Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Making ChangeYouth Social Entrepreneurship as an Approach to Positive Youth and Community Development$

Tina P. Kruse

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190849795

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190849795.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 October 2019

Youth Social Entrepreneurship as Youth Development for All Youth

Youth Social Entrepreneurship as Youth Development for All Youth

(p.37) 5 Youth Social Entrepreneurship as Youth Development for All Youth
Making Change

Tina P. Kruse

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews the universal elements of positive youth development; that is, explicating the basic foundations of healthy development that are important for all youth, regardless of context or background. Developmental psychology serves as a primary source for the perspectives presented here. Among the key components of this discussion are the principles of the field, a review of relational development theory, and an overview of adolescent brain development. Specific frameworks are included, such as the Five C’s of youth development, social-emotional learning (SEL), and youth interests (sparks). While all of these components are influenced by the broader contexts and environments of the youth, the set of ideas included in this chapter applies to a somewhat decontextualized form of youth development theory as applied to the promise of youth social entrepreneurship.

Keywords:   relational development theory, adolescent brain development, positive youth development, the Five Cs, SEL, sparks


Within the youth development field, there is a distinction between “universal” and “culturally bound” principles and practices. This chapter reviews the universal elements of positive youth development; that is, it explicates the basic foundations of healthy development that are important for all youth, regardless of context or background. Developmental psychology serves as a primary source for the perspectives presented here. Among the key components of this discussion are the principles of the field, a review of relational development theory, and an overview of adolescent brain development. While all of these components are influenced by the broader contexts and environments of the youth, the set of ideas included in this chapter apply to a somewhat decontextualized form of youth development theory as applied to the promise of youth social entrepreneurship. In other words, how is youth social entrepreneurship “good for all kids”? By starting with this frame, we can establish a bedrock of potential for the approach that will then be “tailored” to the contexts of youth who are marginalized in the current US milieu. In other words, after seeing how youth social entrepreneurship can be healthy for all youth, we better see how crucial it might be for youth at the periphery of society, working as an act of social justice to help them reclaim the power that is their right as a part, ultimately, of being “all youth.”

Principles and Processes of Positive Youth Development

Over the past two decades, the development and use of positive indicators of child well-being have increased substantially, driven primarily by the positive youth development (PYD) perspective, as explored in Chapter 2 of this book. The challenge to a potentially potent perspective is how to operationalize it—how to make (p.38) tangible the abstract principles. To that end, PYD has been conceptualized in several ways, and several theoretical frameworks have been suggested (for a review, see Lerner et al., 2011). The most frequently applied framework to operationalize PYD has been through the “Five C’s” model: competence, confidence, character, connection, and caring (Table 5.1). A sixth C was added (Lerner, 2007) to mark the importance of “contribution” in adolescent development. Reviews have indicated that the Five C’s Model of PYD is the most empirically supported framework to date (Heck & Subramaniam, 2009).

The Five C’s were initially created to conceptualize the discrete aspects of PYD as well as to integrate the separate indicators of it, such as academic achievement or self-esteem, based on extensive reviews of the adolescent development literature and input from experienced youth practitioners (Eccles & Gootman, 2002). The Five C’s have been linked to the positive outcomes of youth development programs (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003; Lerner, Lerner, Almerigi, Theokas, Phelps, & Gestsdottir, S., 2005). Research also indicates that youth who manifest the 5C’s are less likely to be on a trajectory of risk and problem behaviors, such as substance abuse, delinquency, and depression (Benson, Scales, Hamilton, & Sesma, 2007; Irby, Ferber & Pittman, 2001; Pittman, Irby, Tolman, Yohalem, & Ferber, 2003).

