This month, with investment from the Open Society Foundations, and leveraging support from Andrus Family Fund, the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions (AIFCS), a program of the Aspen Institute, launched the Youth-Led Change Fund by awarding $250,000 to five innovative community collaboratives in the Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) network. Each collaborative will receive $50,000 to pilot projects that infuse the Healing-Centered Organizing principles into their youth organizing and youth leadership development efforts.
The OYF holds a deep commitment to the right of opportunity youth to represent their own interests and design their own solutions to the issues that impact their lives and communities. From its inception, OYF worked to center youth-led change at the core of the opportunity youth movement, and to secure the sustainability of our collective efforts by developing pipelines of engaged, diverse young leaders and organizers who can lead this work for future generations.
The Youth-Led Change Fund seeks to pilot and document strategies that center young people – especially those who are most impacted by oppressive systems – as change agents and lead actors in organizing for greater equity and justice, while also focusing on healing and meaning making practices that support their wellbeing. Through the fund, AIFCS hopes to support a greater integration of community and youth power-building strategies and healing approaches into the work of OYF collaboratives and the field of opportunity youth at large.
The YLCF grantees include:
- Boston, MA: Boston Private Industry Council & Boston Opportunity Agenda (Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative): Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative, in collaboration with Launch, a program of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, will support young leaders in implementing a mental health campaign with a focus on addressing stigma around mental health challenges and building awareness, empathy, and community connections.
- New Orleans, LA: New Orleans Youth Alliance: New Orleans Youth Alliance (NOYA) will partner with the NOYA Youth Leadership Fellows to launch a digital advocacy campaign on a key issue identified by youth, such as access to free child care and affordable housing, implementation of Universal Basic Income, increasing access to career and technical education pathways, school discipline and policing reform, or increasing access to school-based counseling services to address trauma in children and youth.
- Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN: Youthprise & Project for Pride in Living: The collaborative, in partnership with Bridgemakers, a youth-led organization, will work to create a youth-driven, community-healing movement to respond to the loss of life and economic stability resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and the trauma arising from the murder of George Floyd. Young leaders will organize for healing and student-centered change in schools, while simultaneously creating an opportunity youth-lead agenda for statewide education policy innovation and redesign.
- Missoula, MT: EmpowerMT: Young leaders will design and host an Opportunity Youth Civic Convening for Montana’s youth, which will bring young leaders – including youth from rural and tribal Montana communities – together to inform emerging education and workforce pathways for Montana’s opportunity youth.
- Phoenix: Arizona State University College of Public Service & Community Solutions (Opportunities for Youth collaborative): The collaborative, in partnership with Neighborhood Ministries, will launch a youth-led campaign called Jovenes por el Futuro (Youth for the Future) that will mobilize the community in response to the proposed light-rail metro expansion, seeking to address the impacts of gentrification and advocate for more green space, affordable housing, and improving light-rail service to communities underserved by public transportation.
In addition to supporting youth-led campaigns, community organizing efforts, and solutions to local issues, grantees will provide youth organizers with access to a range of training and skill-development opportunities, as well as activities and support that promote healing and wellbeing.
Youth-Led Change Fund builds on a previous investment from Andrus Family Fund, which supported the development of the Healing-Centered Organizing framework. The AIFCS is grateful to our funder partners for investing in youth leadership and youth-led change.