While much of the attention in character education has focused on schools, the diverse and dynamic field of youth development organizations has unique capacity to cultivate youth character virtues—not because it is a setting where additional lessons can be added that looks a lot like a traditional school day, but because of the potential for the strong character-nurturing developmental relationships between youth and adults and among youth themselves. This field also faces important challenges that need to be addressed including being undervalued, disconnection between youth workers and the larger field, and a lack of support.
This project, Rooted in Relationships: Cultivating Character Through Communities of Practice, seeks to establish a community of practice and a community of change. It will do so by enhancing an existing community of practice—Excel Academy in San Antonio, Texas. Through this project, a catalytic community of practice will be built not only for creating relationship-rich, character-nurturing cultures in youth-serving organizations across San Antonio, but ultimately for catalyzing character-nurturing norms for youth across the growing metropolitan area.
This initiative has four primary objectives: 1. Create and test a sustained and replicable state-of-the-art Rooted in Relationships Community of Practice among leaders of youth-serving organizations; 2. Develop and/or adapt research-based tools to facilitate the Community of Practice that are adaptable to specific realities and cultures of specific organizations and communities; 3. Document the opportunities, challenges, and best practices that emerge in the Community of Practice in order to facilitate continuous improvement, expanded use of the model, and learning from the model in other communities of practice; 4. Build preliminary empirical evidence that links the strengthening of a community of practice to enhanced organizational leaders’ capacity to cultivate character-nurturing relationships.