The Five C’s model provides a common terminology across stakeholders; these “C’s” have become prominent terms used by practitioners, adolescents involved in youth development programs, and the parents of these adolescents in describing the characteristics of a “thriving youth” (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003). Although each of the C aspects has some correlation to others within the model, (p.39) such as increased “competence” affecting increased “confidence,” recognizing each as distinct makes them manageable for practitioners and researchers. In this way, the C domains are interactive with one another, and youth require healthy development in all of them. The 5(6) C’s emphasize a strength-based orientation toward youth development, aiming to leverage youth experiences toward each of the C’s to manifest a young person’s potential.

Table 5.1 Definitions of the Five (Six) C’s of positive youth development


Positive view of one’s actions in domain-specific areas including social, academic, cognitive, and vocational. Social competence pertains to interpersonal skills (e.g., conflict resolution).

Cognitive competence pertains to cognitive abilities (e.g., decision making). School grades, attendance, and test scores are part of academic competence. Vocational competence involves work habits and career choice explorations, including entrepreneurship.


An internal sense of overall positive self-worth and self-efficacy; one’s global self-regard, as opposed to domain-specific beliefs.


Positive bonds with people and institutions that are reflected in bidirectional exchanges between the individual and peers, family, school, and community in which both parties contribute to the relationship.


Respect for societal and cultural rules, possession of standards for correct behaviors, a sense of right and wrong (morality), and integrity.


A sense of sympathy and empathy for others.

Contribution (resulting in this 6th C)

Active participation and leadership in a variety of settings; making a difference.

From Lerner et al. (2005) and Lerner (2007).

Youth social entrepreneurship as an approach to youth development aligns nicely with the 5C’s framework. Both models share the goal of engaging youth in activities that positively influence their strengths and allow them to grow. Though empirical research to support the direct link between youth social entrepreneurship and the 5C’s is needed in the scholarship, examples from practice that appear to connect the models abound, as described here.

First, “competence” in the 5C’s is the ability “to act effectively in school, social situations and at work” (Lerner et al., 2005). In youth social entrepreneurship programs, youth competence is paramount. Each program varies on what aspects of youth lives are targeted. For competence “in school,” some youth social entrepreneurship initiatives include school achievement, but many others do not. One example application of this target is increased school competence via grades, attendance, or college acceptance.

Many include “financial literacy” as a competence goal. In this case, the youth develop skill in first-hand management of finances, both of their enterprise and of their “first paycheck.” In youth social entrepreneurship, the youth learn skills relevant to the enterprise specifically, be that coffee brewing, t-shirt making, bike repair, urban gardening, or other.

Second, the 5C’s model purports “confidence” as “a sense of self-worth and mastery; having a belief in one’s capacity to succeed” (Lerner et al., 2005). Youth social entrepreneurship initiatives lend themselves to fostering this outcome. Developmental research about confidence highlights the importance of authentic achievement to create confidence; that is, “artificial bolstering” of a youth’s ability to succeed is not effective (Erik Erikson in Coles, 2001, p. 124), but rather only real accomplishments of value in one’s own context are meaningful: “meaning in their culture.” In other words, the so-called self-esteem movement of the 1990s, meant to increased student confidence as a means to increase accomplishment, failed primarily in the absence of authentic and meaningful actions. A person’s confidence is impacted by experiences of success, not by lip service to skills or undocumented mastery. Research on self-efficacy underscores this critical variable to the development of confidence. When youth have opportunities to exercise authentic leadership within social entrepreneurial settings, they experience the “authentic and meaningful” accomplishment of which Erikson and others have spoken.

Third, the 5C’s model includes the development of “character,” defined as “taking responsibility, a sense of independence and individuality; connection to principles and values” (Lerner et al., 2005). While the concept of “character” can take on slightly different meanings in different disciplines—for example, (p.40) philosophy of ethics versus psychology of morality—it always relies on the centrality of an individual’s responsibility toward a set of values. In youth social entrepreneurship, which character traits or principles are a focus might vary from place to place. However, when positive youth development is present in the setting, the character variable of resilience is likely to be paramount.

