The Connected Youth Initiative (CYI) uses a collective impact approach to create systems change in rural Nebraska communities and serves people aged 14 to 24 through the following essential Connected Youth Initiative elements:  opportunities for youth leadership and advocacy;  a financial literacy and assetbuilding program;  support services funds for young adults to access an array of basic needs services and supports in emergency instances; and  goal-oriented coaching to develop skills and access services and support self-sufficiency in transition to adulthood. All CYI elements are set within a community-based collaborative system. Ultimately, the objective of CYI is to realize positive outcomes for participating young people across seven main domains: education, employment, permanence, housing, health, transportation and economic stability.
The WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center, in partnership with the Nebraska Center for Justice Research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, were selected to conduct the external evaluation of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Connected Youth Initiative (CYI).
The evaluation captured key implementation, youth and systems level data to explore outcomes and variation in those findings across sites. The quasi-experimental matched comparison study examined participant outcomes across a number of domains, including:
1) personal and community engagement,
4) daily living/housing and transportation,
5) physical and mental health,
6) permanence, and
7) economic stability.
While results varied across domains, the impact evaluation found that CYI achieved multiple positive outcomes for young people who engaged with programming and services. Overall, CYI participants are statistically more likely to report:
- More safe and stable living situations,
- Greater financial stability,
- Increased perceived hope, and
- Decreased emergency care utilization.
While promising, findings it is not possible to determine with confidence whether the reported positive findings are in fact due to program participation, or whether they might be due to participant age due to statistical differences in age among treatment and comparison participants.
The implementation evaluation found that young adults engaged with the CYI through 16 different types of combinations, though coaching was the most common component utilized across all. At a systems-level, staff indicated that setting the CYI model within a collaborative infrastructure often generated greater awareness and understanding of the unconnected youth population within the community.
Overall, the Corporation of National and Community Services (CNCS) accepted the study with Moderate evidence rating. You can learn more about the project and access the full report below.