Youth entrepreneurship programs encourage goal setting

Michigan 4-H is assessing the impact participation in entrepreneurship programs has on youth goal setting.

Youth involved in entrepreneurship programs are engaged in real-life learning experiences where they have an opportunity to safely take risks, make decisions and set goals. Part of the learning experience of developing a youth-operated business is establishing a set of goals and working toward accomplishing them. Setting goals builds short-term motivation and long-term vision. It develops a life skill that is transferable to any situation where an objective needs to be met.

Youth involved in Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development programs are learning to apply goal-setting strategies through the lens of an entrepreneurial mindset. Applying an entrepreneurial mindset to goal setting can be accomplished by:

  1. Setting a goal.
  2. Making efforts to achieve that goal by breaking the path to the goal into small, achievable and realistic steps.
  3. Learning from road blocks and mistakes.
  4. Developing a new plan of action based on what is learned.

Are 4-H entrepreneurial experiences increasing youth’s skills in goal setting? 4-H programs utilize several instruments to measure youth goal setting.

The Program Evaluation Network (PEN) evaluation tool is a validated instrument developed by the University of Tennessee Extension that measures short-term, intermediate and long-term outcomes. The instrument uses “groups” of questions that measure specific attributes. When used in evaluation, these questions are presented in groups to retain the instrument’s validity and reliability. The goal of the PEN evaluation tool is to capture the learning, actions and conditions that occur as a result of Extension programming efforts.

The 4-H Common Measures Tool was developed as an instrument to identify a common core of youth outcomes and indicators. This instrument also uses “groups” of questions. The Career Readiness Common Measures Tool assesses three major outcome areas of career readiness: decision-making and problem-solving, teamwork and intrapersonal skills. Goal setting is a category in the interpersonal skills area.

As evidenced by evaluations using these tools, participants involved in Michigan 4-H entrepreneurship programs are applying goal-setting strategies that significantly increase the odds of success. Evaluations completed by 370 youth participating in Michigan 4-H entrepreneurship programs over the past three years have yielded the following results for goal setting:

  • 66 percent of participants indicated that because of their 4-H experiences, when setting a goal they often or always look at the steps needed to achieve it.
  • 49 percent of participants indicated that because of their 4-H experiences, they often or always break down goals into steps so they can check their progress.
  • 86 percent of participants indicated that because of their 4-H experiences, they often or always set high goals.

Goal setting is an invaluable lifelong skill youth can develop by participating in Michigan 4-H Youth Development programs and one of the ways MSU Extension is helping to prepare Michigan youth for future careers and employment. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find or start a youth entrepreneurship club or program in your area. Check out the related resources on the Michigan 4-H Youth Entrepreneurship website.

For more information on goal setting and the entrepreneurial mindset, read my article, “Entrepreneurial mindset in youth development – Part 4: Failure, 4-H and goal setting.”

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