Next, “connection” is a key aspect of the 5C’s of PYD, defined as “a feeling of safety, structure, and belonging; positive bonds with people and social institutions” (Lerner et al., 2005). Youth social entrepreneurship, as a PYD approach, emphasizes connective bonds for youth within their contexts. Maslow’s theory of motivation suggests that fulfilling the human need for belonging is imperative before a young person can engage in challenge or growth opportunities. Effective youth social entrepreneurship initiatives include active attention to the creation and maintenance of bonds among the youth.

Furthermore, “contribution” is a vital element of PYD, defined as “active participation and leadership in a variety of settings; making a difference” (Lerner et al, 2005). As described earlier, as a characteristic of “confidence,” an individual’s experience of agency relies on making a meaningful impact. Youth social entrepreneurship offers a unique opportunity for youth to experience making real contributions, both to the enterprise itself (growing a business) and to the communities in which they are based. Said one youth named Davion “I work hard and lately I’ve been helping a lot of the new hires. I show them what to do in the bakery and how to act and just talk to them. It helped me when I first started that the older employees made me smile and showed me basic stuff, so now I’m doing that” (Cookie Cart, 2016).

Last, the development of “caring” is an aspect of the 5C’s framework, defined as “sympathy and empathy for others; commitment to social justice” (Lerner et al., 2005). Some youth social entrepreneurship programs emphasize the social justice aspect more than others. In these cases, the aspect of “caring” could be seen as being held in higher importance than the others. Nonetheless, fostering a sense of caring comes part and parcel with teamwork, which is present in nearly all youth social entrepreneurship initiatives. In a youth social entrepreneurship, it is critical for youth to have empathy for peers while on their learning trajectory. Leaders can support this by bolstering perspective-taking among the youth and by the youth with their stakeholders—customers, community members, and others. Recent studies in learning underscore the long-term effects of empathy (“caring”). Individuals who report a higher sense of this construct may be considered as embodying emotional intelligence (EI). EI, defined by Salovey and Mayer (1990), connects thinking and emotion so that “caring” might be seen as both a cognitive and affective action.

Emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals (p.41) high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially benefit themselves and others. (Salovey, Mayer, & Caruso, 2008, p. 516)

In this way, the “caring” C may be operationalized by youth experience of attending to the emotional state of others and acting accordingly. This EI aspect pervades the youth social entrepreneurship world among the youth, between youth and adult partners, and perhaps especially in youth–customer interactions.

Youth Interests (“Sparks”)

Late in his career, Benson pointed to the importance of what he called youth “sparks” in each young person’s development (2008). He defines “sparks” as the passions, interests, and strengths that are discoverable in every person, with special concern for adolescents. Among the sparks noted by youth, the arts (visual, performing, and music) are most commonly identified, as well as athletics, service, and leadership. Business is also named as a spark. Youth social entrepreneurship activities can be seen as drawing on many of these sparks, allowing youth to ignite their individual interest area through hands-on, meaningful tasks toward a communal goal.

Using a national sample of more than 1,800 racially and ethnically diverse youth (mean age, 15 years), developmental researchers investigated the adolescents’ deep passions or interests (their “sparks”), the opportunities and relationships they have to support their development of those sparks, and how much personal agency they feel they have to make civic contributions (Scales, Benson, & Roehlkepartain, 2011). Their findings point to several notable lessons: first, 100% of the youth studied claim that they understand the concept of “spark” and want to have a spark, and 62% of them say they can name their spark. This suggests that the concept is understandable and relevant within adolescents’ conceptions of themselves and that identifying sparks is an accessible task, though one that may require facilitation for some youth.

Second, fewer than half of the youth were able to identify an adult who supports their spark. This supports the need for more connecting of youth to guides, role models, mentors, and the like who can take personalized attention to cultivating a teen’s interest toward potential. Such an adult–youth interaction has been called a “developmental relationship,” defined as “close connections through which young people discover who they are, cultivate abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them” (Search Institute, 2017).The adult half of the relationship helps the youth half to set and achieve goals for growing their sparks and applying their interest to a greater good, such as community development. Five categories of behaviors are suggested for the adult to best foster a developmental relationship: (1) express care, (2) challenge growth, (p.42) (3) provide support, (4) share power, and (5) expand possibilities (http://www.search-institute.org/research/developmental-relationships).

