Strategic Relationships Contribute to Cross-System Collaboration in Seattle’s Generation Work Initiative

Research BriefYouth & Young AdultsMar 16 2021

Young adults’ individual needs often differ from those of their peers in both minor and significant ways, and no single workforce training program model will meet the needs of all participants. While the workforce training system can best meet young people’s various employment training needs through a vibrant network of partners and services, many staff in the workforce training system do not have a full picture of their potential partners or the services and supports available through other organizations. Additionally, young adults (ages 18-29) prepare to join the workforce in different ways and at different life stages, so they need different types of support than younger teenagers (ages 13-17). By helping staff get to know and trust one another across organizations, Generation Work has helped its Seattle local partnership develop a more coordinated and integrated system for youth and young adults who enter the system. This more coordinated process now helps young people who reach out for support at different points in their professional skills development trajectory by connecting them to organizations that are best suited to meet their needs.

This brief is one of five case studies that examine how local partnerships in the Generation Work initiative have scaled up the use of positive youth development (PYD) approaches in training programs for young people who seek high-quality training and employment. The case studies grew from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s interest in learning more about how the five local partnerships integrated PYD approaches into their workforce training programs for youth in order to generate systematic knowledge about PYD that other workforce training practitioners can apply.


Specifically, this brief describes how the Seattle partnership’s work embodied a PYD approach in two important ways. First, the partnership brought more organizations into city-wide conversations to make the employment system less siloed, which allowed individual staff members to better understand the strength(s) of other organizations. Second, it supported the improved identification of appropriate linkages and services for different young people—particularly for the sake of referring youth to programs suited to their needs—which helped young people better meet their goals.

To inform this brief, Child Trends researchers conducted a series of interviews during a three-day site visit in January 2020, to identify how increased communication across organizations in the Seattle partnership’s workforce training system allowed partners to reach more youth and more effectively match those youth with programs that meet their individual needs and goals. Note that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the partnership’s work has shifted in significant ways but the relationships developed through Generation Work have been a source of strength in a very difficult year.