Feature image for Student Research Symposium

Current Projects

Building Character through a Game-based Solution to a Community Challenge (Youth Ready-Evoke)
  • Funder: Templeton World Charity Foundation
  • Collaborators: World Vision Honduras, World Vision US, World Bank, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras

Youth in Honduras are facing numerous challenges including extreme poverty, natural disasters, gang violence, and political upheaval. The bleak outlook and lack of opportunities in Honduras have led to massive youth migration.

Through their Youth Ready program, World Vision has helped thousands of vulnerable youth across the globe discover their potential, plan for their future, and gain the skills, support, character, and confidence to succeed in work and life. In 2010, the World Bank launched an innovative online program called Evoke that promotes youth leadership through cohort-designed and implemented, community-based activities that focus on resolving global challenges such as literacy, water scarcity, human trafficking, and gang violence. This project integrates these two programs and implements them in Honduras. Our research and evaluation focus on refining the understanding of what drives youth character development and understanding how and to what extent Youth Ready-Evoke produces positive youth outcomes. Building in-country capacity to conduct high-quality research and evaluation is a key component of this project. Best practices and results from this project will be disseminated to enable scalability of youth character development programs around the world.

Related Links for Youth Ready:

Short VideoYouth Character BuildingHope for Honduras

Related Links for Evoke:

Promotional VideoGame Supports Social Innovation

Can Leadership Virtues be Taught: Developing Virtuous School Leaders (LACE/PACE)
  • Funder: John Templeton Foundation
  • Collaborators: University of Missouri, St. Louis

teachers is a serious problem for school districts across the country although it is most intense for those serving the poorest and lowest-performing students. Theoretically, Servant Leadership (SL) instantiates the universal truth that service to others quenches a spiritual thirst in humans for leading lives of love and virtue while at the same time filling the functional need in modern institutions for staff who are highly engaged, productive, and resilient. Can the SL virtues of humility, gratitude, forgiveness, and courage be taught through virtue explicit professional development? How can the explicit cultivation of these virtues be integrated into existing in-service school leader programming such as the Leadership Academy in Character Education (LACE)?

RYTE is building the capacity of participating National Schools of Character work-teams to develop high-quality, theory of change (pathway) models for their schools. Due to COVID-19, this work now also includes working with Schools of Character to reflect on and develop models that articulate how their approach to character can inform their return to school with a particular focus on supporting the social and emotional development of students and addressing issues of racial and social justice. The results of this project have the potential to inform schools across the country on best practices for addressing the ever more urgent social and emotional needs of our youth.

Global Partnerships for Advancing Character Program Evaluation (PACE Global)
  • Funder: Templeton World Charity Foundation

Character development is a potential lever for social change and human flourishing. However, most of the research and funding for character/social-emotional development programs have been concentrated in the US and Europe. There is a pressing need to broaden character development research and implementation capacity to non-WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) countries.

Global Partnerships for Advancing Character Program Evaluation (PACE Global), is designed to immediately increase the capacity of practitioners in low- and middle-income countries to evaluate, improve, defend and seek funding for their programs. RYTE provides customized relational capacity-building to aid grant applicants in strengthening their project proposals. This includes providing evaluation and character capacity-building in the form of one-on-one in-person and virtual support, special topic webinars, and speaking engagement. Due to COVID-19, our work with our partner programs pivoted to helping them sustain their programmatic work during the pandemic.

As part of this project, we are providing capacity building for several international programs. A sample of programs we are supporting follows:

  1. IRD Pakistan. For most Pakistanis, Lady Health Workers (LHW) are the first—and only point of contact—with the health system. These female frontline healthcare workers address the country’s high maternal and child morbidity and mortality and provide reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services at the household level throughout Pakistan. LHWs work with the most vulnerable members of the population and are often themselves the victims of violence. This project aims to strengthen and sustain character virtues that can enhance LHWs’ sense of joy, purpose, and self-worth, while also giving them the skills they need to deliver compassionate care across diverse communities.
  2. Enhancing Social Responsibility and Prosocial Leadership in Elementary School Children in Brazil. Convivencia—or “coexistence”—is a concept that is of vital importance in a society as diverse and multicultural as Brazil. This project aims to nurture the character strengths central to convivência among school-aged children in Curitiba, Brazil. Specifically, the project aims to test the effectiveness of a program to increase social responsibility and prosocial behaviors as well as reduce peer victimization among elementary school children (grades 4-5).
Greater Good in Action 2.0: Making the Science of Character Virtue More Practical, Engaging, and Impactful