Third, the Scales, Benson, and Roehlkepartain (2011) results supported the alignment of an adolescent’s spark with opportunities to effect change in his or her environment, such that having “a sense of voice and supportive opportunities and relationships” has positive effects on other outcomes. In particular, “prosociality,” or care and concern for others, includes community engagement activities. Other studies of sparks offer converging evidence that relates to positive developmental outcomes (Ben-Eliyahu, Rhodes, & Scales, 2014). Specifically, this growing body of research demonstrates that adolescents who can identify a spark or passionate interest and who have people in their lives who help them nurture that spark are more likely to express commitment to social contributions that benefit their broader communities.

Youth social entrepreneurship offers an ecosystem wherein young people can take their natural “sparks” and create a meaningful experience for themselves while making a positive impact on communities. This is an issue of social justice in that it may give those in underrepresented groups access to power that has not been possible in the past (Bornstein & Davis, 2010). In the United States, there is unequal access to enrichment opportunities for developing individual interests/sparks. Youth social entrepreneurship can bridge this access gap by helping youth to grow their own sparks, thus aiming to bolster positive developmental outcomes.

Relational Developmental Systems

The model of the PYD process constructed by Lerner, Lerner, and their colleagues explicitly has drawn on the individual ↔ context relational developmental systems conception as its foundation. This model has been elaborated in the context of the longitudinal study of PYD conducted by Lerner, Lerner, and colleagues: the 4-H Study of positive youth development. This research seeks to identify the individual and ecological relations that may promote thriving as well as have a preventive effect in regard to risk/problem behaviors.

The relational developmental system acknowledges how contextualized each individual’s growth is in contrast to a one-sided cause–effect framework, which is often a false dichotomy of “nature” versus “nurture.” Instead of this traditional understanding of development as “additive,” the relational system offers a holistic view of the individual with fully interdependent parts that cannot be extracted for isolated development or examination (Overton, 2015). This meta-theory offers the youth practitioner a more robust understanding of how all aspect of each youth’s development, including individual, social relationship, community, institutional, cultural, physical, ecological, and historical factors, are involved in his or her growth. Using concepts from (p.43) Bronfenbrenner’s classic ecological theory of human development (1979), each level of organization within the ecology of the youth “is fused with variables from all other levels; the structure and function of one variable is thus governed, or regulated, by the structure and function of other variables” (Lerner, Johnson, & Buckingham, 2015).

The implications for research are significant. To accept the interdependence of variables in youth development requires a willingness to grapple with heightened levels of complexity. Potentially, though, it also means an opportunity to better draw dynamic representation into theories of human development that reflect reality and “may be argued to be the ‘really big’ question for science and society.” What actions, of what duration, with what youth, in what communities, at what points in ontogenetic and historical time, will result in what features of PYD and contributions to self, family, community, and civil society? Or, more simply, we may ask the question, “How do we foster mutually beneficial relations between healthy youth and a nation marked by social justice, democracy, and liberty?” (Lerner & Overton, 2008, p. 252). These are questions that youth practitioners aim to address in every interaction, every day, everywhere.

Embracing a relational developmental systems theory holds promise for the progress of a strength-based focus, both in research and in practice. Due to the dynamism of the theoretical system, opportunities exist to enhance multiple variables at once by essentially matching youth with targeted environments and fostering targeted relationships to elicit “maximum” (or something approximating maximum) growth.

