Counting What Counts

File:Boys Playing Basketball in Youth Park 20100314.jpg
File:Boys Playing Basketball in Youth Park 20100314.jpg

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?

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.