In 2017, the Weingart Foundation brought together nearly 200 leaders from the nonprofit, philanthropic, public and business sectors to collectively work together to advance racial, social and economic equity in Southern California. A key action item from the Equity Convening was the need to strengthen the leadership pipeline of individuals leading equity work. Youth organizing was specifically identified as a proven leadership development strategy in highly marginalized communities. Investing in youth organizing also leads to policy changes that advance social justice. In addition, youth organizing groups increase members’ college enrollment and persistence; they also have lasting effects on members’ commitments to building greater civic participation within their families and community.
Yet to effectively engage young people who are most affected by social injustices requires that youth organizing groups devote significant resources to members’ leadership development during the course of campaigns, all while also attending to their developmental needs. As such, the number of young people prepared to assume leadership roles in campaigns remains fairly limited.
For these reasons, the Weingart Foundation engaged Dr. Veronica Terriquez from UC Santa Cruz, a leading researcher in youth organizing, to assess both needs and opportunities to grow the youth leadership pipeline in Southern California. Dr. Terriquez interviewed 18 key youth organizing groups in Southern California and found that these organizations offer a range of comprehensive programming to prepare social justice youth leaders. However, because their capacity is stretched, they are unable to meet the current and growing demand of youth interested in this work. Organizations shared that in order to train and support more youth leaders to lead grassroots organizing campaigns, they would need support to do the following:
- Build organizational capacity in key areas – staffing, transportation, space and technology;
- Strengthen and expand comprehensive programming to fully develop leaders;
- Expand regional and summer programming;
- Strengthen organizational capacity to continue engaging youth leaders beyond targeted programming; and
- Support the creation and expansion of youth organizing networks.
Based on these findings, Dr. Terriquez recommended that funders support existing youth organizing organizations with flexible, multi-year, unrestricted support to allow each organization to prioritize funding to their greatest needs. Subsequently, the Weingart Foundation convened a number of foundations to share Dr. Terriquez’s findings and recommendations. This resulted in the creation of a pooled fund in support of the Youth Organizing Capacity Building Initiative.
The three-year Youth Organizing Capacity Building Initiative will combine three years of Unrestricted Operating Support (UOS) grants, a peer grantee learning community and a learning collaborative for funders.
The Funder Collaborative will use the Weingart Foundation’s multi-year UOS program, which is specifically designed to support a range of infrastructure and programmatic capacity needs. It provides organizations with flexible dollars that they are able to prioritize to their greatest needs. UOS can be used, for example, to underwrite administrative infrastructure, build or strengthen organizational capacity, and/or to maintain core programs and essential staff. Also, multi-year funding provides organizations with greater stability of resources that allow them to achieve their goals.
In addition to grants, we also recognize that peer-learning communities build knowledge, resources, and relationships that help strengthen individual organizations and that can lead to collective goals and action. Lastly, building an intentional funder learning group will facilitate real-time and continuous learning among partnering foundations that will allow for necessary adaptations to better support the Initiative and build awareness and additional support for youth organizing work.
Guiding Principles & Goals
- Youth organizing is a proven leadership development strategy in highly marginalized communities.
- Young leaders of color rooted in the communities they serve are among the best agents for lasting change and should lead the way in addressing inequity and transformative change.
- Fundamental elements of transformative youth organizing include all of the following:
- Systems change campaigns,
- Leadership development,
- Personal growth and transformation,
- Civic engagement,
- Base building, and
- Movement building.
- Strengthening the capacity of nonprofits rooted in communities will change the dynamics of inequity and expand opportunities.
- Strengthen the capacity of youth organizing groups advancing racial, social and economic justice in Southern California.
- Increase the number of young people of color leading social justice grassroots campaigns, especially from communities most impacted by racial, economic and social injustice.
- Strengthen the network of youth organizing groups in Southern California.
- Increase awareness of the comprehensive impact of youth organizing among funders.
- Increase the level of funding from philanthropy to youth organizing groups.