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4-H Youth Development Council Functions

Program Planning

The first function of the 4-H Youth Development Council is to help plan a 4-H Youth Development Program that meets the needs of youth and families in the county. The steps to consider during program planning are listed and described at the links below. Programs must be based on the needs and interests of young people and the developmental stages of youth. 

a. Assessment:  The first step in program planning is to conduct a needs assessment of the current issues facing youth in the county. A needs assessment is an organized approach that identifies issues and contributes to the establishment of priorities. It is a tool from which making decisions about programs and allocation of available resources can be made. This information is then used as criteria for development of a year-long 4-H Youth Development Program, including activities and delivery methods. There are several questions that should be asked when conducting a needs assessment:

  • Who is in need?
  • What is needed?
  • How do these needs align with the educational mission of Extension and 4-H?
  • What programs and materials are needed?
  • How can the program best be delivered?
  • When will the programs be most useful?
  • How much of each program and material are needed?
  • What will it cost?
  • How can it be funded?
  • What is currently a part of the 4-H program that should be revised, phased out, or eliminated?

b. Program Methods: The 4-H Youth Development Council must design and support, both in principle and with financial resources, a variety of 4-H Youth Development Program delivery methods. There are different ways to reach youth: community and subject-based clubs, school enrichment programs, camps, special interest groups, afterschool programs, international exchanges, and issue-related workshops/conferences. By using these different delivery methods and by being flexible, more youth can be included in the 4-H Youth Development Program. A list and brief description of various methods of program delivery can be found here.

c. Implementation: Initiating a program involves salaried staff, volunteers, a curriculum, an appropriate audience, and methods. The 4-H Youth Development Council should establish reasonable guidelines for conducting the 4-H Youth Development Program. Locally developed guidelines allow the program to uniquely fit each county, even though it is critical that the local guidelines be consistent with state and federal guidelines and allow for local participation in state activities. Guidelines should be developed for the general population and should assure safety, fairness, and equity. They should also provide for efficient management of the county 4-H Youth Development Program 

d. Risk Management: Risk, the possibility of suffering harm or loss, is something that we face on a daily basis. While risk generally cannot be completely eliminated, it can be managed in such a way that it is at a minimal, acceptable level. Our primary goal in 4-H Youth Development is to provide a safe environment in which youth can learn, develop, and have fun. Families should be confident that we are providing a safe, nurturing environment in which their children can participate.

There are a number of risk management (BusinessDictionary.com: The identification, analysis, assessment, control, and avoidance, minimization, or elimination of unnacceptable risk.) steps we can take to help insure that our program is a safe one for our participants. In general the 4-H Youth Development Council should:

  • Take "reasonable and prudent" precautions and actions – use common sense and good judgment.
  • Work with the Purdue 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator while planning special events.
  • Follow basic 4-H program guidelines.
  • Keep within the scope of the educational mission of 4-H and within your 4-H volunteer responsibilities.

This section provides some recommended practices to follow to effectively manage risk.

e. Equal Opportunity: The council should assure that the 4-H Youth Development Program is available to all people who live in the county. Since 4-H Youth Development receives federal funds, the local guidelines and policies must be in compliance with federal laws. 4-H Youth Development Councils are obligated to ensure the county 4-H Youth Development Program provides all youth equal access and opportunity.

Affirmative action is a set of proactive measures to counteract the effects of past and present discrimination, intended or unintended, in employment and program delivery. The law identifies affected groups who have been historically underprivileged or underserved. They are women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Vietnam era veterans, special disable veterans and individuals with disabilities. By law, we must act affirmatively toward people of affected groups in both employment and program delivery. We view affirmative action as an opportunity to contribute to the development of an increasingly diverse society.

Equal Opportunity is the right of individuals to be judged on the basis of relevant education/training, skills, experience and previous performance, but not on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disabilities, age, sexual orientation, or other personal differences.

The statement below should be on all Extension publications.

"It is the policy of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service that all persons have equal opportunity and access to its educational programs, services, activities, and facilities without regard to race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, disability or status as a veteran. Purdue University is an Affirmative Action institution. This material may be available in alternative formats."

The basic components of the Indiana 4-H Youth Civil Rights Compliance program are on file in the Extension office in each county and in the office of the director of Extension at Purdue University.

Civil rights and affirmative action should be an integral part of the program development process and should be integrated into all Extension programming. Careful documentation is important to show that all reasonable effort has been made to include minorities in Extension programming. Records should be kept for each planned activity for which Extension staff and 4-H Youth Development Councils are responsible. The records need to reflect that a conscious attempt has been made to include minorities in specific programs, and they should include any supporting evidence as to how Extension staff and 4-H Youth Development Councils have complied with civil rights responsibilities.

