Progress During Challenging Times


2020 Brought New Investments and New Communities to the Opportunity Youth Forum

There is no doubt that the world has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic struck earlier this year. The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions (FCS) in ongoing partnerships with a number of foundations that are a part of our funding collaborative launched a series of grants over the course of this year, to actively respond and support our communities and young people, who have lived with radical inequities for generations and are disproportionately exposed to COVID’s impacts on physical and financial health and well-being. We added to the movement and moment we are in by deepening support for equity and justice across our rural, urban, and native communities through grantmaking, community support, and growing our community of practice across the OYF network. Here are some of those grants and program highlights in focus:

Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) Rapid Response Fund:

Earlier this year in partnership with the Ballmer Group, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, in an urgent response to this unprecedented moment of the COVID-19 pandemic FCS launched the OYF Rapid Response Fund to support opportunity youth and OYF collaboratives during these difficult times. We are pleased to announce that nine OYF communities received rapid response financial support for a 1.5 year period and the grant amounts ranged from $10,000 to $100,000. The aim of these grants is to ensure organizations can support opportunity youth to access benefits associated with COVID-19 relief efforts and advocate for youth and young adults in economic recovery. These flexible support grants are meant to build, sustain, and/or deepen staff capacity to work with young people to access unemployment and other benefits and supports, as well as navigate and connect systems to expand learning, training, career opportunities in the transformed labor market that now exists as a result of COVID-19.

These grantees include:

  • Flint, MI – Genesee Chamber Foundation (GCF) | Flint & Genesee Opportunity Youth Coalition
  • Hopi Reservation, AZ – The Hopi Foundation | Hopi Opportunity Youth Initiative
  • Maine, Southern Rural – Cutler Institute, University of Southern Maine | Southern Maine Youth Transition Network
  • Phoenix, AZ – Arizona State University Foundation | Opportunities for Youth
  • Pueblo of Jemez, NM – Pueblo of Jemez Department of Education
  • San Diego, CA – RISE San Diego Youth Will | San Diego Youth Opportunity Pathways Initiative (PATHWAYS)
  • Santa Clara County CA – Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Kids in Common | Santa Clara County Opportunity Youth Partnership
  • Tucson, AZ – United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona | Youth on the Rise
  • Seattle/South King County, WA – Community Center for Education Results | The Road Map Project
  • Los Angeles, CA – Alliance for Children’s Rights

Eleven organizations in the New Orleans community received Rapid Response grants from the Aspen OYF in 2020 through support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The grant amounts ranged from $15,000 to $50,000 and these grantees include:

  • New Orleans, LA: Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO); Liberty’s Kitchen; New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA); New Orleans Career Center (NOCC); New Orleans Technical Education Provider (NOTEP); New Orleans Youth Alliance (NOYA); Reconcile New Orleans; Travis Hill Schools; Trombone Shorty Foundation; Urban League of Louisiana; Youth Empowerment Project (YEP).

Scaling Pathways Opportunity Youth (SPOY) Planning Grants:

Our Scaling Pathways for Opportunity Youth planning grants, through an initial investment by JPMorgan Chase, supports 11 communities across the OYF Network to strengthen capacity to equitably improve education and employment outcomes for opportunity youth, while also seeking to scale success. SPOY includes both grants to communities and participation in a community of practice. SPOY seeks to enhance local capacity to improve secondary, postsecondary, and career outcomes through a better understanding of regional labor markets, training/career pathways connected to growing sectors, and employer engagement. A relaunched collaborative in New Orleans joined the SPOY learning community; and through SPOY, OYF added two new Texas members to the network: Houston and San Antonio.

These grantees include:

  • Austin, TX – Workforce Solutions Capital Area
  • Baltimore, MD – Living Classrooms
  • Boston, MA Boston Private Industry Council
  • Chicago, IL – Thrive Chicago
  • Houston, TX – Alliance of Community Assistance Ministries
  • Los Angeles, CA – Alliance for Children’s Rights
  • Newark, NJ – YouthBuild Newark
  • Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia Youth Network
  • San Antonio, TX – City of San Antonio
  • San Francisco, CA – Bay Area Community Resources
  • Santa Clara County, CA – Planned Parenthood Mar Monte

Rural and Tribal Data Enhancement Grants:

With a deep commitment to building data for greater impact across the OYF Network, two OYF tribal communities were awarded Data Enhancement Grants and received up to $100,000 as part of the Data for Impact project funded by the Ballmer Group.

Rural and tribal communities face significant challenges to build and maintain data capacity needed to inform better strategies to meet their communities’ needs. This grant will support rural and tribal communities to deepen their capacity to collect and analyze data reflective of their communities that will expand their ability to generate accurate, reliable information to advance equity and continuous improvement.

The two new Data Enhancement grantees are:

  • Hopi Reservation, AZ – The Hopi Foundation
  • Del Norte County and Tribal Lands

Welcoming New Communities:

Despite the growing challenges of the times, FCS saw significant growth in new communities becoming members of the OYF Network in 2020. Seven new communities formally joined the OYF national network and 2 communities re-launched their collaboratives. With support from the WK Kellogg Foundation and the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the OYF was able to make grants to add three new tribal communities from New Mexico:

  • Pueblo of Jemez, NM – Pueblo of Jemez Department of Education
  • Pueblo of Taos, NM – Taos Pueblo Division of Health and Community Services
  • Pueblo of Laguna, NM – Pueblo of Laguna Department of Education

At the same time, FCS is pleased to welcome these new and relaunching grantee/partners and  communities to our network:

  • Baltimore, MD – Living Classrooms
  • Houston, TX – Alliance of Community Assistance Ministries | Greater Houston Opportunity Youth Collaborative
  • New Orleans, LA –  New Orleans Business Alliance & New Orleans Youth Alliance
  • San Antonio, TX – City of San Antonio | NXT Level Youth Opportunity Center
  • Twin Cities, MN – Project for Pride in Living & YouthPrise
  • Missoula, MT –  Empower Montana

Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN):

Speaking of new communities, we welcomed 3 new global communities to our Global Opportunity Youth Network this year and regranted over $540,000 in our 6 global communities. These grants to Anchor Partners play a key role to facilitate effective cross-sector collaboration, deeper level of ecosystem collaboration and drive partner commitment, action, and learning​ locally in that community. We are pleased to welcome our new anchor partner communities to our network:

  • Ramgargh, India – Transform Rural India
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil – United Way Brazil
  • eThekwini I South Africa – Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator

OYF Virtual Convening 2020:

Last but not least, FCS also virtually convened the network in September 2020 to meet these unprecedented times in the moment to reaffirm and amplify the core values and mission of the Opportunity Youth Forum: equity and justice, policy, systems change, community building, collaboration, and learning from one another. To watch sessions from our convening that explore these themes, please visit our YouTube channel.


Thanks to many foundation partnerships, the Aspen OYF has been able to regrant over $3.8M across our communities in 2020. This has been a deeply challenging year and while we are proud to have helped resource work on the ground that is directly supporting youth and communities who are on the front lines of the triple pandemic of Covid-19, the economic crisis and historic racial injustice, we recognize there is still so much more to be done. We will continue to work with urgency to support immediate needs and scalable pathway solutions for and with the young people and communities in the Aspen OYF in the years ahead.

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