March 2014 e-news: Policy
This is the March edition of Youthprise’s monthly e-news series created with the intention of keeping our partners, grantees and stakeholders in the OST field updated on the happenings at Youthprise and in the field at large. March’s theme is Public Policy. Read below to learn about new policy initiatives coming from Youthprise, to get insight into a Youth Innovator’s perspective on Youth Day at the Capitol and to learn how Tamales y Bicicletas, a Youthprise partner, uses authentic youth and community engagement to create change.
Public Policy at Youthprise: Youth and Adults Creating Change Together
By Alexandria Rice
From the beginning, Youthprise has been committed to engaging in public policy to advance its mission–to champion learning beyond the classroom so that all Minnesota youth thrive. A key partner in that work is the Minnesota Afterschool Network, now known as Ignite Afterschool. Youthprise serves as the fiscal host for Ignite and we coordinate our efforts on public policy for afterschool and summer learning opportunities for youth.
In addition to supporting Ignite’s policy efforts, Youthprise seeks to be active on a range of policy issues that impact Minnesota youth, especially those that face barriers to accessing quality learning opportunities beyond the classroom. I sat down with Karen Kingsley, Youthprise’s Director of Communications and Public Policy, and Bianca Dawkins, Youthprise’s Outreach Innovator, who are collaborating on Youthprise’s public policy agenda. They shared with me what Youthprise’s public policy functions seek to include:
- Educating elected officials and stakeholders in the youth development field;
- Advocating for policy change at the state, federal and local levels;
- Engaging Youthprise partners (youth, communities of color, youth-serving organizations, intermediaries) in the policy process; and
- Lobbying to influence specific legislation.
Some of the questions that Bianca and Karen consider in their policy work are: Who are our stakeholders that we want to be representing when we are engaging in this public policy work? Who will help us to determine what issues we will be actively engaging with in public policy? Karen explained that it is a value of Youthprise to be driven by the people who are most affected by the issues that we address as an organization. For Youthprise this means young people, as we make it our job to focus on the disparities among youth in Minnesota, which inhibit many youth from thriving, and to address these issues through youth-adult partnerships. The stakeholders who we hope will play a key role in deciding which issues we will address will be young people, the communities that surround those young people, and the organizations that are working closely with them.
In this way, as an intermediary, Youthprise plays a unique role in the public policy arena. Much of Youthprise’s public policy work is accomplished in collaboration with our grantees and partners, with other funders, and with youth. Functionally, much of the policy work is implemented through coalitions, not on our own. There are a limited number of issues on which Youthprise will take the lead and a broader set of issues we will advance in a supportive role.
Through our public policy work, Youthprise aims to:
- Mobilize the voice of Youthprise partners, grantees and youth, particularly those most impacted
- Influence federal, state and local policies in support of the Youthprise mission and vision
- Leverage existing Youthprise resources to secure additional funding for youth programs
- Position Youthprise as a knowledgeable resource on policy issues affecting Minnesota youth, particularly during their time beyond the classroom
- Build the capacity of Youthprise grantees and partners to engage in policy advocacy to serve their mission.
Within Youthprise, Karen Kingsley and Bianca Dawkins will be working together as an intergenerational team to spearhead Youthprise’s initiative in public policy. They will start by hearing from the stakeholders through a series of round-tables and one-on-one discussions with Youthprise partners, grantees, and youth in order to understand what the main issues are that Youthprise could engage with through its policy work. We expect that a number of policy issues affecting Minnesota youth will come out of this process.
Key policy issues are likely to include:
- Increasing public funding for youth programming (afterschool and summer learning, youth development, juvenile justice, workforce development);
- Promoting cross-system collaborations between afterschool, schools, juvenile justice, workforce development, health and other systems serving the holistic developmental needs of youth;
- Advancing racial equity and reducing disparities in access to quality learning opportunities beyond the classroom;
- Empowering youth voice in policy decisions.
Karen and Bianca will go through a process of analyzing all of the input from various stakeholders, taking into consideration the context of current opportunities and challenges that exist in our community today. They will use their assessment to develop proposals for Youthprise’s role in public policy, making sure that it is in line with our mission.
One of the things that Karen addressed was the wide variety of issues that could be brought up by the stakeholders. “The key,” she says, “is to be focused. In taking in all of these different ideas about what we should focus on, we also need to make sure that we are not too broad in our approach, as this would make it hard to be good at what we are trying to do.” So how do we both hear all of the various ways that we could enhance the chances of Minnesota youth to thrive, and at the same time stay focused in our approach, so that we are effective?
