Program Improvement Project (PIP)
During the summer of 2004, the American Camp Association (ACA) joined with Youth Development Strategies, Inc. (YDSI), to measure the types of supports and opportunities for positive youth development that exist through the camp experience. Of the 80 camps that participated in this benchmarking project, 23 agreed to invest another year of time and effort in a program improvement project (PIP) to see whether they could improve the quality of their youth-development efforts. While the setting for the original research was youth camp, the information gathered regarding the process has applications across multiple youth-development settings.
The Designing Quality Youth Programs Workbook  is a compilation of the information gathered regarding the best way to move through an improvement process; it includes tips from the participating camp directors as well as examples and resources to support your efforts toward intentional improvement.
What Will Be Gained with PIP?
By going through the PIP process with a program, directors and administrators will have:
• A systematic way to examine areas for growth and improvement in the program that contributes to positive youth development
• Opportunities to meaningfully engage youth and staff in the improvement process
• Ways to demonstrate to key stakeholders (boards, administrators, funders, parents, staff, participants) the organization’s commitment to offering a high-quality setting in which young people find the needed supports and opportunities for positive development
• The ability to generate strategies and actions that are individualized to the program’s philosophy, mission, and goals
• Opportunities for self-reflection that focus on holistic strategies of change across policies, procedures, and activities
• The ability to strengthen the relationship between the quality brought about through the ACA Standards Program and the improvement process
• Evidence through a formal evaluation process that documents the effectiveness of the strategies in the action plan
What PIP Success Looks Like
• Staff and participants recognize that directors and administrators listened to their feedback.
• Staff members buy into the new plan.
• Participants say “yeah!” when they hear about changes.
• Change doesn’t have too many glitches.
• Change is easier because it was thoughtfully planned with feedback from participants and staff.
Continuing to strive for quality through the improvement process, demonstrates a willingness to growing and learning to improve the experience provided for youth. As structures, policies, and activities change based upon thoughtful self-examination, camps will be able to offer even greater support for the positive development of your youth. The old saying that “nothing worthwhile ever comes easy” is likely true for anyone undertaking an improvement process.
Research & Tools
- e-Institute: Designing Quality Youth Programs  online course
- Designing Quality Youth Programs Workbook 
- Quick-Fact Flyer: Overview: Directions, Innovations, and Inspirations  (PDF)
- Outcomes of the Camp Experience  (Directions)
- Developmental Supports and Opportunities of Youths' Experiences at Camp  (Inspirations)
- Improving Youth Experiences in Summer Programs  (Innovations)
- Camping Magazine Articles 
- Staff Training Flyer: Youth Outcomes & Programs  (PDF)
- Creating Youth Development Outcomes and Youth Camp Outcomes Questionnaires 
- Books through Healthy Learning 
- Related PowerPoint Presentations