Youth Entrepreneurship Fund announces grants to communities seeking to boost enterprise opportunities


The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017 Youth Entrepreneurship Fund (YEF) grants:

  • Del Norte County and Tribal Lands Opportunity Youth Initiative, Del Norte County, CA (Humboldt Area Foundation, backbone agency);
  • Project U-Turn, Philadelphia, PA (Philadelphia Youth Network, backbone agency); and
  • Roadmap to Peace, San Francisco, CA (Bay Area Community Resources, backbone agency).

Launched earlier this year, the YEF is a new effort to support innovative, collaborative approaches to creating a pipeline into entrepreneurship for opportunity youth by infusing entrepreneurial education into existing pathway models. The initiative is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

YEF aligns with the Aspen’s portfolio of grants through its Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, which seek to support and build an eco-system of multiple reconnection pathways with diverse on-ramps that will lead young people to economic success and stability. YEF’s grants strive to promote racial, gender, and economic equity and justice by ensuring that youth who are experiencing barriers to participation in the economy – including youth of color, low-income, immigrant, system-involved, and LGBTQ youth – are provided with the full range of opportunities to develop the entrepreneurial mindset and skillset, as well as a set of tools and supports they need to thrive in today’s economy. Summaries of the funded projects are included below:

I. Del Norte County and Tribal Lands Opportunity Youth Initiative envisions an entrepreneurship ecosystem in Del Norte County that is supported by a community-wide entrepreneurial culture that prioritizes microbusinesses as a key part of local economy. The collaborative ultimately seeks to integrate entrepreneurship skills development into the K-12 and community college system and provide emerging entrepreneurs with business launch training and technical assistance, mentorship, and capital and marketing support. This effort will integrate and align with the ongoing Building Healthy Communities work supported by The California Endowment.

The YEF effort in Del Norte County will provide youth with the skills, confidence, and mindset to become entrepreneurs by implementing a human centered design entrepreneurship training My Next Move that was developed by ThinkPlace, an international strategic design and technical assistance provider, using concepts pioneered by Stanford University’s Design for Change Center. The program will provide participants in the collaborative’s Summer Youth Training Academy with this curriculum, integrated into Diversified Health, National Resources Leadership/Tourism/Recreation, Advanced Manufacturing, and Agriculture/Food Systems industry pathways; Adulting 101 life skills curriculum (including financial literacy);peer support from fellow emerging entrepreneurs through the Side Hustle Club; mentoring by professionals and internships coordinated by the Workforce Center; and an introduction to using the internet for idea creation and marketing. At the same time, the collaborative will partner with the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Nebraska to implement their Building Entrepreneurial Community program, with the goal of creating a community-wide entrepreneurial culture, mindset, and ecosystem. Additional partners include Del Norte County Schools, College of the Redwoods, Workforce Center, Food Policy Council, and Redwood Coast Rural Action.

II. Project U-Turn seeks to enhance the existing Philadelphia entrepreneurship ecosystem by expanding access to curriculum that develops entrepreneurial mindset and skills to opportunity youth, providing these youth and young adults with pathways into entrepreneurship and careers in small businesses. This long-term vision seeks to scale new entrepreneurial education program models by embedding them into youth development programs citywide and to identify and infuse promising practices across existing programs in order to improve quality of program offerings.

The YEF effort in Philadelphia will build on existing partnerships to pilot, evaluate, and expand an entrepreneurship pathway for opportunity youth, supporting youth in launching microbusinesses and developing valuable workplace and career skills. The effort will bring together six partners that represent citywide opportunity-youth focused collaboratives including Project U-Turn, and Generation Work, and the City Workforce Steering Committee – in order to 1) implement a new entrepreneurship pilot within E3 Power Centers, which provide education, employment, and life skills training to out-of-school youth to support re-engagement in education and the workforce, and 2) infuse evidence-based entrepreneurial education into existing pathway models. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a nationally recognized in-school entrepreneurship education provider, is a key partner in this effort, and will support curriculum and program design by adapting its curriculum for E3 participants and providing online resources, training, and ongoing support to E3 staff. Participants will also have an opportunity to participate in a pitching competition, with small business startup grants awarded by PYN. Additional partners include the Job Opportunity Investment Network, Philadelphia Department of Commerce, and Philadelphia Department of Human Services.

III. Bay Area Community Resources and the HOPE SF Initiative, in partnership with the San Francisco youth-focused collaboratives, including Roadmap to Peace, Black to the Future and the Phoenix project, seek to address the demographic crisis facing San Francisco, in which communities of color and youth are being pushed out of the city by gentrification and escalating housing costs, by ensuring that these communities have a stake in San Francisco through business ownership and opportunities to develop their assets. The long-term vision is to build a robust, multi-sector collaborative that will implement and scale a strategy to build an entrepreneurial mindset and skills among San Francisco youth.

The YEF effort in San Francisco will take steps towards this vision by focusing on youth in public housing, who are among the most marginalized of San Francisco residents and do not currently have a path into the rich entrepreneurial ecosystem of the city. The project will work with youth in four public housing sites that are part of the HOPE SF initiative, a collective impact initiative that is the first of its kind to focus on public housing and community development efforts with a goal of disrupting intergenerational poverty and displacement of current residents. HOPE SF is also providing matching funds to support the initiative. NFTE will adapt its curriculum to be delivered in public housing and will train youth facilitators to facilitate the curriculum to their peers. Participants will be connected with mentors and business advisors through Youth Business USA, a nationally recognized program that supports emerging youth entrepreneurs who are experiencing significant barriers to business ownership; financial literacy training through MyPath, a nationally recognized financial empowerment program; advanced business development classes by Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center; and case management and supportive services from Phoenix project. Additional partners include Hope SF Youth Champions, San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, City College and San Francisco State University.

To learn more about YEF, please contact Yelena Nemoy,

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, established in 1926 in Flint, Michigan, by an automotive pioneer, is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society. It supports nonprofit programs throughout the United States and, on a limited geographic basis, internationally. Grantmaking is focused in four programs: Civil Society, Environment, Flint Area and Education. In addition to Flint, offices are located in metropolitan Detroit, Johannesburg and London. With year-end assets of approximately $2.7 billion in 2016, the Foundation made 420 grants totaling more than $120 million. For more information, visit