UP Partnership, a North San Antonio-based collective impact organization, and Search Institute, a Minnesota-based positive youth development and equity-focused research organization, are collaborating to create a national standard for a leadership development program, a news release said.

The release said this program is specifically geared toward enhancing youth-serving professionals’ ability to better connect and build transformative relationships with those they serve, which in turn helps young people develop character virtues, such as generosity, self-control, civility, respect, humility, purpose and curiosity.

Since 2019, UP Partnership has led Excel Academy, a leadership program rooted in racial equity, continuous improvement, adaptive leadership and Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework, according to the release.

The Search Institute’s Framework is based on five elements vital to transformative relationships between youth-serving professionals and young people: expressing care, challenging growth, providing support, sharing power and expanding possibilities, the release said.

Excel Academy participants are invited to engage in learning around these five elements through a racial equity lens, UP Partnership said, adding elements are important for professionals to utilize in helping young people succeed while also focusing on equity.

Search Institute CEO Ben Houltberg said developmental relationships are close connections through which young people discover who they are, cultivate abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them.

“Our Developmental Relationships Framework guides youth-serving professionals toward creating meaningful relationships with young people and providing the support and encouragement they need to thrive,” Houltberg said in the release.

Search Institute and UP Partnership have worked together for several years on various projects. In spring 2022, both organizations saw a chance to scale up Excel Academy via a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the release said.

Through a $1.6 million investment, Search Institute and UP Partnership are creating the framework to further expand Excel Academy to a national scale through a new three-year framework that helps organizations to cultivate relationship- and character-rich climates, the release said.

Emily Calderón Galdeano, UP Partnership’s chief strategy and impact officer, said through Excel Academy, more than 75 youth-serving professionals in 25-plus youth-serving organizations in Bexar County have been able to improve leadership development skills.

Galdeano said the Excel Academy brings together two professionals each from selected youth-serving organizations—one senior-level and one front-line staffer—who are to offer perspectives to ensure diverse voices are heard.

“The reach that both have to attain feedback from their teams and students inform how the participants create and continually improve their organizational work plans,” Galdeano said in the release.

As a result of collaboration between the UP Partnership and the Search Institute, senior-level and front-line staff members will co-create an organizational improvement plan that will help them implement changes based on the content covered in the sessions.

Front-line and senior-level staff also receive individualized coaching from UP Partnership staff and training from Search Institute, Quantum Possibilities and UP Partnership facilitators, the release added.