Follow Us:


How America’s Largest Youth Development Organization is Fostering Change from Within to Promote Racial Equity

4-H and Top Universities Collaborate for the First Ever Pathways Leadership Institute
How America’s Largest Youth Development Organization is Fostering Change from Within to Promote Racial Equity

>>Click here to view this article as a pdf.


With a rich 100+ year history, 4-H’s mission is to provide meaningful opportunities for all youth and adults to work together to create sustainable community change. The Positive Youth Development (PYD) success of 4-H can represent an opportunity for all youth in America, in rural areas and in cities large and small. In an increasingly diverse nation, this requires new approaches to programs, new types of and places for youth outreach, and new ways to partner with volunteers, communities, and families.

The opportunity for expansion and greater inclusion is clear given 4-H’s proven research-driven track record for creating young leaders. Its potential reach is enormous in part because, as part of the national Extension service and located within the public land grant university system, 4-H has representation in every county in America as well as research and teaching access to over 100 public university systems. 4-H is uniquely positioned to mobilize and expand economic mobility for the next generation of Americans that keeps pace with the growth of minority population groups across the country. That mobility is a critical national need as the face of the nation changes and nearly half of all births in the U.S. are to families of color.

With a goal of reaching 10 million youth by 2025, 4-H embarked on a strategy for change that emphasizes diversity, equity and inclusion.  As partner to the National 4-H Council, Changing Our World helped to develop the “Pathways Process” which laid out the planning and management steps for growth and change.


The Pathways Process was designed in collaboration with representatives from eleven universities, 4-H national leadership, and philanthropic impact consultants from Changing Our World.

Phase One resulted in a framework for the change process that is customer-centric, demand-driven and holistic in scope. The Pathways framework provided a common tool for change strategy and for organizing action. Yet, it is highly adaptable to needs and opportunities in specific situations. It also provides a tool for engaging the three leadership groups whose participation in change is necessary for success: 4-H leadership, directors of Extension, and senior leadership of the university.

Phase Two launches the Pathways Leadership Institute developed by 4-H leadership and Changing Our World consultants.  A two-day intensive, case-based training session, the Pathway Institute brings together a “triad” of leaders from 4-H, Extension, and the university, to jointly develop a plan for 4-H growth and change in their state.  Triads from Washington State University, Virginia Tech, the University of Nebraska, and West Virginia University will participate in the inaugural sessions in July 2020.* Using the Pathways framework as an organizing principle, and based on case discussion, the triad teams will jointly develop their plans and then present them to their peers at the end of the two days.


The objective of the Pathways Process is simple—to deliver a quality 4-H experience to more young people who reflect the demographics of our country. In other words, to understand and meet the varied needs of the changing face of American youth—with high impact, Positive Youth Development programming that enables a prosperous economic future for all. Through this Pathways Process, 4-H is mobilizing the full weight of its partnerships to implement this strategy with intentionality and excellence. 4-H is well positioned to make a difference for tomorrow’s youth in a world that so desperately needs more organizations that are willing to look within and summon the courage to act to support those who are underserved.



4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults. The mission of 4-H is to provide meaningful opportunities for all youth and adults to work together to create sustainable community change. This is accomplished within three primary content areas, or mission areas – civic engagement and leadership, healthy living, and science. These mission areas reiterate the foundational agricultural purposes of community, leadership, quality of life, and technology transfer in the context of 21st century challenges and opportunities. As America’s largest youth development organization – empowering nearly six million young people across the U.S. with the skills to lead for a lifetime – 4-H has a responsibility to provide opportunities to ALL youth.


At Changing Our World, we are a team of fundraising and social impact consultants who partner with our clients to help them strengthen revenue strategies, develop innovative partnerships and grow to meet the demands of our changing world. Rooted in a commitment to meet and exceed our clients’ goals, our integrated services range from strategy to design and implementation to measurement and evaluation of results. We immerse ourselves to deeply understand the environment in which our clients operate, building sustainable philanthropic growth across programs. We thrive on deep and integrated partnerships based on shared values, with a specific focus on helping our clients to align operations with their visions, launch purpose-driven campaigns, meet and exceed fundraising goals, and engage key audiences and stakeholders.

*A second Institute in September 2020 will include teams from New Mexico State University, the University of Florida, the University of Delaware, the University of Missouri, and N.C. A&T State University.