our-approach-200HeartWood uses an integrated approach in our community youth development practices. We provide direct leadership training for youth by supporting and working with youth in their communities. We also offer capacity building, professional development, and research for anyone else who is interested in meaningfully engaging youth. Our direct work with young people keeps us relevant and connected to issues and approaches critical to youth, while our capacity-building and consulting work increases the ability of organizations and government to reach a diversity of young people across the province.

We believe…

  • that youth and adults working together build more vibrant and caring communities.
  • that community is at its best when youth are making meaningful contributions.
  • that by encouraging young people to share their gifts, skills and passion, their capacity and that of the community increases.

HeartWood uses an integrated approach in its community youth development work…

  • by working directly with and supporting youth to build their skills and connect them to their communities.
  • by building the capacity of others who also work with youth.
  • by working with large organizations and systems to develop policies and strategies for engaging and empowering youth.

Our approach is participatory. It honours a community’s unique characteristics, needs and outcomes. HeartWood’s methodology is to engage with others over an extended time frame to effect sustained outcomes.

HeartWood also strives to maintain an Appreciative Approach in all of our work, which is based on developmental processes that are positive in nature focusing on strengths, potential, and possibilities. It increases capacity in individuals, organizations, and communities by identifying or tapping into resources and gifts they already have – including their own knowledge and life experiences and building on that. An Appreciative Approach focuses on building relationships.

Community YOUTH Development

HeartWood’s Community Youth Development Framework (renamed the Circle of Awesomeness by youth participants) identifies a set of tools and resources that we have found to be essential to youth and community development.  This framework was developed by and for youth, and its strength is that it is flexible and adaptable.

The Framework is intended for application when working with groups of young people, young adults, and adults within a given community or organization. This framework represents the voices and experiences of young people and supportive adults describing what works best for youth engagement in a community. It describes a set of core values that guide the work, and a set of tools and resources to apply these values practically.

Community may be described geographically or by social group, by organization, or by a network of shared interest. The Framework is adaptable to fit the specific needs or desired outcomes that each community defines.

HeartWood Framework for Community YOUTH Development


Heartwood Circle of Awesomeness

The outer circle – Community Resources – concerns the organizing of a systems-wide approach to foster youth engagement. The systems may be an organization, institution, government agency, or community.

The outer circle – Community Resources – concerns the organizing of a systems-wide approach to foster youth engagement. The systems may be an organization, institution, government agency, or community.

Community Resources:

  • Initiator, Innovator, Connector: can be an individual, a group of people (youth and/or adults), or an organization that has a specific interest or motivation and is a bright light or energy source to see increased youth engagement in the defined system.
  • Youth: meaningful roles for youth participation in the system.
  • Supportive Adults: meaningful roles for supportive adults to help young people navigate the system.
  • Community Web: a linking of other youth serving and/or community based organizations, government agencies, and individuals who can play a role towards increased youth engagement in the system. You can find more information on our Community Youth Development Framework in Our Resources.

The inner circle describes the Core Values young people have identified that encourage their engagement, these core values have proven to be helpful touchstones by which to assess youth programs and services.

Core Values:

  • Follow passions
  • Make a difference
  • Take action
  • Connect with others
  • Have fun

The middle circle, Tools for Growth, describes the tools HeartWood has found to be effective in bringing the core values into practice. HeartWood is constantly exploring, in many diverse contexts, various means to apply these tools.

Tools for Growth:

  • Meaningful Contribution: Taking action to meet a genuine need.
  • Adventuresome Learning: Engaging, real life experiences that challenge individuals to step outside of their comfort zones to learn and grow.
  • Peer Support: Creating the atmosphere that fosters a strong peer team where individuals feel connected, appreciated, and supported by others.
  • Youth-Adult Partnerships: Gaining inspiration, support, and guidance through a relationship of mutual caring and respect.
  • Empowering Culture: Providing opportunities to initiate, commit, plan, and choose paths to work together with peers and the community as active citizens. The outer circle concerns the organizing of a systems wide approach to foster youth engagement. The systems may be an organization, institution, government agency, or community.