The Opportunity Youth Network (OYN) brings together national non-profits, businesses, philanthropy, and government — along with young leaders — to align efforts to achieve the collective goal of reengaging one million young people who are disconnected from education and employment pathways to success, often referred to as opportunity youth.
In addition to monthly online member meetings and an annual conference, the Opportunity Youth Network’s activities are driven by five action groups, each co-chaired by two OYN participants.
Employer Engagement Action Group
The Employer Engagement Action Group works to encourage businesses to mentor, train and/or hire more opportunity youth. Using a combination of strategies that include convening business leaders and engaging junior to mid-level hiring managers, this action group endeavors to increase the number of opportunity youth that are connected to family sustaining careers.
Policy Action Group
The Policy Action Group aligns efforts inside and outside of government to improve polices and increase funding for opportunity youth. This action group began by mapping the priorities of existing advocacy collaborations, and is developing an “all of the above” strategy to support related efforts that will cumulatively build toward the collective goal of reconnecting one million opportunity youth.
Communications and Youth Organizing Action Group
The Public Will and Youth Organizing Action Group endeavors to identify strategies and structures to mobilize young people and build public will to reconnect one-million opportunity youth. To accomplish this goal, the action group enlists multiple strategies that range from ensuring the integration and leadership of young people across the coalition of participating OYN organizations; to identifying priority audiences for public outreach and youth organizing; and developing, vetting, and disseminating shared messages from youth and adults.
Data and Metrics Action Group
The goal of the Data and Metrics Action Group is to monitor and report on progress toward reconnecting one-million opportunity youth. This Action Group uses the Opportunity Index to report on the number of opportunity youth in states and counties; and serves as an advisor and thought-partner to the four other OYN Action Groups on their data needs.
Supporting Communities Action Group
The goal of the Connecting Communities Action Group is to align and coordinate the provision of technical assistance to communities supporting opportunity youth. The Connecting Communities Action Group accomplishes this goal by mapping and aligning existing efforts across national intermediaries – in the OYN coalition of organizations – to provide place-based technical assistance to communities.
THEORY OF CHANGE
The Opportunity Youth Network is led by an Advisory Council composed of the individuals who jointly staff the network, the co-chairs from each action group, and key representatives from each sector.
Jamiel Alexander, National Council of Young Leaders
Patrice Cromwell, Annie E. Casey Foundation
Mark Edwards, Opportunity Nation (Co-chair of the Data and Metrics Action Group)
Thaddeus Ferber, Forum for Youth Investment (OYN staff and co-chair of the Policy Action Group)
Gail Gershon, Gap Inc. (OYN staff and co-chair of the Employer Engagement Action Group)
Shawnice Jackson, National Council of Young Leaders
Tara James, National Human Services Assembly (Co-chair of the Public Will & Youth Organizing Action Group)
Caitlin Johnson, SparkAction (Co-chair of the Public Will & Youth Organizing Action Group)
Barbara Langford, Youth Transition Funders Group
Nick Matthern, Gateway to College (Co-chair of the Policy Action Group)
Monique Miles, Aspen Forum on Community Solutions (OYN staff and co-chair of the Connecting Communities Action Group)
Branka Minic, Future Work Consulting (Co-chair of the Data and Metrics Action Group)
Andrew Moore, National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families (Co-chair of the Connecting Communities Action Group)
Elyse Rosenblum, Public Private Possibilities (Co-chair of the Employee Engagement Action Group)
Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA
Steve Patrick, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions
The Opportunity Youth Network (OYN) was launched 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 opportunity youth.
The network started with a focus on information sharing with an eye toward collaborating in areas of aligned priorities and goals, minimize the duplication of efforts focused on this population, and “dividing and conquering” in our efforts as a way to deepen our impact.
By spring of 2013, approximately 100 key leaders from 80 national organizations had signed on, and began to participate in our monthly online meetings. Each month, OYN focused on a topic of relevance, invited several experts, and facilitated interactive discussion.
Member Survey and Beginning of Collective Action
In July 2013, the Opportunity Youth Network surveyed its members to get feedback on its initial activities. Members responded that, while they value the information sharing, they also wanted to begin taking collective action to reconnect more opportunity youth.
OYN identified five key areas for collective action:
- Outreach to business to encourage more hiring, mentoring, and training of opportunity youth
- Advocacy and policy work to promote public funding and programs that support opportunity youth;
- Organizing and engaging youth as leaders in this movement and conducting outreach to build public will;
- Technical assistance to enhance collaboration at the local level and/or connect local efforts to regional and national initiatives;
- Leveraging and enhancing data to improve evaluation and gain better insights.
As a result of this prioritization, OYN decided to form action groups focused on each of the five areas.
First Annual Convening, October 2013
The OYN gathered in the historic Wye River retreat center for its first in-person convening, designed to launch each of the five action groups. Through collaboration with the Youth Transition Funders Group and the National Council of Young Leaders, the convening brought together the full eco-system of entities focused on improving outcomes for opportunity youth. The keynote speakers — Melody Barnes (chair of the Aspen Forum on Community Solutions and former domestic policy advisor for President Obama), John Bridgeland (former domestic policy advisory for President George W. Bush), Patrick McCarthy (President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation), and Jonathan Greenblatt (Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation) — offered OYN participants inspiration and challenged the network to be brave and bold.
Launch of the Advisory Council
Responding to recommendations that the five Action Groups need to be aligned with each other as part of a coherent overall strategy, the Opportunity Youth Network Advisory Council was launched, composed of the individuals who jointly staff the network, the co-chairs from each action group, and key representatives from each sector.
For general information or questions about the Opportunity Youth Network please contact Yelena Nemoy at the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.