Konopka Institute

Konopka Institute

Inspired by the pioneering work of Dr. Gisela Konopka, the Konopka Institute's goal is to get reliable information into the hands of everyone who is in a position to help adolescents.   

Adolescence is usually described as 'pre' or 'in between' - a stage between childhood and adulthood. It is seen as a turmoil because one moves from a protected state into a state of independence. I prefer to see adolescence as a significant stage in itself, an 'adolescenthood' with new experiences and new strengths, not merely an interim period and a problem."

Dr. Gisela Konopka, D.S.W.
Professor Emerita of Social Work
University of Minnesota
Excerpted from "A Renewed Look at Human Development, Human Needs, Human Services"
May, 1985

The Konopka Institute is built on a foundation of research that articulates what has been demonstrated to be effective in healthy youth development. Strategies based on the interrelatedness of youth health problems‚ a commitment to programs that work (“best practices”) or show promise of doing so (“best bets”)‚ and an understanding that adolescents must be viewed in the context of their families and their families in the context of neighborhoods and communities‚ are organizational hallmarks. Building upon these core values, the Konopka Institute is positioned to provide information‚ programs‚ and policy support to the youth-serving community.


Serving as an easy point of access to cutting edge research and experts at the University of Minnesota and in the community on a range of adolescent health-related issues.


Creating opportunities for focused thinking and discussion around specific policy‚ programmatic or systems issues.


Providing best practices/best bets information and the tools to adapt them for application at the state and local level.

Research Synthesis

Translating research into everyday language and in formats accessible to a wide variety of audiences.

Gisela Konopka

The Konopka Institute is named after Gisela Konopka, D.S.W., recognized for her landmark work with adolescents. Her principles of working with youth and communities, articulated in a 1973 position paper, form the foundation upon which this Institute is built and continue to be consonant with the state and national agenda for promoting the health and well being of young people.

Konopka Institute's mission is to promote the adoption and adaptation of strategies, policies and systems that show the greatest promise of supporting healthy youth development. The overarching goal of the Konopka Institute is to improve the health and well being of all young people in Minnesota through a strategy that frames a "healthy youth development" approach to youth health-related issues, a strategy that incorporates problem prevention, developmental support, community-based change, and public policy.Dr. Konopka, whose career spans more than 60 years, is a pioneer in the study of adolescent female development, culminating in two books: "Portrait of a Young Girl" and "The Adolescent Girl in Conflict." She is the author of at least one dozen books and over 300 journal articles.Dr. Konopka has been the moving force behind numerous innovative methods in practice and research in social work and youth services. She has been a leader in making scholarly knowledge about youth available to those who need it most–the practitioners. It has been her unerring devotion to making human services humane that has characterized her outstanding career.In the early 1970s Dr. Konopka was asked by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to write a paper articulating the fundamental requirements for healthy adolescent development. They remain relevant today and form the foundation from which the Konopka Institute operates.Youth need to:
  • Participate as citizens, as members of a household, as workers, as responsible members of society
  • Gain experience in decision making
  • Interact with peers, and acquire a sense of belonging
  • Reflect on self, in relation to others and discover self by looking outward as well as inward
  • Discuss conflicting values and formulate one's own value system
  • Experiment with one's own identity, with relationships to other people, with ideas; try out various roles without having to commit oneself irrevocably
  • Develop a feeling of accountability in the context of a relationship among equals
  • Cultivate a capacity to enjoy life