These are some of the lessons gathered from the direct experience of the two technical assistance specialists as they worked to improve planning, implementation, and self-evaluation among coalitions and programs by using the AGTO intervention in a five-year research project in Maine. For more details about that study, click here.
Lessons Learned For Coalition Level AGTO
1. AGTO is most effective when coalitions attend to the needs of the individuals and their relationships with each other.
2. AGTO is most effective when multiple community sectors (e.g., government, education, youth, health, etc.) are actively engaged.
3. AGTO is most effective in coalitions that are oriented toward taking actions (e.g., conducting programs, advocating for new policies) rather than toward information sharing.
4. Developing goals and objectives (AGTO Step 2) requires coalitions to have clearly understood vision and mission statements that are known to all its members.
5. AGTO can be a vehicle for coalition leadership and members to be more effectively engaged with each other and with the community.
6. AGTO is most effective when leaders and coalition members take the time needed to learn the 10 step process and the Developmental Asset framework.
7. Coalitions that set a goal to increase youth participation in the coalition’s work reported a renewed sense of commitment to positive youth development in their community.
8. While AGTO guides coalitions to track concrete outcomes, usually about how youth change in some way, it can also result in unplanned positive outcomes such as renewed relationships, unexpected partners, and new funding opportunities.
Lessons Learned For Program Level AGTO
1. External factors such as reduced or uncertain funding and internal factors such as staff layoffs reduced the capacity (knowledge and skills needed to carry out AGTO 10 steps) that programs have to engage in AGTO.
2. Programs that had a higher level of capacity to start were able to utilize more technical assistance than those who had lower capacity.
3. Programs that have used AGTO to involve youth in meaningful ways report feeling more energized in their work.
4. Change in program staff ability to carry out the various AGTO steps occurs at different rates for different people, in part because of variations in individuals, comfort with use of data, openness to change, and familiarity with the technical assistance process.
5. Program staff varied in how much they were challenged by AGTO because the tasks in the AGTO steps naturally vary in their difficulty (e.g., developing a goal may require less effort than conducting an outcome evaluation).
6. The Developmental Asset framework is a mobilizing force and brings people to the table who can then be engaged into the AGTO steps of planning (AGTO Step 6) and evaluation (AGTO Steps 7 and 8).
7. Offering opportunities for program staff across the state to meet and share their stories provided ideas for how to implement AGTO, and helped to identify new funding sources and improved ways to carry out their programming.
8. Programs that already operated with some level of accountability (e.g., were required to report evaluation data) had an easier time engaging in AGTO.