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Stepping Up: Framework Components

Stepping Up is a strategic framework that outlines a common vision, guiding principles, themes and priority outcomes that have been developed to guide work in support of Ontario youth.

Common Vision

Stepping Up presents a strengthened, sustained commitment from the provincial government to support the success of all Ontario youth. Our vision is that:

Together, we will support all young people to become healthy, safe, hopeful, engaged, educated and contributing members of their communities and our province.

In order to achieve this vision, Stepping Up was developed to provide a platform so all those who are involved in supporting youth can come together through a common, overall approach. Although our specific individual contributions to supporting youth development may vary, we all have a role to play in ensuring that young Ontarians have the opportunities and skills they need to thrive.

Stepping Up reflects a holistic and ecological view of youth that considers the role individuals, communities, society and different systems and sectors play in youth wellbeing. It captures the many dimensions of youth development. In this way, Stepping Up is a first-of-its-kind framework for Ontario.

Guiding Principles


Photo of boy talking on cell phone

With this in mind, the following seven aspirational principles – grounded in positive youth development – were selected to guide the development of Stepping Up. Through consultation across government, and with young people and youth service providers, these principles have been proposed in order to provide a shared approach for our ongoing work together to improve youth outcomes.

They will influence the ways in which the Government of Ontario develops policies, designs programs and uses data relating to youth.

  1. A Positive, Asset-Based View of Youth: The social, emotional, physical and cognitive competencies, along with the individual "self" or "spirit" that young people develop during the stages of adolescence and early adulthood prepare them for future wellbeing. We need to nurture these assets to ensure our collective success in the future.
  2. Targeted Support for Those Who Need It: As a priority, we will focus on youth who need help and support to overcome the barriers and challenges to reaching their potential including: Aboriginal youth, youth in and leaving care, youth with disabilities or special needs, racialized youth, newcomer youth, LGBTTQ youth, francophone youth, youth living in rural and remote communities, youth from low-income families and youth in conflict with the law.
  3. Collaboration and Partnership: Strong commitment, accountability and leadership from all youth allies are required to successfully support young people in Ontario. A key aspect of this will be working to break down barriers and strengthen connections between service providers, foundations, community groups, governments, young leaders and families at all levels.
  4. Photo of four youth playing musical instruments
  5. Meaningful Youth Engagement and Leadership: Young people have valuable perspectives and can offer keen insight into issues that they face. They can also lead other youth and help them succeed. We will work collaboratively with youth and seek their input to better support them and empower them to lead.
  6. Diversity: We know that adolescence is a period when young people develop their personal and social-group identities. We need to respect and foster the diversity of Ontario's youth. We can do this by ensuring the way we provide services is barrier-free, inclusive, and culturally responsive. This includes working with organizations that support diverse communities.
  7. Evidence-Informed Choices: We will use and create evidence through research, evaluation and information from front-line workers that will improve the ways we support youth.
  8. Transparency: With an open mind, we will listen to, and gather input from all stakeholders including youth, parents, different levels of government, communities, agencies and religious groups. We will consult our partners on what we are doing to help Ontario's youth achieve their highest potential, and explain why we are doing it.

Themes and Priority Outcomes

Graphic of a representation of the theme areas of Stepping Up. These themes are based on an ecological model of development and a person-centred approach that is also consistent with Aboriginal ways of knowing. The young person is at the centre of the circle – including their spirit / self as described in the graphic of Stepping Stones. Important early interactions for youth include the smaller circles (their personal health and development, their family and friends). As they age, they grow to become members of the broader community (through education and employment, engagement and participation).

A holistic view of youth: Figure 2 provides a representation of the theme areas of Stepping Up. These themes are based on an ecological model of development and a person-centred approach that is also consistent with Aboriginal ways of knowing. The young person is at the centre of the circle – including their spirit / self as described on page 7. Important early interactions for youth include the smaller circles (their personal health and development, their family and friends). As they age, they grow to become members of the broader community (through education and employment, engagement and participation).

Under the guidance of these principles, and based on what research, youth and their allies say matters, Stepping Up is identifying 20 outcomes that are important for the positive development of Ontario's youth (see Stepping Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario's Youth Succeed below). These outcomes articulate what we need to achieve our vision and support youth to succeed.

The selection of these outcomes was based on evidence and represents our key priorities for young people.

The Ontario government is committed to focusing on achieving progress toward these outcomes as our priorities for youth. These outcomes will inform policy design and program development across Ontario ministries and through provincial agencies. It is our hope that all those who play a role in supporting youth will use them too.

To help readers navigate the story and rationale behind each outcome, we have organized the narrative across seven themes (Figure 2). These themes reflect key domains of experiences that support positive youth development.

It is important to recognize that individual characteristics and conditions – such as a young person's cultural background or the neighbourhood they live in – can impact their experience across all of these outcomes. Every young person in Ontario faces unique challenges and considerations as they negotiate their environments. Throughout Stepping Up, specific challenges and considerations for different groups of youth will be identified and discussed. These themes and the outcomes are interrelated and interdependent.


Stepping Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario's Youth Succeed

Common Vision

Together, we will support all young people to become healthy, safe, hopeful, engaged, educated and contributing members of their communities and our province.

Guiding Principles


Evidence-Informed Outcomes

Health & Wellness

Priority Outcomes: 

  1. Ontario youth are physically healthy
  2. Ontario youth feel mentally well
  3. Ontario youth make choices that support healthy and safe development

Strong, Supportive Friends & Families

Priority Outcomes:

  1. Ontario youth have families and guardians equipped to help them thrive
  2. Ontario youth have at least one consistent, caring adult in their lives
  3. Ontario youth form and maintain healthy, close relationships

Education, Training & Apprenticeships

Priority Outcomes:

  1. Ontario youth achieve academic success
  2. Ontario youth have educational experiences that respond to their needs and prepare them to lead
  3. Ontario youth access diverse training and apprenticeship opportunities

Employment & Entrepreneurship

Priority Outcomes:

  1. Ontario youth have opportunities for meaningful employment experiences
  2. Ontario youth have the skills and resources needed to develop a successful career or business
  3. Ontario youth are safe and supported at work

Diversity, Social Inclusion & Safety

Priority Outcomes:

  1. Ontario youth experience social inclusion and value diversity
  2. Ontario youth feel safe at home, at school, online and in their communities
  3. Ontario youth respect, and are respected by, the law and justice system

Civic Engagement & Youth Leadership

Priority Outcomes:

  1. Ontario youth play a role in informing the decisions that affect them
  2. Ontario youth are engaged in their communities
  3. Ontario youth leverage their assets to address social issues

Coordinated & Youth Friendly Communities

Priority Outcomes:

  1. Ontario youth have access to safe spaces that provide quality opportunities for play and recreation
  2. Ontario youth know about and easily navigate resources in their communities

A Sustained Commitment to Supporting Ontario's Youth

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