How to Implement an Effective Community Service Project

[Cute Pic Here]

“I pledge…my hands to larger service…”

Over the past several years, we’ve learned a lot about positive youth development (PYD) and the
elements essential to PYD. One of the elements is generosity. The opportunity to value and
practice service to others allows young people to develop a sense of pride and ownership in
their community. It also allows youth and adults to work together while helping others. Finally, doing
community service allows young people to build discipline, foster respect for others, promote civic
responsibility, and participate in real world career-related experiences.

According to the Campus Outreach Opportunity League, in order for community service to work
effectively for youth, five important elements need to be in place. Those elements are:

1. Meeting community needs. The community service performed by youth must be seen as relevant
and timely for them. They will need to see or learn about the real needs in their community and what
they can do to help with those needs. To help with this element, youth working with adults may want
to survey community members, leaders, agencies or organizations to learn about the community
needs. This will also help them build on existing community assets.

2. Careful planning and preparation. Youth should be a part of the planning of the project and each
person should be prepared for their part in the project. The youth need to help prioritize activities,
involve and inform parents and other adults, and keep safety and risk management procedures in

3. Meaningful action. The activity needs to be necessary and valuable to the community.
Participants need to feel like they made a difference in a meaningful way and the community needs
to value their contribution. Most importantly, adults need to make sure all members are involved.

4. Time for reflection. Structured time needs to be provided at a 4-H meeting for the members to
reflect on their community service project. Reflection gives the youth the opportunity to think about
what they did, as well as what it means to them, to others, and to their community.

5. Evaluation of the project. Members should be involved in discussing the impact of their service
and what they learned from completing the project, as evaluation gives the group direction for
improvement, growth, and change. It also allows them to think about what else they might do
because of this experience. Members need the opportunity to share what they learned individually
and discuss what impact they felt they had on the community.


Adapted from University of IL Extension “Implementing Effective Community Service Fact Sheet”