Program Quality, Virtual Spaces, CQI and YOU

BGCA’s own Clarke Hill is back on the ClubX Blog to give us some tips about how Continuous Quality Improvement can both improve your virtual programming and help your Club adapt to change, something we are ALL dealing with.

Last year the world changed overnight- youth could no longer gather in large numbers, equipment had to be sanitized every time a different youth touched it, and for so many youth and staff, suddenly the Club was just a series of Zoom rooms. As our entire world adapted to virtual, so did we. Clubs proved how agile they were and continued to shift and adjust to the needs of our young people and families even as those changed seemingly every day. Amid all of this change it has become clear that virtual programs are not only here to stay but actually offer opportunities for Clubs to innovate in lots of new ways.

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Virtual program delivery offers the ability to reach more and new young people, giving Clubs an unlimited geographic reach and enabling engagement with those youth that are more comfortable in online spaces. But with these opportunities it is even more important that we ensure we are continually improving quality and assessing staff practice. COVID-19 didn’t change the fact that young people need supportive adults or authentic encouragement. If anything it amplified those needs! Clubs have the unique opportunity to provide an emotionally safe space where youth feel a sense of belonging, interact with their peers, and authentically engage, even if that space is a zoom room.

When considering how you may continue your programming in a virtual space, you have to think about what adjustments you need to make to how you work in “regular” times. The good news is that this can be done in an intentional way that uses the unique opportunities provided by virtual program delivery. Continuous Quality Improvement, or CQI, can serve as your guide. Here are some questions to explore with your team:

  • What can stay the same virtually and what must change?
  • How do we ensure that our virtual programs are still built on a foundation of high-quality youth development practices?
  • Are there program quality standards that are irrelevant in a virtual space?
  • Are there program quality standards that need to be added for a virtual space?
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Data is an important piece of any CQI cycle. It tells us the places we are crushing it, and the places we could use some more training or to switch some things up. While the data you can gather might look a little different when it comes to virtual programming, a lot of the same principles apply. When considering your virtual data collection and assessment methods, make sure to think about the following:

  • What data can we still collect?
  • How can we adapt collection methods?
    • YPQ assessments of virtual program can be done by removing the Safe Environment Domain and the Reframing Conflict scale
    • Surveys can be given digitally or through a poll feature
  • How can we focus on essential data?
  • Do we need to/ How do we message necessary changes to funders?

Not only do our youth need to feel supported in this new online world, but our staff do as well. Staff who have been high performers and always able to connect with young people may not see how to translate their skills into a virtual space. They shouldn’t be expected to shift overnight with no hiccups along the way. Just as our youth are learning a new way to exist, our staff are too. Providing training and intentionality around high quality staff practices and really showing your staff how to adjust by providing standards they can learn is the best way Clubs can continue to offer programs of the highest quality no matter what the world throws at us next. If you have staff who have thrived in the virtual space, consider giving them the professional development opportunity to help train their colleagues, with your support and guidance.

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Even if you aren’t going to continue with virtual programming as a day-to-day practice, CQI’s Assess, Plan, and Improve cycle can help provide your team with a structure for adapting to change. And change is something we are ALL dealing with as communities open up more broadly and we move into the summer season. CQI is the perfect tool to get your team refocused, reenergized, and working together to improve the Club Experience for EVERYONE.

Want to learn more about CQI?

What virtual programming tips have helped your Club be successful? How have you used CQI to improve program quality? We want to hear! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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