OPPORTUNITY YOUTH NETWORK
Opportunity Youth Network (OYN) was launched with key leaders from nearly 100 national organizations in March 2013 to capitalize on the momentum created by the White House Council on Community Solutions, which brought new visibility and focus to the needs of 16-24 year olds who are not in school and not working. There are now 5.5 million opportunity youth – also commonly referred to as disconnected youth – in the United States. OYN brings together the country’s leading funders and corporations of all sizes, federal, state and local government officials, non-profits and formerly disconnected youth to work together to reduce the number of disconnected youth by one million over five years. OYN is co-managed by the Forum for Youth Investment, the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions, and Gap Inc.
The Opportunity Youth Network works to:
- hold the field collectively accountable to the goal of reducing the number of disconnected youth by one million over five years
- continually take stock of progress in the field
- help align related efforts
- catalyze efforts where there are gaps
Annual Highlights: 2013-2016
The Opportunity Youth Network Annual Summit serves as the network’s anchor activity, providing key stakeholders across sectors a forum to receive updates in the field, uncover ways to collaborate, hear from young leaders, and set priorities. While the Summit is the most visible of OYN’s activities, most of the work happens behind the scenes throughout the year.
2013: Informing and Connecting
As the Opportunity Youth Network launched in 2013, OYN focused on educating members about key activities across sectors, and strengthening the relationships among members.
- OYN launched a series of online meetings focused on topics such as: public policy, foster care, social-emotional learning, data, and education.
- The first annual OYN Summit was held in October in the historic Wye River retreat center in collaboration with the Youth Transition Funders Group and the National Council of Young Leaders. The keynote speakers – Melody Barnes, John Bridgeland, Patrick McCarthy, and Jonathan Greenblatt –offered OYN participants inspiration and challenged the network to be brave and bold: setting a collective goal for the field of reducing the number of disconnected youth by one million over five years.
2014: Catalyzing Collective Action
In 2014, OYN pivoted from primarily providing information to catalyzing efforts in the field.
- OYN formed five time-limited action groups.
- OYN facilitated and moderated the Reconnecting Youth working group for the Clinton Global Initiative.
- The second annual OYN Summit celebrated the unprecedented growth of the field, focused attention on collaborative activities underway, and featured a recorded address by Secretary Clinton, making a powerful appeal to action to reconnect opportunity youth, and in so doing, strengthen our national economy.
- The summit featured presentations by the White House and other leaders in the field presenting on My Brother’s Keeper and related efforts to support boys and young men of color.
2015: Aligning Existing Efforts
As activity blossomed across the field, OYN shifted focus from catalyzing new efforts to aligning existing efforts – especially those focused on boys and young men of color.
- In partnership with Casey Family Programs and others, OYN helped launch and staff the Alignment Strategy Group for Opportunity Youth and Boys and Young Men of Color. OYN created tools for aligning multiple place-based initiatives in Aligning Movements: Insights and Information from the Opportunity Youth/Boys and Men of Color Alignment Strategy Group.
- OYN released My Brother’s Keeper: A Chance to Help America’s Opportunity Youth at the White House convening of My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge sites. This document lays out strategies for My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge sites to address the needs of opportunity youth in their communities.
- OYN launched a partnership with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to co-host a series of webinars on reconnecting disconnected boys and young men of color.
- OYN facilitated and moderated the Reconnecting Youth working group for the Clinton Global Initiative for a second year.
- OYN launched OYNews, an eNewsletter featuring the most up to date innovations in the field.
2016: Expanding Annual Summit, Driving Best Practices, and Deepening Policy Activities
In 2016, OYN focused on defining and promoting best practices, expanding the annual summit and ramping up policy activities.
- OYN created a set of commitments that businesses, mayors, workforce investment boards, school systems and non-profits could adopt to better support opportunity youth. The White House used these commitments to shape its “First Job” campaign.
- In partnership with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, OYN is developing a toolkit that highlights promising practices, strategies and resources for those working on My Brother’s Keeper – or other efforts to support boys and men of color – to address those who are 16 to 24 years old and who are neither in school nor employed.
- OYN is preparing to launch a campaign to scale up effective, federally funded programs to provide one million opportunity youth per year a fair chance to reconnect to education, employment and service.