USAID YouthPower Action Key Soft Skills for Cross-Sectoral Youth Outcomes

USAID YouthPower Action's Key Soft Skills for Cross-Sectoral Outcomes framework outlines a set of core soft skills that predict positive outcomes for youth across three sectors: workforce success, violence prevention, and sexual and reproductive health. The core skills are those found to have the most cross-sectoral impact based on a literature review that examined which soft skills most effectively contribute to positive outcomes in each sector. The framework was developed by YouthPower Action, a USAID project that seeks to help youth reach their full potential by helping communities around the world achieve sustainable outcomes in health, education, and political and economic empowerment. YouthPower Action is funded through the Office of Population and Reproductive Health (PRH) and the Bureau for Economic Growth, Environment and Education (E3) at USAID, an independent agency of the US federal government that administers foreign aid and development assistance, and led by FHI360, an international non-profit working to improve the health and wellbeing of people around the world.

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USAID YouthPower Action…self-controlpositive self-concepthigher order thinking…social skillscommunicationempathygoal orientationresponsibilitypositive attitude

Breakdown by Domain

Domain Key


Key Features

Context & Culture

  • The framework takes a positive youth development approach to supporting youth, acknowledging that efforts must not only build skills but also foster healthy relationships, strengthen the environment, and transform systems
  • Highlights the important influence of individual, relational, and contextual factors on skill development and outcomes, including social and gender norms, neighborhood characteristics, and access to power/resources
  • Summarizes the ways in which culture, gender, and security/safety influence how skills are understood and enacted, providing some specific examples

Developmental Perspective

  • Recognizes that the skills required for workforce success, violence prevention, and sexual and reproductive health are interrelated and mutually reinforcing
  • Notes that soft skills may be conceptualized differently at different developmental stages and that it is best to begin developing skills early
  • Summarizes theoretical and empirical evidence for the malleability of each skill during adolescence and early adulthood
  • No learning progression provided

Associated Outcomes

  • Provides theoretical and/or empirical evidence linking each skill to positive outcomes related to workforce success, violence prevention, and sexual and reproductive health

Available Resources

Support Materials

  • Online resources library includes additional reports, papers, summaries, fact sheets, and infographics related to soft and life skills; youth development curriculum guides; and intervention reviews and assessments

Programs & Strategies

  • Provides general recommendations for programs designed to focus on or include the core set of skills
  • An accompanying report, Guiding Principles for Soft and Life Skills among Adolescents and Young Adults, identifies six guiding principles for effective skill-building programs

Measurement Tools

  • Provides general recommendations for measuring core soft skills
  • An accompanying report, Measuring Soft Skills and Life Skills in International Development Programs, reviews the state of soft skills measures and provides an inventory of tools with detailed information and ratings for 70 measures and recommendations for improving soft skills measurement
  • No tools provided; however, a new tool that can be adapted to various countries and contexts to provide a common means of soft skills measurement is currently being piloted in Uganda and Guatemala with an expected dissemination date of November 2019

Key Publications

  • Gates, S., Lippman, L., Shadowen, N., Burke, H., Diener, O., and Malkin, M. (2016). Key Soft Skills for Cross-Sectoral Youth Outcomes. Retrieved from:
  • Lippman, L.H., Ryberg, R., Carney, R. and Moore, K.A. (2015). Key "Soft Skills" that Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields. Washington, DC: USAID, FHI 360, Child Trends. Published through the Workforce Connections project managed by FHI 360 and funded by USAID.

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