Pohna: Keepers of the Fire

Program snapshot

Age group: Adolescence (12-17)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Aboriginal/Indigenous; Gang-involved (and/or at risk); Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)

Topic: Gang and/or related criminal activities

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting

Location: Alberta

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 0

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention; Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

Pohna: Keepers of the Fire was created in response to a request by the Edmonton Police Service for support from the community to find a way to intervene with groups of youth aged 11 to 17 involved in criminal and gang related activity in Edmonton. Through engaging in multiple partnerships, the project was able to reach across mandates and “wrap” a comprehensive array of individualized services and support networks around young people that responds to their unique needs, strengths and interests. Pohna represented three different risk profiles (high, medium, low) based on risk factors for gang involvement and youth violence. Program interventions varied based upon the degree of risk, vulnerability and needs of youth.

This program is centered on community mobilization; conflict resolution; counselling and social work; leadership and youth development; mentoring – tutoring; skills training; and social emotional learning.


The main goals of the Pohna program are to:

  • Prevent youth from being recruited into street gangs and organized criminal networks; and
  • Redirect youth who were involved in criminal and gang activity away from further engagement and entrenchment in the gang lifestyle.


The appropriate clientele for the Pohna program are youth (particularly Aboriginal youth) between the ages of 11 and 17 who are at-risk of gang involvement.

To participate in the program, youth must voluntarily commit to the program and demonstrate an indication of risk for gang involvement.

Core Components

The core components of the Pohna program include the following:

  • Youth driven support plan: Youth develop goals they would like to work towards and come up with a plan on how to achieve those goals;
  • Implementation and tracking of support plan: Youth Support Coordinators maintain regular contact with youth, their families, and with members of the circle of support to help with the implementation of the youth’s individualized plan. The circle of support meets periodically throughout the program to adjust plans and celebrate successes as the youth’s plans unfold; and
  • Transition plan: Youth are supported to ensure that there is a purposeful transition out of the program and a strategy for maintaining the positive outcomes they achieved in the program.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must incorporate Aboriginal teachings in order to meet the unique needs of the youth at-risk of gang involvement.
  • Partnerships: Partners include Edmonton Police Service, Edmonton Public Schools, Edmonton Catholic Schools, Youth and Children’s Services, Edmonton Young Offenders Centre, Edmonton Attendance Centre, Crown Prosecutors Office, Youth Probation, Youth Criminal Defence Office, and REACH.
  • Training and technical assistance: Limited information on this topic.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

The Pohna program has been implemented in Edmonton, Alberta (2010-2012) by the Native Counselling Services of Alberta. Pohna: Keepers of the Fire was a recipient of the Safe Communities Innovation Fund (SCIF), Government of Alberta.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

No information available.

Cost Information

A social return on investment (SROI) has been conducted on the Pohna program. The findings from this study have shown the following:

  • The SROI was calculated two ways: by comparing results over four, six-month periods (two years), and by comparing three clusters. In both sets of analyses, there was a positive overall social return on investment. The overall, blended SROI rate was 1.35:1; and
  • The use of actual data and conservative proxies, deadweight and attribution levels indicated that the SROI ratio for the youth participating in this program is at least 1.35: 1. This investment increases when applied to high-risk youth where it reaches to at least 1.90: 1.

For more information, refer to the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Organizations’ (2015) publication.


Alberta Community Crime Prevention Organizations. (2015). Social Return on Investment (SROI) Case Study: Pohna: Keepers of the Fire. Recipient of Safe Communities Innovation Fund, Government of Alberta. Available from:  https://open.alberta.ca/publications/safe-communities-innovation-fund-pilot-project-executive-summaries 

For more information on this program, contact:

Native Counselling Services of Alberta
Karen Erickson
Telephone: (780) 990-1120
E-mail: karen-erickson@ncsa.ca
Website: http://www.ncsa.ca/

Record Entry Date - 2018-03-05
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
Date modified: