The Readiness Project: Introduction

Readiness Gaps & Traps

In the United States, too many young people move through adolescence and into adulthood without the abilities, skillsets and mindsets they need to manage life’s opportunities and challenges. The numbers are stark: more than 5.6 million young people are disconnected from school and the workforce. Many more have earned a high school diploma or postsecondary credential yet still lack the competence to get by. Only four in 10 young adults are “doing well”—in school or working, emotionally and physically healthy, and engaged in civic or community life.

The past decade has brought a growing sense of urgency and attention to the issues of readiness and equity. As a nation, we devote significant expertise and resources to addressing disparities in wealth, health and well-being and to closing gaps among groups of young people. We have made considerable progress. Yet even our best efforts remain deeply fragmented. Persistent inequities prove that we must do more.

The Readiness Project represents the Forum for Youth Investment’s renewed commitment to making readiness a right for every young person, regardless of background, ability, circumstance or experiences. We believe we are at a critical time in history that both demands and enables those working with young people to more effectively promote readiness as a way to deepen and connect supports and measure progress across silos.

What will make this vision a reality? It is not a mystery. We have more than two decades’ worth of research to help us act with precision. There is a science to readiness.

The Forum created The Readiness Project to make this science clear, accessible and actionable.

It began with comprehensive research to define readiness and the conditions and contexts that influence whether a young person is or will be ready. We reviewed over 300 reports, studies, journal articles and book, ranging from neuroscience to systems thinking to future economic forecasts and workforce trends. We analyzed and crosswalked more than 60 of the most credible standards and frameworks from each major youth-serving system. The result is a comprehensive and systems-neutral science of readiness and the case for why it matters.  

Our research identifies four interrelated components of readiness, which should be addressed together:

  • Ten universal Readiness Abilities and their associated Skillsets and Mindsets. Every person needs these, regardless of age, background or circumstance. Every system and setting should support their development.
  • Foundational Readiness Practice that ensures the environments, relationships and experiences essential for young people to develop, strengthen and demonstrate these abilities, skillsets and mindsets.
  • Four common Readiness Traps, serious and often unitended conditions in youth systems and settings that affect some young people disproportionately, narrowing their paths forward.
  • Four common Readiness Gaps fueled by these traps. These are deep and persistent disparities between populations of young people.

The full paper, The Science (and Art) of Youth Readiness, presents the findings of our three-year research effort and offers a roadmap for how these findings can be integrated into and aligned with existing efforts to improve youth well-being.  This key ideas document serves as a companion to the paper, introducing and summarizing our core concepts and research findings.


We can turn the fragmented solutions into a coordinated, transformative effort
to improve the odds for all young people.

    Aligned solutions



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readybydesign.pdf8.34 MB