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MOVING THE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT MESSAGE: TURNING A VAGUE IDEA INTO A MORAL IMPERATIVE Peter L. Benson and Karen Pittman THE CONTAGION OF AN IDEA In the past fifteen years, countless programs, agencies, funding initiatives, profes sionals, and volunteers have embraced the term "youth development. " Linked more by shared passion than by formal membership or credentials, these people and places have contributed to a wave of energy and activity not unlike that of a social movement, with a multitude of people "on the ground" connecting to a set of ideas that give sustenance, support, and value to increasingly innovative efforts to build competent, successful, and healthy youth. There are several particularly interesting dimensions to this movement. First, the youth development idea has the potential to draw people and organizations to gether across many sectors. Conferences and initiatives using youth development language attract increasingly eclectic audiences, bringing together national youth organizations, schools, city, county, and state agencies, police and juvenile jus tice workers, clergy, and committed citizens. Perhaps embedded in the youth de velopment idea is a philosophy or a "way" that has created an intellectual and/or spiritual home for actors across many settings. However this happens, it is clear that one of the powerful social consequences of the youth development idea is a connecting of the dots-the weaving within and across city, county, state, and of a tapestry of new relationships.