"There's nothing so practical as a good theory." Kurt Lewin (known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology in the U.S.) is right, but his advice takes us only so far.
You know you’ve struck a chord when the diagram hurriedly sketched to summarize the new research on readiness is still up on the client’s conference room wall when you return a month later. You think you’re in heaven when the staff, without prompting, are not only using the language and ideas but have voluntarily downloaded and reviewed the research summaries and tools and are ready to talk about infusion strategies.
In his latest book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Harvard professor Robert Putnam describes with great clarity the starkly different experiences of kids living in the same community. Higher-income families are outspending lower-income families nine to one on enrichment opportunities (Source: Sabino Kornrich and Frank Furstenburg, Investing in Children: Changes in Parental Spending on Children 1972-2007.)
For many in the United States, the United Kingdom (UK) has been a standout among political powers because of its treatment of youth work—afterschool programming, voluntary services, job training, housing—as a public good. Most youth services were primarily funded by local municipalities. In 2010, this public support was revoked as a part of broader austerity measures enacted in the wake of the global financial crisis. Many youth programs, already reeling from reduced resources under the Blair government, found themselves defunded overnight.
We’re all for evidence-based policy making. But there are moments when the use of the “evidence” card just rings false. Brookings Senior Education Fellow Mark Dynarski’s reprised conclusion that existing research on afterschool programs does not support the current federal investment has that telltale clank.