Counting What Counts

When working with the Department of Youth and Community Development in New York City, I heard an interesting story. A youth development program had been launched and kids were actively engaged in after school activities such as basketball and homework help. More kids were coming. Parents were involved. A good thing, right?Author: 玄史生, Wikimedia

But when the rate of gang activity in the neighborhood was tracked, violence levels had increased. Digging further, it turned out that the after school program was functioning as a gang recruiting ground - older kids were enrolling the younger kids.

When the after school activities were re-structured to keep age groups separated, gang activity decreased.

More kids in a program doesn't automatically mean that you're having the impact that you want. By assessing outcomes, program structure can be adjusted to lead to the best results.