Over the past two decades, research has identified concrete, practical activities that boost character virtues such as gratitude, awe, and generosity. Greater Good in Action (GGIA) is a free, mobile-optimized website (>500,000 annual visitors) featuring more than 70 research-based activities that support a range of character virtues. RYTE is conducting the evaluation of the project. Ultimately, this project will yield scientific insights about character development that inform best practices across clinical and educational settings.

CHOP Center to Promote Adolescent Well Being
  • Funder: John Templeton Foundation
  • Collaborators: Dr. Ken Ginsburg and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Dr. Ken Ginsburg and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia established a Center with the mission to empower parents to guide youth towards fine character, wise decisions, healthy behaviors, and good citizenship. The Center reinforces the importance of raising young people amidst hopeful, positive messages that highlight their potential contributions. Web-based resources and social media strategies prepare parents to apply the research-driven principles in found in the character strengths, positive youth development, and effective parenting literature. The RYTE Institute is evaluating the content developed and dissemination efforts of the Center.

Inspire Aspire Project
  • Funder: John Templeton Foundation
  • Collaborators: Character Scotland

With funding from the John Templeton Foundation, RYTE Institute conducted a process evaluation and pilot outcome evaluation of Inspire>Aspire: Global Citizens in the Making Values Poster program (I>A). This program was developed by Character Scotland and is a promising character development program that has reached over 200,000 youth across the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. The fundamental purpose of I>A is the translation of inspiration into transformative and enduring aspiration by asking youth to reflect on their life experience and research inspirational figures. This includes reflecting on their personal values and qualities as active, confident individuals; connected, responsible citizens; sustainable, effective contributors; and flourishing successful learners. A systems evaluation approach was used to conduct a thorough program review in order to articulate a detailed and testable theory of change. As part of the process evaluation of I>A, RYTE Institute measured implementation variability and piloted measures of key outcome variables such as future-mindedness, goal setting and selection and purpose. The RYTE Institute team conducted student and teacher interviews, collected, processed and analyzed survey data, and developed an evaluation plan for the next iteration of the I>A program.

Inspiring Purpose
  • Funder: John Templeton Foundation
  • Collaborators: Character Scotland

The picture we get of today’s youth may seem bleak: they are disengaged from civic life, engage in risky behavior, display confused moral reasoning, and have materialistic goals. Despite these challenges, they have the potential to be engaged, contributing members of society if provided with appropriate supports. Character development programs that help youth identify and reflect on positive values and transform these into meaningful sustained action hold promise for helping youth thrive in today’s world. The Inspire>Aspire poster program, grounded in Sir John Templeton’s Laws of Life, is one such program.

The Big Questions we address are: 1) Can lessons learned from Inspire>Aspire: Global Citizens in the Making be applied to the development and refinement of the next iteration of Inspire>Aspire? and 2) Can reflecting on and writing about virtues espoused in the Laws of Life improve adolescent character?

In the Inspiring Purpose study, together with Character Scotland we are implementing and evaluating the Inspire>Aspire poster program, and providing research evidence that has implications for character education writ large.

The specific project AIMS are: 1) Refine, implement, and disseminate the next iteration of Inspire>Aspire based on results of the process evaluation; and 2) Conduct an outcome evaluation to assess outcomes identified in the programmatic theory of change.

Scholarly publications and program materials will enable broad dissemination of this program. This will result in professional consensus on the relation between positive youth development and character development as essential for the development of youth aspiration and contributions to society. We expect additional schools worldwide to adopt Inspire>Aspire to enhance youth character. We also expect that having evaluation evidence will help Character Scotland attract additional funding from other sources.