Monthly Archives: October 2011

Peter Benson 1946-2011 Friend – Champion – Innovator

I lost a great friend on October 2 and NYLC and service-learning lost an important ally. Peter is widely celebrated as the “father” of the  developmental asset concept in measuring and supporting positive youth development. In articles and books published by Search Institute where he was CEO since 1985 , Peter embraced service-learning as a key part of asset building strategies for young people to grow to become effective and meaning – filled adults.

 Peter keynoted several National Service-Learning Conferences with this message and was a great partner in a recent NYLC national collaboration on the role of service/contribution in human development. He added enormously at a personal level to this two year project to create measurement tools for contribution balancing the usual deficit approach to measurement of young people.  See (Benson, et al G2G 2009, pp 6-12, 2009, St Paul, NYLC).   

Innovation and creativity have been celebrated in recent weeks personified by pioneers in technology and science. Rarely are innovators in human development and education recognized, largely because the impact of their work is not felt in a lifetime. Not so for Peter Benson.

Peter made a major contribution to changing thinking about youth development by creating predictive measures foretelling a positive passage to adulthood. The notion of measuring key developmental assets of youth  in a community then using research results to change policies has motivated adult leaders to create effective youth centered approaches -in Minnesota from St Louis Park to Willmar, in every state and in dozens of countries.

Peter was the preeminent global advocate for positive youth development reaching throngs of people through prolific writing and inspired speeches.  Most importantly, his innovations live on in the changed lives of countless young people worldwide.

 To learn more about Peter’s legacy go to