Extension staff and 4-H Youth Development Councils do not consciously exclude people; nonetheless, the law requires proof that those using public money are regularly and consciously finding ways to include people. One way to do this is through public notification. Letting people know that Extension programs are open and available is a means of advising minorities of program availability on a nondiscriminatory basis. To be effective, the techniques usually consist of a series of communication methods that advise the public about program availability.

Individuals acting on behalf of the Cooperative Extension Service, Extension staff, and Extension volunteers must make all reasonable effort to comply with civil rights regulations. All reasonable effort can best be accomplished by following steps outlined in the state affirmative action plan.

It is the policy of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service that all persons have equal opportunity and access to its educational programs, services, activities, and facilities without regard to race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, disability or status as a veteran. Purdue University is an Affirmative Action institution. This material may be available in alternative formats.

Equal employment opportunity can best be described as being fair and equal to people in a nondiscriminatory way. Civil rights laws affect everyone, especially those who have a responsibility for employing, recruiting and supervising others. Volunteers are considered program employees and must therefore be treated with the same fairness and concern.

County Extension Directors are responsible for Purdue Extension's civil rights compliance in their respective counties. Violations or possible violations of any civil rights regulations should be brought to the attention of the County Extension Director. 

f. Recognition: Plan for individual and group recognition. Recognition and feedback allow participants to know when their work is completed in a way that meets standards and/or surpasses the minimum level of achievement. Recognition is most appreciated when it is appropriate, meaningful, and timely. 

Rewards can be categorized as either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic rewards are those that a person gives himself/herself. Examples include, "I did a better job this year than I did last year," or "I feel really special because I helped my grandparents this weekend." It is extremely important that people learn to give self-praise that is appropriate, relevant, and based on feelings of personal self-worth.

Extrinsic rewards come from someone else. These rewards are such things as compliments, certificates, or a word of congratulations from another source. Extrinsic rewards are important to help a person know that others recognize his or her achievements and success in work and learning.  

Whenever possible, 4-H should facilitate both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. The 4-H Youth Development Council and salaried staff should establish guidelines for appropriate and timely recognition of all the youth and adults who participate in the 4-H Youth Development Program. The recognition needs to be equitable and should encourage people to do excellent work and try hard to achieve. Below are questions that should be considered when designing a 4-H recognition program:

  • Is the award system appropriate for the age and developmental stage of the individuals? For example, children in grades K-2 should not be compared to their peers and should not compete for ribbons of different colors.
  • Are there awards for members, volunteers, and sponsors?
  • Are there equitable awards for participation in various projects and activities?
  • Are there criteria for selecting award recipients?
  • Are various levels of recognition available to encourage growth and continued participation in 4-H?
  • Are the potential recipients knowledgeable of the different awards for which they can strive?
  • Is there a budget for award recognition? Is it equitable and allocated to all areas of 4-H Youth Development Program achievement?
  • Does the awards system promote achievement in after-school programs, school enrichment, project club work, and one-day workshops?
  • Do the awards serve multiple purposes; i.e. promotion, education, and retention?
  • Are in-county and out-of-county educational opportunities made available to many youth, or are they held back as awards for a select few?

To assist in your development of age-appropriate and effective recognition programs here is 139 Ways to Say Thank You

National Volunteer Week occurs each year in April and is a week dedicated to the recognition of active community volunteers. To learn more visit the Indiana 4-H National Volunteer Week section of the Volunteer Recognition page

g. Evaluation: A critical program-planning step is to evaluate and refine the program based on the mission, goals, and objectives. The 4-H Youth Development Council should regularly assess the extent to which the 4-H Youth Development Program is achieving its stated goals. The following questions provide a basis for a 4-H program evaluation:

  • Is the county program based on the needs and developmental stages of youth?
  • Do most youth and parents in the county understand the goals and availability of the 4-H Youth Development Program?
  • Is the program focused on the statewide goals for 4-H Youth Development?
  • Does the program promote the success and achievement of youth?
  • Do all volunteers in the 4-H Youth Development Program understand the needs of youth?
  • Is the curriculum based on research and accurate knowledge?
  • Is the program sufficiently flexible to allow participation in a variety of ways?
  • Is financial support allocated for programs that are targeted for underrepresented or underserved youth?
  • Is the 4-H Youth Development Council balanced in membership, representing both genders, all geographic areas of the county, people from various ages and backgrounds?
  • Is there necessary financial support to conduct the program?
  • Is the recognition program well balanced?
  • Is the program properly reported to and supported by the media?

Members of the 4-H Youth Development Council must assess their work for three significant reasons: a) to make needed program revisions; b) to focus their energy to improve the program; and c) to be accountable to appropriate funding sources.

Evaluation reports need to be shared with sponsors, other agency supporters, and county commissioners to make them aware of the 4-H Youth Development achievements and the need for strong, continuous financial support. A well-done evaluation, completed with the assistance of volunteers who serve on the 4-H Youth Development Council, promotes pride in program achievements and supports the local Extension professional.