Theory of Change

UTEC's nationally recognized model has been carefully designed to achieve our mission. After 10 years of accomplishments, in early 2010, our entire agency embarked on a process to develop a theory of change that would guide our work for the coming years. UTEC staff want youth to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success, and we have created a flow of programs that interconnect to achieve just that.  The model begins with intensive street outreach and gang peacemaking and then pairs youth with a transitional coach who works with them on a wide set of goals. Youth develop skills in our workforce development program and resume their education through academic classes. Values of social justice and civic engagement are embedded in all programming, with special emphasis on our local and statewide organizing and policy making work. UTEC also provides enrichment activities for youth so that they have a safe place to enjoy themselves and each other's company when not in school or at work. UTEC’s unique model can provide a pathway from the street to the state house for older youth most often overlooked and considered disengaged. Download our fact sheet.

Ultimately, the pathway outlined by our theory of change results in three specific outcome areas for our young people: reduced recidivism and criminal activity, increased employability, and increased educational attainment. Learn more about our Impact and see our Outcome report.

UTEC's work to document and assess progress toward these outcomes is highlighted in a 2013 case study by Social Solutions, and Social Impact Research identified our social enterprise model as a "high-performing program." 

UTEC was also highlighted in the National Institute of Justice's 2016 environmental scan of agencies working with justice-involved young adults. 


Street Outreach and Gang Peacemaking* ensure that Streetworkers meet young people "where they're at" and serve as the starting point of UTEC's program model.  Streetworkers target those young people who are most disengaged and deeply involved in local youth gang networks. This recruitment and relationship-building work sets the stage for Streetworkers to conduct our gang peacemaking work and to bring disconnected youth through the doors of UTEC. 

Transitional Coaches, UTEC's name for case managers, work with youth who are brought to UTEC by the Streetworkers or referred by UTEC's community partners. Youth develop a one-to-one relationship and a service plan with a transitional coach (TC) and work on major life challenges and obstacles, including housing, finances, family relations, physical and emotional health, and legal matters. TCs continue to provide youth with the support they need to achieve their goals and make significant changes in their lives

Workforce Development and Social Enterprise offer youth paid on-the-job experience.  We focus on a pathway that starts with transitional employment and leads into opportunities for youth to be involved in the running of our own social enterprises. Youth learn industry-specific skills and, most importantly, the interpersonal "soft skills" required to excel in any workplace.  Program Managers teach and mentor youth so that they can pursue viable and long-term careers after they leave UTEC.

Education programs help youth obtain their HiSET (formerly GED). Youth in Workforce Development are required to enroll in our onsite HiSET preparation classes, which focus on blended, project-based learning and integrate our values of civic engagement and social justice.

Youth Empowerment Corps members (primarily AmeriCorps) provide 'hands-on' service throughout their service year in twelve different specialized positions throughout UTEC, including Culinary, Social Justice, Woodworking, Education, and Social Enterprise.

Civic Engagement themes are connected to all programs. Staff-led workshops and youth-led organizing options expose emerging leaders to principles of social justice and community organizing, learning skills that will allow them to systemically address the problems and inequities that they see in their communities.

Enrichment programming provides afternoon recreational and cultural activities for all youth in our age range. Youth can participate in a variety of rotating programs to express creativity, engage in athletic fun, and attend special events.

*Most program centers are exclusively for eligible youth in UTEC's target population: 16-24 upon enrollment; out-of-school; and gang-involved, criminally-involved, or expecting/parenting.  Streetworkers, however, work with a wider range of young people in their outreach and intervention roles.