Boosting Capacity to Drive Equitable Systems Change


2021 Evaluation Report for the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum


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Executive Summary

Full Report


The 2021 Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) network represents a diverse set of 39 communities which bring together cross-sector partners in local collaboratives to improve education and employment outcomes for opportunity youth (16-24 year olds not engaged in work or education). While partners involved in the OYF network share a common vision, the communities in which they operate, the collaboratives leading this work, and the backbone organizations coordinating these efforts vary greatly.

Network Trends

This report captures information on OYF members’ collaborative capacity, systems change, and core operating values. Comparisons with the previous year show strong signs of progress in 2021. Across the OYF network, collaborative capacity, systems change, and core values all increased.

  • Collaborative capacity increased by over five percentage points (at the strong evidence threshold). In addition, each of the four types of capacity — particularly data and learning and raising awareness and strategic communication — also increased from 2020 to 2021.

  • Systems change increased by almost four percentage points (strong evidence). Each of the seven types of systems changes also increased from 2020 to 2021, but especially data use and public policy change. Funding change has also consistently increased since 2019.

  • Strong evidence of core values increased slightly from 2020 to 2021. Two of the three core values — equity and community power — were stable, while youth-led change increased by four percentage points. Among the three, attention to equity and equitable practices was the most strongly evident core value in 2021.

Moving Together: Capacity and Systems Change

The relationship between collaborative capacity and systems change in 2021 was consistent with prior years, where collaboratives with greater capacity are statistically more likely to see greater evidence of systems changes necessary for opportunity youth to succeed. These findings reinforce the need to invest in and build the “collaborative muscle” necessary for creating systems that promote success for opportunity youth.

A Deeper Look into the OYF Network’s Systems Change Strategies

The OYF report delves deeper into the complexity of systems change work across four areas: data use, public policy, funding changes, and equity. Based on data from the 2021 collaborative self-assessment and site lead interviews, these Promote learning systems changes emerged as areas exhibiting growth or as key FCS priorities as OYF moves into its next decade of work.

Read more about the OYF network, and the 2021 findings in the:

And you can find out more about the OYF approach to assessment and measurement here.