It Takes an Ecosystem

Understanding the People, Places, and Possibilities of Learning and Development Across Settings

Edited by:
Thomas Akiva, University of Pittsburgh
Kimberly H. Robinson, Forum for Youth Investment

A volume in the series: Current Issues in Out-of-School Time. Editor(s): Helen Janc Malone, Institute for Educational Leadership.

Published 2022

It Takes an Ecosystem explores the idea and potential of the Allied Youth Fields—an aspirational term that suggests increased connection across the multiple systems in which adults engage with young people. Recent research and initiatives make a strong case for what developmentalists have argued for decades: A young person’s learning and development is shaped in positive and negative ways by the interactions they have with all the adults in their life. Now is the time to reshape our systems to support this scientific understanding. The chapters in this book provide ideas, tools, examples, and visions for a more connected, more equitable world for young people and the adults in their lives.

Endorsements for It Takes an Ecosystem

"It Takes an Ecosystem offers a powerful and timely engagement of the possibilities and challenges facing the Out-of-School Time sector…this book charts a path forward for scholars, practitioners, community members to imagine OST anew---in ways that are socially just and affirming, centered on the optimal development of youth and the power of community."
— Bianca Baldridge
University of Wisconsin Madison

"The book’s emphasis on an ecosystem approach, anchored in commitments to equity and racial justice, combines evidence-based analyses with a future-oriented call to action for the allied youth fields. This book will be a must-read for those committed to radically re-thinking how we bring sectors together to support thriving for children and youth."
Ben Kirshner
University of Colorado

Dedication. Foreword, Karen Pittman. SECTION I: AN ECOSYSTEM OF YOUTH-SERVING FIELDS. Introduction: A New Way Forward, Kimberly H. Robinson and Thomas Akiva. Using a Learning and Development Ecosystem Framework to Advance the Youth Fields, Thomas Akiva, Marijke Hecht, and Dale A. Blyth. Why Narrow Definitions of How, Where, and When Learning Happens Undermine Equity: How OST Leaders Can Help, Karen Pittman, Jill Young, David Osher, Rob Jagers, Hal Smith, Merita Irby, and Poonam Borah. Mattering in Allied Youth Fields: Summoning the Call of Black Lives Matter to Radically Affirm Youth Through Programming, Roderick L. Carey, Camila Polanco, and Horatio Blackman. SECTION II: THE PEOPLE AND PRACTICES THAT SUPPORT HEALTHY LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT ECOSYSTEMS. Fostering, Facilitating, and Connecting: Families are a Critical Part of Young People’s Learning and Development Ecosystems, Lori Delale-O’Connor. The Power of Simple, Ordinary Interactions in Developmental Relationships Across Contexts, Junlei Li and Dana Winters. Who are the Adults Who Work with Youth? Unpacking the Occupational Identities of Library and Afterschool Workers in the Context of Learning and Developmental Ecosystems, Sharon Colvin and Annie White. Organizing for Equity: Addressing Institutional Barriers and Creating Learning Opportunities, Fatima Brunson, DaVonna Graham, Tanja Burkhard, and Valerie Kinloch. SECTION III: POSSIBILITIES: TOOLS AND STRUCTURES FOR SHAPING LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT ECOSYSTEMS. Just Quality: How Youth Justice Programs Can Inform Program Quality Efforts to Support Equitable Learning & Development Ecosystems, Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom and David J. Martineau. The Role of Out-of-School Time Intermediaries in Contributing to Equitable Learning and Development Ecosystems, Priscilla Little and Jessica Donner with Wokie Weah, Mike Snell, LaRon Henderson, Jessica Werner, and Eddie Cleofe. From System to (Eco)System: Policy Examples that Foster Cross-Sector Collaboration, Michelle J. Boyd-Brown, Jill Young, and Deborah Moroney. SECTION IV: PLACES: CASE STUDIES OF LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT ECOSYSTEMS. The Role of Philanthropy, Research, and Evaluation in Shaping Learning and Development Ecosystems: The Case of Creative Learning in Pittsburgh, Mac Howison, Esohe Osai, and Thomas Akiva. Connected Learning & Libraries: An Essential Part of the OST Ecosystem, Linda W. Braun and Lance Simpson. The Growing Role of Out-of-School Time in Driving Equitable Career Exploration and Preparation, Candace Brazier Thurman and Saskia K. Traill. Expanded Learning as a Vehicle to Advance Whole-Child, Whole-Family Health and Wellness, Jeff Davis. SECTION V: LOOKING AHEAD. Building Forward Together: Toward Equitable Ecosystems for Young People, Merita Irby, Karen Pittman, Hal Smith, and Deb Moroney. Biographies.

"This is a future-looking book presenting contemporary ideas replete with supporting digital blogs and other relevant conversations. This book of the times proclaims a message about a major equity issue that needs to be heeded by everyone in the education field because of the blinkered, school-focused view that is ignoring parts of education that need desperate attention. This book describes an educational problem that can be solved, and in doing so the process may force a re-examination of traditional educational pathways, and what knowledge, skills, and beliefs are really important in the 21st Century educational ecosystems." Neil MacNeill in Teachers College Record (Read full review)

"With It Takes an Ecosystem: Understanding the People, Places, and Possibilities of Learning and Development Across Settings, editors Thomas Akiva and Kimberly H. Robinson have delivered a tour de force that energizes and shows the way forward to an interconnected, dynamic ecosystem approach." Denise Montgomery CultureThrive in The Journal of Youth Development (Read full review)


Creating Equitable Developmental Ecosystems for Marginalized Youth

A Call to Action for OST Leaders