The 4-H Youth Development Program has a long history of fostering positive youth outcomes. Recently, attention and resources have been invested in the development of a program model (i.e., the 4-H Thriving Model) that theorizes the program elements that lead to positive outcomes (Arnold, 2018). Less attention, however, has been given to the program design process by which and with whom 4-H programs are designed and implemented. This matters because a lack of a community-engaged design process may lead to outcomes disconnected from community self-interests or to the exclusion of youth who might view the program as irrelevant to their lives (Simpkins et al., 2017). Drawing from examples of a collaboration between Minnesota 4-H and a Somali youth-serving organization located in central Minnesota, this article discusses how a sociocultural perspective can be used to critique youth programs around the inclusion/exclusion of youths’ broader social, cultural, and political contexts of development and socialization. Particular attention is given to the reconceptualization of sparks as socially situated, collective, and relational. The article concludes with a discussion of practical implications and future directions for Extension/4-H’s community-engaged and ongoing program design processes.



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