Capitalizing on the strength inherent in all individuals because of the potential plasticity of their structural and functional attributes, the developmental scientist, in the service of increasing the probability of positive development, is interested in identifying how best to align the strengths of people with the resources for positive development present in their contexts—as both individual and context change. Understanding such alignment between individuals and the actual contexts of their lives, and specifying and studying ways to enhance these alignments across time, embeds the work of developmental science in the actual, key settings of human development, such as the family, school, and community. (Lerner & Overton, 2008, p. 247)

Specific implications for youth social entrepreneurship can be construed as the need for opportunity-rich settings to foster the “alignment” of each youth’s strengths. Environments and activities that elicit authentic youth engagement and allow youth leadership to impact larger settings in meaningful ways result in the positive transactional individual ↔ context model of relational developmental systems theory.

(p.44) Adolescent Brain and Youth Social Entrepreneurship

The rise of neuroscientific findings over the past three decades offers many insights for the field of youth development. Namely, the field has gained “new” understanding of the biological bases for adolescent perspectives, attitudes, needs, and opportunities during the teen years. Educators in middle and high schools and youth workers in out-of-school settings have scientifically derived approaches to their work with youth, often lending physiological credence to practices they have long employed anyway. Yet perhaps one of the most important outcomes of neuroscience findings about adolescence is the further dismantling of a deficit focus in the field. Advocates for PYD have developmental neuroscientists to thank for revealing the ways in which the adolescent brain is uniquely suited for productive and healthy activities versus being protected from the negative, sequestered to avoidance of risk behaviors without positive alternatives. Neuroscience obliterates the myth that youth in their teen years are simply immature and need to “just grow up.” Instead of this being a time period to simply survive, many developmentalists see it as an opportunity to thrive and to progress through the biological changes in healthy ways that lead to successful adulthood.

In his book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Dan Siegel (2013) advances the idea that adolescent brain change carries with it both potential and challenge. He structures these changes as having four key characteristics: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, and creative exploration. Each of these marks the transition of the human nervous system on the way to adulthood, regardless of one’s context, yet impacted by the surroundings and experiences encountered. Youth social entrepreneurship as an approach during the teen years fits in well to maximize much of the age-specific potential identified by interpersonal neurobiologists such as Siegel. What follows here is an exploration of each of these adolescent period characteristics in relation to the specific aspects of the youth social entrepreneurship model.

First, the adolescent brain experiences heightened “novelty seeking.” This results from an increased drive for rewards in the brain’s circuits. During the teen years, as the brain grows and restructures, there is an increase in activity of those neural circuits that use dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is key to seeking reward. Starting in early adolescence, this heightened dopamine release causes youth to gravitate toward “thrill” and to more frequently feel “bored” without novel stimulation. The increase continues until a peak in mid-adolescence, and then tapers to a more moderate level. Research suggests that, at this time, the baseline level of dopamine is lower than in adults but that its release in response to experience is much higher. This brain chemistry dynamic can elicit impulsive behaviors, with the adolescent taking risks to achieve dopamine release without consideration for broader consequences. Similarly, it increases susceptibility to addiction: the dopamine release fueled by drugs, alcohol, and high-glycemic foods is part of the addictive cycle. Additionally, studies show that in the adolescent brain, increased (p.45) reward drive can result in “hyperrationality” (Siegel, 2013, p. 69). When youth place more weight on the exciting potential benefit of their actions, they often disregard the negative consequences, even though they are aware that they exist. In other words, the brain is biased in favor of a positive outcome to a behavior because of the dopamine desire.

Together, these phenomena contribute to the adolescent’s inclination to make risky choices and “take chances.” This diminished inhibition results in teens having disproportionately high levels of automobile accidents, overdoses, and other “preventable” deaths. Yet such tragic outcomes comprise only one side of this dopamine story. The other side is an openness and enthusiasm for novel situations. Many youth programs seek to satisfy this in healthy yet thrill-seeking ways, such as Outward Bound hikes, mountain climbing, or zip lining. Youth social entrepreneurship leverages the adolescent drive for reward by granting teens a chance to achieve a dopamine release via pushing out of their comfort zones. Whether pitching an enterprise idea to a community investor or selling a product to a new customer, many participants in youth social entrepreneurship programs cite these new experiences as having a thrill factor. In short, by its very nature of doing something different from what youth typically do—or have been given the chance to do—youth social entrepreneurship engages their extra-sensitive reward system and, in many cases, gives them an exciting surge of dopamine to keep them coming back. Youth social entrepreneurship is usually the opposite of “boring”; hence, this approach suits the youth age group particularly well.

