Generation Citizen Selected as Partner in National Effort to Strengthen Relationships Across Young People’s Lives

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (November 16, 2017)—Search Institute has selected Generation Citizen to be one of five national partners to co-create and test innovative ways to strengthen the relationships that young people in marginalized communities experience in their schools, programs, and families.

Generation Citizen and the Massachusetts site will work with Search Institute to examine young people’s experiences of peer relationships, focusing on ways these relationships help young people learn, grow, and thrive. Then the partners will work together to design and test strategies and tools to be more intentional and inclusive in building relationships with and among young people.

Titled the Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI), this three-year effort grows out of extensive research on the power of relationships by Search Institute and others. This research shows that young people who experience “developmental relationships” in their lives experience better outcomes, including being more motivated in school, avoiding high-risk behaviors, developing social-emotional competencies, and other signs of thriving.

Arielle Jennings, Executive Director of Generation Citizen Massachusetts said, “We are incredibly excited  to have the opportunity to examine the peer relationships young people form when they engage in Generation Citizen’s Action Civics program and to work with such esteemed partners to collectively make our impact as youth-serving organizations even greater.”


Each of the five partners has a broad network of programs and has chosen a single local program that will serve as a “design site” for this initiative. The other partners are:

  • Camp Fire (Kansas City, Missouri) and its affiliate in Portland, Oregon.
  • City Year (Boston, Massachusetts) and its affiliate in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Communities in Schools of San Antonio, Texas, and its program in South San High School.
  • National Center for Families Learning (Louisville, Kentucky) and its partner organization, Toberman Neighborhood Center, San Pedro, California.

“These partners bring a wealth of experience in engaging and building relationships with marginalized young people,” said Kent Pekel, Search Institute’s president and CEO. “We are honored that they are joining us in this major effort, and we expect that what we learn and create together will have a major impact on young people across the country.”


The initiative builds on extensive Search Institute research on the elements of relationships that are critical for young people’s learning, development, and thriving. Search Institute has created a Framework of Developmental Relationships, which is relevant for parent-youth relationships, student-teacher relationships, mentoring relationships, peer relationships, and relationships between youth and out-of-school-time program leaders. The framework identifies five key elements of relationships that contribute to young people’s development:

  1. Express care—Show me that I matter to you.
  2. Challenge growthPush me to keep getting better.
  3. Provide supportHelp me complete tasks and achieve goals.
  4. Share powerTreat me with respect and give me a say.
  5. Expand possibilitiesConnect me with people and places that broaden my world.


Relationships with these qualities are vital for young people’s growth. Young people who report more strength in these elements of relationships are more likely to report a variety of social-emotional strengths (such as being motivated in school), be more likely to be resilient in the midst of challenges, and be less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.

However, as many as 40 percent of young people say they have just one or no relationships that reflect these actions, according to a recent Search Institute study in a major US city. Furthermore, gaps in relationships are particular challenges for young people who have historically been marginalized in society, including those living in poverty and young people of color.


Generation Citizen works to ensure that every student in the U.S. receives an effective action civics education, providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as active citizens. What started as an idea on a college campus in 2008 in Providence, Rhode Island, Generation Citizen has grown to teach action civics to more than 40,000 young people, deploying 1,200 college volunteers, in more than 300 schools across the country in Massachusetts, New York City, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Central Texas.


Minneapolis-based Search Institute conducts research across the United States and around the world to discover what young people need to succeed. The nonprofit also partners with youth-serving organizations to create spaces where young people thrive. For more information, visit


Core support for ROI is provided by the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust. The Trust supports the ROI action-learning partnerships focused on K-12 education, out-of-school-time programs, mentoring programs, and peer programs. The ROI action-learning partnership focused on family engagement is supported by the Altria Group.