Intentional Program Design

Building Block 1

BiBi Buidling Block 1

What It Means

Positive youth outcomes are too important to leave to chance.  While each program is unique, the need for intentional program design is universal.  Programs identify their desired youth outcomes and directly connect program activities to those goals.  


Why It Matters

Programs are more likely to achieve desired youth outcomes if they use a deliberate process to design, implement and evaluate activities.


What Effective Practices Look Like

  • Program explicitly connects activities to its desired goals.

  • Program activities build upon each other sequentially to support young people’s ability to expand skills or gain new knowledge.

  • Program supports engagement through multiple learning techniques, such as project-based, hands-on experiences that relate to everyday life.

  • Program activities are flexible enough to meet the various needs and skills of youth, while still meeting the intended program goals.

  • Program provides regular, ongoing sessions so youth can participate often enough to achieve positive outcomes associated with high dosage (duration, intensity and breadth).

  • Programs have opportunities for young people to reflect on and make meaning from their experiences. 

  • Program has clear, focused goals that align with the organization’s mission.


More Building Blocks

Research and Reports

University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development and Youth Community Connections. (2009). Once We Know It, We Can Grow It. 

This white paper—informed by a group of professionals in Minnesota’s youth development and afterschool field—articulates quality afterschool practices and how they impact multiple dimensions of non-formal learning in out-of-school time programs.


Birmingham, J., Pechman, E. M., Russell, C. A., & Mielke, M. (2005). Shared features of high-performing after-school programs: A follow-up to the TASC Evaluation. Austin, TX: SEDL. 

This report identifies the shared characteristics of 10 high-performing afterschool programs around programming, staffing, and support systems.


Wilder Research. (2010). Program Theory and Logic Models.

A one-pager that simply explains logic models: their benefits, how to build them, common challenges in implementing them, and how to address those challenges.

Tools and Templates

Jordan, C., Parker, J., Donnelly, D., Rudo, Z. (Eds.). (2009.) A Practitioner's Guide: Building and Managing Quality Afterschool Programs. Austin, TX: SEDL. 

Designed to share with you the practices that can help you cover it all—great programming, terrific staff, positive relationships, and plenty of resources to lead and sustain successful afterschool programs.

University of Kansas Community Toolbox. Developing a Logic Model or Theory of Change

An overview of logic models, along with helpful templates, checklists, and tools to help you build and follow a logic model.

Olson, B. (2014). Logic Models and Impact Maps 101. Credit to

A slide deck that will provide you with a basic overview of logic models and a how-to guide for creating a logic model or impact map with your team. Become an impact-driven organization by creating a map of where you are going and how you will get there!