Connecting with practitioners: The power of PRYDE
A sense of purpose is an important part of one’s identity; where you are going in life can often inform who you are. According to a study conducted through PRYDE, when 4-H youth are asked to reflect on their purpose before an activity, they are more likely to remain engaged throughout the activity. This may be because they are able to connect that activity with their broader, personal sense of purpose in life. This is especially true for older adolescents, who are likely to have a more developed sense of purpose.
As translational researchers, we wanted to use the results from our purpose research to create a tangible product that could be used by 4-H programs and teachers around New York State without necessitating the presence of white-coat researchers from the proverbial “ivory tower” of academia. We came up with the idea of creating a digital application with a visually appealing simulation that administered the intervention from the original purpose study. I spent countless hours over the summer discussing every aspect of this application and creating a plan. We started with a superhero motif for the simulation, moved to a “corn maze” game idea, and eventually settled on a virtual journey through a national park to mimic the metaphorical journey to find purpose in life.
At the end of the summer, we found a talented Cornell programmer and began to build the application. That was the first time I realized how real this was. We were no longer talking about ideas in a crowded office during the summer heat; we could now see the images we had been imagining flitting across a screen. As excited as I was about seeing our ideas become an actual application, now called “Pioneer,” I was even more eager to see the impact of our work in real-world settings. After all, isn’t that what translational research is all about?
After months of planning, designing, piloting, and revising, the time finally came to start thinking about disseminating Pioneer. This was easier said than done. We had a vision for areas where Pioneer could be useful, but none of us were educators who knew where to start implementing this product.
A few months earlier, I had met a few practitioners at a PRYDE event. Although I didn’t know if Pioneer would be useful in any of their particular counties, I started by reaching out to Barb Stevens, a Cornell alumna and 4-H practitioner from Albany County. Barb responded positively, and told me she would forward the email along to her colleagues and see if anyone was interested in implementing the application in their county. At the time, I assumed this was a polite way for her to say she wasn’t interested in having the app in her own county, but was kindly offering to connect me with others. She proved me wrong completely, and responded almost immediately with another practitioner who was interested in working with us.
Although I still wasn’t completely convinced that this correspondence would result in a partnership, we did our due diligence and set up a conference call with Chrys Nestle from Washington County. Chrys was extremely open to our ideas, and keen on implementing research in her county to ensure efficient, evidence-based programs. She spoke about how she had been looking for something to help her bolster attendance and engagement in a current program that she felt would really benefit youth, but was often lower on the kids’ priority lists than sports, music, and other activities and got left by the wayside. This was the second time I realized just how real this was. The app that had been theory for so long, was finally going to be put into practice!
Even though I didn’t know how to bring Pioneer to real-world settings on my own, I was able to tap into the power of PRYDE to do so; contacting just one person put me in touch with an entire network of practitioners who were excited and eager to work with me. If our research team had not been able to connect with practitioners, we never would have been able to provide Pioneer as an evidence-based tool to improve youth engagement in 4-H programs and classrooms throughout New York State.