Second, Siegel (2013) references “social engagement” as uniquely significant during the adolescent period of brain growth. During the years of adolescence, the role of connection with others changes as youth seek a larger sphere of friendships and interactions and push away from family and smaller scale environments. From an evolutionary standpoint, this action is the necessary work of youth on the way to an independent adulthood. As social mammals, if older adolescents did not commonly move into connection with the larger world, the species would risk inbreeding and unhealthy genetic patterns (Siegel, 2013, p. 75). In this way, the act of “leaving the nest” is adaptive not only to the individual but to the collective human family. During this time period, adolescents turn more toward their peers for interdependence.

Youth social entrepreneurship offers a well-timed opportunity precisely for this adolescent branching out behavior. Most youth social entrepreneurship initiatives involve interactions with a broader set of relationships both within the program as well as with vendors, stakeholders, and customers. The skill set to enact social engagement is fostered in youth social entrepreneurship because program planners tend to include explicit instruction and support for interacting with unfamiliar others. This setting satisfies the “social engagement” aspect of brain development for the adolescent age group in ways that traditional school or after-school environments do not. For example, former youth participant of Juma, Jannylee, explains of her vending work at Seattle sports venues:


my customer service skills greatly improved. I grew accustomed to having face-to-face interactions with customers in a high intensity environment. I learned to be approachable, professional, and I always kept a smile on my face even if my feet were cramping, or legs were giving out from walking so many stairs. Through the physical struggles, I gained mental strength that would help me later in life. Whether it was keeping cool and calm under pressure, or maintaining professionalism while a rude fan was unpleasant to me, vending prepared me for what was to come later in my career. (http://www.juma.org/youth-stories/)

Similarly, Tuyen says of her work with Juma:

I have grown so much working with Juma. At first, I wanted to give up because I thought I wasn’t ready for all these new things. Meeting over a thousand people during every shift, talking and using customer service skills, was all overwhelming. I didn’t have the confidence to do it but Juma has taught me confidence and customer service skills. Before I didn’t know I could talk and interact with so many people in one day. Using this skill, I became a person who is more outgoing and not scared of talking in front of a large group of people. (http://www.juma.org/youth-stories/)

Furthermore, in youth social entrepreneurship programs that intentionally bring a community change perspective to their program, the involved youth gain opportunities to exercise their growing capacity for social cognition. The so-called social brain changes rapidly. Cognitive neuroscientists point to altered activity during the performance of social cognitive tasks, such as face recognition and mental state attribution in the medial prefrontal cortex and the superior temporal sulcus, as suggesting an impact on adolescent brain development. Research also indicates that, in humans, these parts of the social brain undergo structural development, including synaptic reorganization, during adolescence (Adolphs, 2009; Blakemore, 2008). Recent research by Rosen, Sheridan, and Sambrook (2017) suggests that the adolescents’ greater sensitivity to shifts in the emotions of others is likely to promote flexible and adaptive social behavior. Meeting new people—”thousands” says Tuyen—but also thinking about the “mental state” and/or needs of others exist at a new level for youth in their teen years. Youth social entrepreneurship that facilitates youth actions on the larger community directly tap into this significant time of neural change.

