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evidence-based practice, liberation psychology, neoliberalism, positive youth development, youth development


Aims This critical ethnography interrogates the influence of neoliberalism on youth development practice as instituted by the evidence-based practice and positive youth development movements. Methods I employed participant observation and grounded theory analyses in my role as facilitator of a youth participatory action research program in the context of violence prevention work at a large urban youth development agency. Results The disconnect between professionalized youth development and the lived experience of youth manifested in organizational policies and practices and meant that the agency had to balance competing interests and worldviews, reconcile the need for funding with social justice aims, and cope with the consequences of such conflicts. Conclusions Neoliberalism exacerbates a disconnect between youth development practice and youth experience, contributing to an epistemic form of violence. Results are discussed in relation to Martín-Baró liberation framework, which emphasizes the recovery of historical memory, deideologizing everyday experience, and utilizing the virtues of oppressed people.

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Journal of Community Psychology





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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:Coleman, B.R. (2020). Managing the disconnect: A critical case study of neoliberalism in youth development practice. Journal of Community Psychology 49(4), 2021; 907-926. DOI:10.1002/jcop.22350, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.


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