We LOVE DATA at Boys & Girls Clubs. Love it! Data helps us to see if what we do is working, and can give us powerful insights into how our young people feel. We’ve talked about how we use data before here on the ClubX Blog, including highlighting the National Youth Outcomes Initiative (NYOI), our tool for measuring the Club Experience. Learn more and see past posts in the Let’s Talk Data! tag. Today, we are going to take a look at some of the latest NYOI data. It gives us good insights, and it raises important questions for us.
When we measure the Club Experience, we’re examining to what extent a Club member’s experiences reflect the Five Key Elements for Positive Youth Development – Safe, Positive Environment; Supportive Relationships; Fun and Belonging; Recognition; and Opportunities and Expectations. In a decade of measuring the Club Experience, we’ve learned that when members report having an optimal Club Experience they are more likely to achieve positive outcomes in the priority areas of Academic Success, Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles. They also report stronger social-emotional skills.
Because we believe in continuous quality improvement, we convened a group of Club professionals from across the nation in 2019 to help us update the Club Experience measures. We wanted to make sure they were easier to read and understand for youth, aligned more closely to the Five Key Elements, and gave even better data to Clubs. To learn more about what changed, Club staff can read the NYOI Guide to Measures. We paused NYOI in 2020 because of the pandemic, so this spring we got a look at the first set of new data, and there’s a lot to unpack.
One important note: This update does mean previous Club Experience data cannot be directly compared to 2021 results and data going forward. Learn more about why in the NYOI Guide to Measures.
On a national level, we saw a significant increase in members reporting an optimal Club Experience.
59% of youth reporting an optimal Club Experience is higher than it has ever been, and that’s likely the result of a number of factors, including:
- Changes to the Club Experience measures
- Lower youth-to-staff ratios during the pandemic
- The influence of a historic pandemic on member perceptions of key aspects of the Club Experience (safety, belonging, connection, etc.)
- The potential that a higher proportion of survey respondents may have been those that had stronger connections to the Club pre-pandemic
Fascinating! Let’s break that down a little more:
What do you see in this data? Here’s what our experts take away:
- Older youth remain more likely to report an optimal Club Experience.
- Providing a Safe, Positive Environment is the highest-rated Key Element across all age groups, with 80% of members reporting an optimal experience in this area. This is consistent with Clubs’ emphasis on providing a physically safe and secure space, while also promoting an emotionally safe and inclusive experience.
- Another strength is Opportunities and Expectations, which reflects Clubs’ ability to expose young people to new topics, experiences and skills while adults encourage members to do their best and to believe in themselves.
- Adult Connections, which is arguable the “bread and butter” of what Boys & Girls Clubs do, is also an area of strength within the Supportive Relationships key element. This is about young people feeling that the adults at the Club care about them, will take the time to talk to them and to listen to what they have to say.
- There is work to be done locally and nationally on Peer Connections, consistently the lowest rated measure across all demographic groups. This measure asks whether peers at the Club are (a) nice to each other, (b) encourage them to try their best, (c) can count on each other, and (d) are able to work out their problems.
And brand new on this survey is the option for youth to select transgender and non-binary as gender options.
Call to Action
Conversations about what this data means and what we should then continue to do or start doing or even stop doing at our Clubs should be had with staff at every level, not just the admin office. Consider these three important questions, alongside others that may arise when you review your own organization’s data:
- How can your Club improve Peer Connections?
- How is your Club working to reflect your commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all? Check out the Serving LGBTQ Youth Toolkit for ideas.
- Which pandemic-era adaptations should your Club consider retaining long-term?
Review your organization’s 2021 Club Experience data, which can be accessed at BGCA.net/MyData. To take the insights even farther, consider making that data review part of a cycle of continuous quality improvement. Learn more about how to get started at CQIToolkit.org.
This blog was adapted from the BGCA Q2 Quarterly Business Report.