Search Institute bridges research and practice to help young people be and become their best selves. We’re proud to say we’ve been in the “relationship business” for 60 years – and in that time more than 10,000 youth-serving organizations have utilized our research, professional development, and practical resources to help young people thrive.

A Message from President Dr. Kent Pekel


Search Institute turned 60 this year. We celebrated that milestone in many ways, including by being awarded the Award for Organizational Excellence in Research and Programming for Youth from the Society for Research in Adolescence. That is just one indicator among many of the positive difference that our studies and our partnerships with youth-serving organizations are making in the lives of millions of young people throughout the world. I want to thank you for being with us along the way.

As we get deeper into our research on developmental relationships, it becomes even more apparent that young people who experience a strong web of meaningful connections do better in life. They are more likely to report a wide range of social-emotional strengths and are more resilient in the face of stress and trauma.

But did you know that a recent SI study reported 40% of youth have only one or no relationships with a meaningful adult in their lives? That concerns us because at Search Institute we’ve learned that young people who lack critical developmental relationships are more likely to participate in risk behaviors. They receive lower grades and are much less motivated to succeed in school than their peers.

So our work continues.

Through our research and research-to-practice partnerships, we hope to bridge the relationships gap that exists for young people – especially those from marginalized communities. Thank you for supporting us as we strive to achieve our goals. Dr. Kent Pekel

President, Search Institute

“We try to get them to learn how to dream again and make those dreams come into reality.”

– Youth program staff member in a Search Institute research partnership

Image: Search Institute and partner Student Conservation Association.

Our Work


At Search Institute, we are taking steps through continued research and practice to spread the Developmental Relationships Framework, and to understand how to best serve the needs of youth – especially those in marginalized communities.

A Highlight of Current Projects
  • Working with youth and families in the child welfare system to understand how they define well-being vs. the administrators who service them.
  • Developing and testing tools at the ground level so organizations can be more intentional and inclusive, especially when working with marginalized communities.
  • Providing young people who are disconnected from home, school, and work — who we and others are increasingly calling opportunity youth — with pathways to work that can lead to self-sufficiency.  
  • Training educators and youth workers across the United States in practical but also powerful ways to build developmental relationships in schools and programs.
  • Exploring the ways that the relationships that young people form in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith communities promote positive youth development.
Recent Milestones
  • Developmental Relationships Poster Launch.  The bi-lingual (English and Spanish) poster makes the framework easily accessible to schools, out-of-school time programs and any other youth-serving organizations.
  • An article describing how our research is identifying the actions that occur within relationships that help young people be and become their best selves, “Finding the Fluoride: How and Why Developmental Relationships are the Active Ingredient in Interventions that Work,” appeared in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.
  • Data from our 36-month aggregate “Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behavior” survey were recently published in the top tier medical journal, Pediatrics; and, mentioned on CNN and in the Washington Post.
  • The Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI), which focuses on creating strategies and tools to support organizations in being more intentional and inclusive in their efforts to strengthen relationships with and among all the young people and families they serve, has successfully moved into it’s second phase. We are beginning to work with our partners to create strategies and tools that equip organizations to be more intentional and inclusive in their relationship-building efforts.
  • Our new Keep Connected website places a focus on relationships and the family by offering free interactive content on strategies for family engagement as well as a relationship-based approach to family engagement for schools, youth organizations, and community organizations.
  • The Society for Research on Adolescence recognized our work with the 2018 Award for Organizational Excellence in Research and Programming for Youth.
  • The National Afterschool Association named us one of the most influential organizations conducting research and evaluation relevant to the out-of-school time sector.

“I feel confident in my future. I’m not so scared anymore. My perspective has changed…so I have faith in my future, more than ever.”

– Youth program participant in a Search institute research partnership

Image: Search Institute partner conference.

Our Reach

To date, more than 10,000 youth-serving organizations have utilized the research, professional development, and practical resources that Search Institute has created to bridge research and practice to help young people be and become their best selves.

“The thing I love most is being able to see the progress that we’re making with each of our students.”

– School principal in a Search Institute research partnership

Image: Search Institute partner Save the Children / Youth in Action. Uganda.

2017 By the Numbers

Youth Took Search Institute Surveys

Education & Youth Development Professionals Attended or Viewed Search Institute Webinars

Education & Youth Development Professionals Attended a Search Institute Workshop

Financial Highlights

$ in 1000’s

“Tell them ‘you matter, what you say matters, your community matters, your safety matters.'”

– Youth program director in a Search Institute research partnership

Image: Search Institute partner Joan Kroc Community Center. Dance Class.

Funders and Donors

Search Institute is grateful for the support of the Funders, Major Partners, and Donors who make our work possible.


Altria Group

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Blandin Foundation

Capital One

Einhorn Family Charitable Trust

Esther Ting Foundation

Ford Family Foundation

F.R. Bigelow Foundation

Otto Bremer Trust

Minneapolis Foundation

Minnesota Comeback

National Science Foundation

Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation

Saint Paul Foundation

Sauer Family Foundation


Spencer Foundation

U.S. Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences

Major Partners

BEST Academy

Bloomington Public Schools – Bloomington, MN

Camp Fire

City Year

Communities in Schools

Generation Citizen

Guadalupe Alternative Program

Life House Duluth

Little Falls School District – Little Falls, MN


MENTOR Minnesota

MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Inc.

MIGIZI Communications

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

National Center for Families Learning

Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School – St. Paul, MN

Northfield Healthy Community Initiative

Partner for School Success

Pequot Lakes School District – Crow Wing County, MN

Pine River-Backus School District – Pine River, MN

Risen Christ Catholic School – Minneapolis, MN

Sanneh Foundation

Sauk Rapids-Rice School District – Sauk Rapids, MN

Save the Children Canada

Sebeka School District, Sebeka, MN

Shinnyo-en Foundation

SOAR Career Solutions

SPARK: Stronger Futures for All – Itasca Area, Northern MN

Staples-Motley School District, Staples, MN

Student Conservation Association

University of Arizona, Tucson

University of California, Los Angeles

Upsala School District – Upsala, MN

U.S. Dream Academy

Venture Academy, Minneapolis, MN

West Virginia University – Morgantown, WV

Wilder Foundation

World Vision International

YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities



Omoyefe Agbamu

Amazon Smile

Colleen Anderson

Shelby Andress

Carolyn Benson

Charles Berquist

Best & Flanagan, LLP

Dale Blyth

Cary & Debra Bowers

Richard Crispino

Jan DeWall

Carolyn Eklin

Dee Gaeddert

Gene Gall

Greater Twin Cities United Way

Dave L. Hedlin

Elizabeth Holland

Tom Holman

Natalie Hudson

Thomas Kottke

David Krenz

Karen Lu

Richard Lundell

Julie Mall

Cheryl Mayberry

Bill McCabe & Deb Neuger

Jennifer Menke

Christine Naglewski

Sheryl Niebuhr

Noel Niemann

Kent & Katie Pekel

Michael Rodriguez

Lyall Schwarzkopf

David Schwimmer

Ann & Reid Shaw

Travel Leaders

Carol and Lynn Truesdell

Robert Weil

Mike Wiehe

Board of Directors

Support Search Institute

Search Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable corporation. All contributions are tax deductible.

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