Study reveals importance of life skills development to youth outcomes

April 17, 2007

A 13-country study of life skills programs run by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and Nokia demonstrates significant increases in young people’s educational readiness, engagement in their communities, and their self-confidence and focus on the future. The study’s results were released today during a symposium attended by international and U.S. program and policy leaders at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.

Launched in 2000, the IYF-Nokia initiative promotes the positive development of young people through nurturing 12 key life skills, including self-confidence, communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork. The study, conducted by the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, was based on surveys of over 3,500 youth and set out to measure changes in young people’s life skills and related outcomes. Among the most significant findings from the Brandeis research:

  • Ninety-five percent of the young people surveyed were able to point to an increase in life skills targeted through the initiative. The most significant increases occurred in teamwork/cooperation, self-confidence, and creative thinking.
  • In the programs that emphasized youth volunteerism, 72% of youth continued their involvement in volunteer projects after completing the program.
  • In all country programs where educational outcomes were assessed, half of the youth reported that they were working harder in school, getting better grades, and thinking they could now reach a higher level of education than they believed possible before the training.
  • In all country programs studied, an average of 77% of participants said that the program had prepared them for a better life.

“While each country program is different, making it difficult to draw direct comparisons, this pilot study clearly showed that the programs are producing meaningful changes in life skills and in young lives,” said Andrew Hahn, Professor at the Heller School and co-author of the study. “Until recently, little has been known internationally about whether such skills do in fact change and whether life skills programs can make a difference. The study reinforces the notion that life skills can be strengthened and measured.”

Since 2000, Nokia has invested more than US$30 million in life skills programs through its joint initiative with IYF, reaching more than 360,000 young people in 26 countries.

Martin Sandelin, Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility at Nokia said, “It is critical that we measure the impact of our social investments and can use the results to further develop and improve our programs. Our goal is that the Brandeis report will inform not only our efforts, but those of many other committed individuals and institutions working to make a positive and lasting difference in young lives.”

“The study reflects a serious commitment on behalf of Nokia to measure the impact of its investment in young lives and to share important lessons – and challenges – for the benefit of policy makers, donors, and the youth development community as a whole,” said Bill Reese, IYF President and CEO. “Life skills – particularly soft skills – are receiving considerable interest and support in this era of increasing globalization. The goal of life skills programs is to produce the kinds of citizens, workers, and parents that every society would like to see.”

An executive summary of the study, Measuring Outcomes in Projects Designed to Help Young People Acquire Life Skills: Lessons and Challenges by Andrew Hahn, Susan Lanspery, and Tom Leavitt, is available at www.iyfnet.org.

About the International Youth Foundation (IYF)
IYF believes young people possess the power to shape the future. To learn, work, thrive, and lead, they need access to programs and resources that inspire and challenge them. IYF is a global nonprofit organization that makes this possible. Today in 70 countries, IYF collaborates with businesses, governments, and civil society organizations that share a common desire to improve the life conditions and prospects of young people. Together, IYF and its partners build effective, sustainable, and scalable programs that positively impact the lives of young people worldwide. For further information, visit www.iyfnet.org.

About the Center for Youth and Communities, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
Since its inception in 1983, the Center for Youth and Communities (CYC) has established an international reputation as a leading research center and professional development and policy organization in youth and community development. CYC’s ultimate goal is to "make knowledge productive." This is done by connecting the knowledge gained from scholarly research and practical experience in ways that help both policy makers and practitioners. To learn more, see www.heller.brandeis.edu.

About Nokia
Nokia is a world leader in mobile communications, driving the growth and sustainability of the broader mobility industry. Nokia connects people to each other and the information that matters to them with easy-to-use and innovative products like mobile phones, devices and solutions for imaging, games, media and businesses. Nokia provides equipment, solutions and services for network operators and corporations.

Media Contact

The Heller School welcomes media inquiries on this and all other news items. Email  Laura Gardner or call 781-736-4204.

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