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Evaluating the Theory of Change for Youth Entrepreneurs

This study sought to investigate the theory of change adopted by Youth Entrepreneurs (YE), an education program that emphasizes a combination of values and skills in order to create and encourage the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders. Through recruitment of both YE alumni and a general population sample who had no experience with YE, the theory of change constructs of locus of control, emotional intelligence, and goal orientation were measured and analyzed. Significant differences in these metrics as well as others (after balancing the sample for age, gender, race, and education) suggest YE impacts those who participate. Specifically, YE participants’ scores indicated a more internal locus of control, greater emotional intelligence, and more entrepreneurial goal orientation than non-participants. Additionally, two of the three constructs significantly explained how confident respondents felt with respect to their abilities to improve their own lives. Taken together, the data triangulate to imply the YE curriculum is influential in the ways it intends to be influential. Limitations to the study include the convenience sampling of YE alumni and the self-report nature of the instrument. Additionally, each of the theory of change constructs has extensive literature and multiple instruments associated with it. Many of these instruments alone are substantially longer than allowable by this study, let alone combined. As a result, items were adapted to create a new instrument that assessed the domains as concisely as possible to maximize response completion and remain within budget. Discussion of results includes consideration of the limitations while also providing interpretations that may be used for program implementation/promotion and to direct future study.

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