Pathways to Positive Futures Practice Framework

The practice framework that underlies our interventions and related trainings was formalized based on an extensive research review, followed by an expert consensus-building process undertaken by the Research and Training Center (RTC) for Pathways to Positive Futures. The framework integrates self-determination theory – which emphasizes relatedness, autonomy, and competence as essential values that drive intrinsically motivated behavior – and positive development approaches – which emphasize young people's decision-making and identity exploration, relationships to supportive people and contexts, and skill-building for long-term success and well-being.

All of Pathways' interventions and related trainings are based in this framework, and therefore share a set of common factors or principles that guide provider practice (describing how providers optimally work with young people), and a set of common elements or intervention activities that providers use to support young people and their positive development (describing what providers do when working with young people).

Common Factors that Guide Practice (the "how")

  Y/YA Driven Appreciative Approach "Motivational" towards...
Activity and Discovery Learning and Skill-Building Connection to People, Contexts, and Culture



My Life

Better Futures/Project FUTURES

Youth/Young Adult Driven

The first practice principle is that the work is to be driven by the priorities and perspectives of the young person. The provider uses considerable skill in drawing out what is meaningful and motivating to the young person, helping them to clarify perceptions and priorities, and to identify feelings of conflict, ambivalence, or ambiguity. Doing this requires patience, skill, and self-awareness, so that the provider can elicit and clarify without trying to replace young people's ideas and perspectives with their own.

Appreciative Approach

The provider must be able to feel and convey genuine respect for the young person, and appreciation for them as a unique individual who has their own view about what is important and valuable. What is more, the provider works in a way that reinforces the young person's appreciation of themselves, their past experiences, their aspirations and their efforts to take on roles and responsibilities as emerging adults.

Motivational Towards Positive Development

The provider takes a motivational approach that helps the young person come to understand and experience themselves in new ways. This means the provider has an intentional bias toward helping the young person to explore and make behavioral (e.g., becoming more proactive in their own lives) and non-behavioral change (e.g., self-concept, identity, and social cognition). Thus, while adhering to youth/young adult-driven practice, the provider is also intentional in helping young people understand themselves and their contexts in ways that help engage and sustain positive development. We use the phrase guiding without leading to describe provider skills to move through the steps and activities of the intervention (guiding) while also ensuring that it is the young person that is providing the content through exploration of their own motivation, goals, priorities and values.

  • Activity and discovery. Providers are motivational toward discovery and experiential activity. "Activity" in this context simply refers to doing something (versus nothing) in a real-life context, while "discovery" refers to generating opportunities to explore something new. This exploration may or may not have any immediate practical or pragmatic purpose, but serves the more general goals of (1) engaging motivation and exposing the young person to a wider range of ideas and life experiences, and (2) helping the young person become used to the idea of taking on and overcoming healthy risks, for example by going to a new place, or meeting, or talking to a new person.
  • Learning and building skills. The provider is explicitly focused on helping young people learn and practice the self-determination skills that enable them to be the change agents in their own lives. These include setting personally meaningful goals, making plans and taking action steps toward the goals, and adjusting these as needed. As young people work toward goals, they are naturally motivated to acquire the specific types of skills and knowledge that are needed for adult roles (e.g., a specific career). Providers also intentionally expand the boundaries of competence by assessing the young person's capacity and supporting them to challenge or stretch their level of skill.
  • Positive community participation and supportive contexts and relationships. The provider is motivational toward acknowledging, building, and bolstering the young person's positive connections to social contexts, including individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions whose values and impact are consistent with the young person's identity and vision for himself and his life. The provider stays alert to the young person's mentions of relationships or contexts that could support his positive development, and listens for opportunities for them to contribute positively to valued community contexts. Providers also help young people learn about and plan for acquiring the skills they need to function in these valued contexts.

Common Intervention Elements (the "What")

Although the models within the framework have unique features and areas of focus, they all use common intervention elements reflecting positive development and self-determination skill-building. In all of these models, the provider is a coach or facilitator supporting youth to use a structured, person-centered process for making plans and carrying out goal-related activities that have a good chance of being successful. The coach or provider may be working with the youth as part of a larger team doing person-centered planning around a few (e.g., education and career) or many transition-related domains. However, the approach is somewhat less about creating a good plan than it is about practicing planning as a way to help young people gain confidence in their own ability to make progress toward a positive future.

The table below briefly describes selected intervention elements common to this framework, although different models apply these to greater or lesser degrees, and may include additional components.

What does the provider support young people to do?

Explore internal motivation and long-term vision

Develop activities related to goals and vision

This process starts with an appreciative exploration of the young person's internal motivation and long-term vision for themselves and their life. This can initially emerge from a semi-structured conversation between the provider and the young person, during which the provider draws out and highlights personal strengths and assets that the young person may or may not have identified yet. The coach or facilitator then works with the young person to identify one or more shorter-term goals and related activities and steps aligned with the longer-term vision that youth find meaningful and motivating

Learn and apply self-determination skills

Providers teach a set of key self-determination skills that can be applied both within and beyond the intervention. For example, these include a specific set of steps for decision-making—when difficult decisions come up, providers coach young people to more fully consider the ramifications of different courses of action for themselves and others over the short and long term. Other repeated elements include procedures for developing goals that are personally meaningful, figuring out where to begin work on large or complicated goals, evaluating goal-directed efforts, remembering to celebrate success, managing stress and frustration, and so on.

Seek "right-sized" help and support

Practice effective relational skills

Providers do initial and ongoing exploration of the sources of social support or social capital that are available to the young person from a wide variety of individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions. This inventory of available support is then used in the planning process to develop activities that explicitly draw on, create, or strengthen positive connections. This helps in supporting young people to seek "right-sized" help and support aligned with their perspectives and preferences for formal services and informal supports. For example, if a young person does not feel they are receiving the right amount of support from service providers, the coach or facilitator may help to plan a service team meeting to problem-solve, improve communication, or otherwise strengthen relationships. This may include coaching young people to practice effective relational skills for positive and proactive communication for the young person to use in handling difficult people or uncomfortable situations in a pragmatic way.

Connect to community contexts

Lastly, interventions include activities to facilitate a young person's connections to community contexts and settings of all kinds. For example, a young person may be interested in newly participating in a community activity aligned with their personal motivations and vision. The role of the provider is to support engagement and participation, often by attending alongside the young person at first, reinforcing competence and relational skills, and debriefing challenges and successes; the intervention aim is to withdraw as the young person gains efficacy in identifying new community contexts and driving their own participation

Figure 1. Pathways Intervention Framework Diagram

Pathways Model Diagram
Click image to enlarge