Deepening Resilience in Youth: Learning from an Impact Evaluation of a South African Youth Development Programme




positive youth development, resilience, youth employment, drug use, gangsterism, evaluation


Positive youth development programmes seek to actively develop positive qualities in young people through life skills training, leadership training, recreational or wilderness activities, community service, mentoring, counselling and job placement training. We evaluated a positive youth development programme implemented in the Western Cape, South Africa, by following up with graduates who had completed the programme between one and five years prior. Using an ex-post facto, quasi-experimental design, propensity scores were used to identify a sample of successful graduates who has completed the programme (N Treatment = 32) and a sample of people who had applied to the programme but were not selected into the programme (Control = 33). Quantitative data from the impact evaluation were combined with qualitative interviews with past beneficiaries. The evaluation found no significant difference between past participants and non-participants in terms of resilience, education attainment, employment, self-reported drug use, gang involvement, community integration, family relationships, and involvement in community service. The qualitative findings suggest that while such programmes may be capable of producing short-term benefits for participants, the sustainability of the short-term benefits and their translation into long-term positive outcomes was not evidenced by this evaluation. We make recommendations for improving programme design aspects, such as an emphasis on post-programme services and contextual factors such as socioeconomic climate, and emphasise how these factors need to be addressed in order to strengthen the plausibility of the causal mechanism of these programmes.


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Author Biography

Sandra Mkandawire , University of Cape Town

Sandra Mkandawire is an alumni of the University of Cape Town's Masters in Programme Evaluation. Her interests include education, development and evaluatonof educaional programmes in Africa.


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How to Cite

Mkandawire, Sandra, and Sarah Chapman. 2023. “Deepening Resilience in Youth: Learning from an Impact Evaluation of a South African Youth Development Programme”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 35 (3):18 pages.



Received 2023-03-20
Accepted 2023-07-04
Published 2023-09-07