Third, the neurobiology of the adolescent is characterized by intense emotionality (Siegel, 2013). Understanding the root cause of this intensity can help adults engaging with youth better grasp the meaning of their emotions. Furthermore, given the established importance of emotional regulation skill as protective against unhealthy behaviors (e.g., aggression and substance abuse), youth practitioners can better promote skill acquisition to align with the key developmental tasks of adolescence (Modecki, Zimmer-Gembeck, & Guerra, 2017). Viewed through a (p.47) positive lens, the intense emotionality of the teen years is a source of passion, a driver of the “sparks” described previously. If cultivated carefully by committed adult partners within developmental relationships, this intense emotionality becomes fuel for passionate growth toward potential.

Adults, including parents and youth practitioners, can help to facilitate healthy emotional regulation of the intense emotionality in moving toward positive outcomes. Specifically, research indicates that the emotional support of adults, such as the use of “emotion coaching,” is associated with more effective emotion regulation in adolescents (Morris, Criss, Silk, & Houltberg, 2017).

To conclude, adolescence involves significant and often rapid brain changes that are observable as high-risk, high-social, and high-emotion youth. These heights can be startling and concerning to nearby adults, peers, and community members, and they have led to G. Stanley Hall’s famous “storm and stress” identifier of the age group more than a century ago. Today, we have the technology to peek directly into the changing brain structure to see the storm and to better navigate it, in part by reducing the stress and focusing on the strengths brought by the unique characteristics of youth. By tapping into these energetic changes, rather than stubbornly resisting them or attempting to rein them in, youth have healthier developmental outcomes and are able to provide better contributions to their communities, present and future. Many examples of youth social entrepreneurship directly embrace and leverage the specific characteristics of adolescent brain development described here to the benefit of both the young people and those in relation with them.

Social-Emotional Learning

Attention to and support for social-emotional learning in schools and in out-of-school settings grew rapidly in the past decade. New research, publications, and funding opportunities abound that point to both the positive outcomes of explicit social emotional instruction and to the best practices for teachers and youth workers in this field (Durlak, Domitrovich, Weissburg, & Gullotta, 2015). “Social-emotional learning” is generally defined as the “cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies necessary for a young person to be successful in school, work, and life” (Beyond the Bell, 2015, p. 1). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has developed a framework that identifies five competencies that comprise social-emotional learning:

  1. 1. Self-awareness: The ability to understand one’s emotions and how they influence behavior

  2. 2. Self-management: The ability to regulate emotions, such as calming one’s self down when upset, setting goals, and working toward them

  3. 3. Social awareness: The ability to recognize what is appropriate in certain settings and to empathize with others

  4. (p.48) 4. Relationship skills: The ability to communicate well, to listen and respond appropriately, and to negotiate conflict

  5. 5. Responsible decision-making: The ability to make decisions that take into account social standards, consequences, and context

Youth social entrepreneurship holds the potential to address all five of these competencies. For example, many such programs include running an enterprise, which requires the ability to set goals and regulate behavior toward those goals (competency 2), relationships with teammates (competency 4), and well-informed, responsible decision-making (competency 5). Many programs also include customer service skills and practice interacting with adults in professional settings, which requires the growth of astute social awareness (competency 4). In some cases, youth social entrepreneurship endeavors include attention to self-awareness as they seek to build a critical consciousness of oneself as part of a larger system to make social change. This practice hinges on the ability to identify one’s emotions and manage them for one’s purposes (competency 1). In these ways, youth social entrepreneurship seems to hold promise as a structure into which the development of social-emotional competencies can most naturally flow.

Social-emotional learning advocates sometimes talk about these competencies as being either “caught” or “taught,” which is to say either explicitly directed or implicitly included in the environment and relationships of a program, such as through observing role models. While afterschool programs and community-based youth development have long embraced and succeeded in their role as significant sources for social-emotional learning (Durlak, Weissburg & Pachan, 2010), they can benefit from increasing the intentional value of this area of outcome. Two ways this increase is happening is through well-planned assessment and targeted funding. Youth social entrepreneurship programs offer a strategic advantage to occupy this space, grow their programs, and enhance the social-emotional learning of their involved youth.