On the Power of Prediction

When everything goes right, I can make it from my home to my office in about 15 minutes. Over the years I have learned the best way to make this happen, and if I do what I know works, I can be certain to find a spot in my favorite parking lot near my campus building. I know, for example, that I have to leave at a certain time to be behind the bulk of the traffic heading west on highway 20, and I have to hit a sweet spot between numerous school buses (with numerous stops each), and perhaps most importantly, I have to time things right so I am not driving up Monroe street right as all the university students are making their way to their first class. With all these things in mind, I can usually predict whether my trip will take 15 minutes, or much longer, and thus, I am able to predict the likelihood that my favorite parking space will still be available.

Prediction is based on a series of “ifs” and “thens;” We think this way all the time! For example, if I leave at a certain time, and if I avoid traffic, school buses and students, then I will get a good parking space. Therefore, if I want a good parking space, then I need to leave home at a particular time.

And what are these predictions about? Outcomes! The goal of my morning driving predictions is getting my favorite parking place. The important thing that is revealed through my driving analogy is the process by which I arrive at the outcome: since I know exactly what I have to do to reach my outcome, I can predict whether or not I will get my parking place with some accuracy.

Similarly, the 4-H Thriving Model has predictive power. This is what makes it a true model, and not just a framework for describing how 4-H impacts youth. The model not only predicts the outcomes for youth participating in 4-H, it illuminates the process through which these outcomes happen. We call that process youth thriving. The 4-H Thriving model predicts that youth who participate in high quality 4-H programs are more likely to thrive, and thriving youth are more likely to achieve important developmental outcomes.

If –then. If we provide youth high quality 4-H programs, then youth are more likely to thrive. If youth thrive, they are more likely to achieve key developmental outcomes.

The ability to predict youth outcomes in 4-H, and to understand more clearly how those outcomes are achieved, helps us understand how to plan and implement high quality 4-H programs. Just like my success in securing my favorite parking place begins in planning before I even leave home, our success in helping youth achieve 4-H program outcomes begins in the planning of high quality programs.

Thriving On,

Mary Arnold

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