cultivates and fosters in 4-H members. These are the outcomes we hope to achieve in any 4-H activity or program we develop or implement. 

We want 4-H youth to use their head, heart, and hands to make informed decisions about their health, their community and the planet. They develop creative innovative sustainable solutions to the issues they face, and engaging with others to take action and advocate for what they believe in. The 4-H Canada Positive Youth Development Formula – as a whole – allows youth to achieve these goals by equipping them with tools, offering opportunities and support by caring adults. By tapping into their strengths and building assets along the way, 4-H’ers are leading the way to a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for all.

Unpacking PYD into its three main aspects:
Positive This means that we are taking a strengths-based approach that builds on assets, interests and strengths already present in our members. By focusing on the positive, we are developing these positive internal and external factors, we are supporting young people’s ability to achieve their goals and develop to their full potential. 

  • Foster the existing strengths, abilities, interests and attributes and builds on potential.
  • Allow young people to build skills and develop assets in themselves
  • Empower youth to be responsible for their decisions, including saying “no” to negative influences
  • Promote positive influences like family, peers, schools and communities.
Youth – Our program is focused on the developmental needs of young people and they are at the centre of everything we do.
Development – This means creating opportunities for youth to develop to their full potential. This includes mastering skills, developing confidence, taking on leadership roles, and making healthy, responsible choices and decisions.

Can you spot PYD in action?

 For 4-H members, PYD often looks something like this:

  • Developing new skills and abilities
  • Demonstrating leadership and taking ownership
  • Thinking about, planning and setting goals for the future
  • Expanding social skills and forming positive relationships with peers and adults
  • Taking responsibility for actions
  • Growing ability to plan ahead and make decision

Applying PYD

Check out these fantastic videos from 4-H Canada on Positive Youth Development and how you can spot it and incorporate it into your 4-H experience:

What is Positive Youth Development?
How to Apply Positive Youth Development

Measuring Success with PYD

4-H Alberta uses the 4-H Canada PYD formula to help measure the success of all 4-H programming and the impact it has on our Members.

All 4-H Alberta programming aims to cultivate and foster the six key assets surrounding the PYD formula:

  • Positive Values
  • Responsibility
  • Skill Mastery
  • Leadership Development
  • Planning and Decision Making
  • Sense of Purpose

At the Centre of the formula are the three essential elements that are required at every 4-H Alberta Program:

  • Safe, Fun, Inclusive Environment
  • Caring Adults
  • Learn To Do By Doing


All 4-H Alberta programs are evaluated on their success in promoting each of the key assets as well as the presence of the three essential elements through participant feedback and program review. Feedback from the participants in 4-H programming is essential in determining the success of the program, the impact on 4-H Members, and informing future programs and changes.

Check out our Program Impact Reports to see how 4-H programs are promoting PYD in the 4-H Alberta community:

Senior Symposium Program Impact Report