To attempt to hold this balance between effectiveness and relying on the diverse amount of stakeholder input, Youthprise will create a Youthprise Policy Advisory Group, composed of youth and community representatives from Youthprise grantees and partners. This Policy Advisory Group will inform policy development and advocacy strategies, work with staff to develop a plan for Youthprise Public Policy action, and highlight the voices of those most impacted by the disparities that we focus on as an organization: youth, communities of color, and youth-serving organizations.
In my conversation about public policy with Bianca and Karen, Bianca told me that for her “it’s all about empowering youth voice and incorporating that into this process, and allowing young people to understand that they can have a part in this, because it affects them when we push public policy.” Through this process, relying heavily on the input and involvement of the community, Youthprise will develop and implement a robust policy agenda, with adults and youth working together all along the way.
Youth Day at the Capitol: An Innovator’s Perspective
Interview written by Bianca Dawkins
My name is Bianca Dawkins and I am the Outreach and Policy Youth Innovator here at Youthprise. A big portion of my work revolves around organizational culture, policy advocacy and grantmaking. I interviewed Neese Parker, Youthprise’s Youth Philanthropy Innovator, about her experience at Youth Day at the Capitol.
Neese Parker’s work focuses in philanthropy, social media, and policy for Youthprise. She has made multiple visits to the State Capitol including emceeing the rally for the Youth Day at the Capitol last year, which she will do again this year.
“Youth Day at the Capitol is a day that youth are invited into the home of our elected officials. They began with a rally, then branch off to speak personally with different legislators and Senators,” Parker explained. Below are some questions that I asked Neese about her experiences at YDAC and other youth-specific events.
Who is your legislator in your community?
“Bobby Jo champion.”
What are some interactions you have had with him?
“I was able to speak with him briefly in regards to the MN Youth Councils proposed bill.”
What is the most challenging experience you have encountered during these types of events? “Personally, I worry that youth are not being taken seriously, however it’s a challenge that can be taken into the youth’s hands.”
What is the most rewarding part of these types of events?
“Youth are given the opportunity. The biggest problem in society is that youth do not have enough opportunities exposed to them. So the fact that this is proposed and accessible is a sign of a great start.”
What are some big take-a-ways?
“Being a youth leading an event such as this, you tend to feel a sense of empowerment and change. The goal of this event is to empower and amplify youth voice. Everyone feels good after they have been heard.”
How did you first find yourself involved with Youth Day at the Capitol?
“Well the Minnesota Youth Council fortunately has a big part in planning the rally at this event. I was one of the selected members to be on that planning committee. That is ultimately how I became the emcee.”
How can other youth be involved in this event?
“The best part of this event is that it is completely open to the youth and the public. Showing up and speaking out is a big start. You can also get involved by joining a youth program or organization.”
True Change: Tamales y Bicicletas
By Andrew Rahme and David Kim
A lot of people want to push people to the capitol, but what’s happening right now in our communities? What can they do now? There is no real change unless youth redefine the lens they are wearing, and address the issues in the neighborhood.
-Jose Luis Villasenor, Executive Director, Tamales y Bicicletas
Recently Andrew Rahm and David Kim, both from the Youth Research team at Youthprise, had the opportunity to talk to Jose Luis Villasenor, Executive Director of Tamales y Bicicletas. They were interested in learning about how Tamales y Bicicletas used authentic youth engagement and community engagement during their 2013 legislative wins, specifically around DREAM Act legislation.
Tamales y Bicicletas is an organization that “Develops healthy Latino and immigrant communities through bikes, cultural empowerment, and environmental justice.” They believe that civic engagement creates healthier communities and encourages community members to live healthier lives, while also addressing and educating the community on the societal issues they face.
Founder and Executive Director, Jose Luis Villasenor, believes that engaging youth is central to community health. He argues that young people working for food and environmental justice locates them “in a place of cultural empowerment.”
Currently, the organization is focusing on the implications of the DREAM Act that just passed last year in Minnesota. The DREAM Act ensures that undocumented students have access to financial aid opportunities and in-state resident tuition rates. The questions they are asking are, “With the DREAM Act, how do we address Congress with these realities? How do we get skills to give resources to our communities? Instead of starting with policy change, the youth are using community organizing skills to engage their peers. The reason for this, Villasenor explains, is that “We can’t push a policy if youth haven’t unpacked inequities. Do we really need to go to the Capitol? No. We need to address our communities.”
In sessions organized by Tamales y Bicicletas, youth acted as legislators in a simulated hearing of youth opinions on the Dream Act and why it should, or should not pass. Tamales y Bicicletas believes youth should be involved in every policy decision. “True change,” says Villasenor, “is going to come from communities, through youth and civic engagement. We don’t need to go to the capitol, we need to go to our people.”
At Youthprise, we also believe that young people need to be at the center of community transformation. Young people are uniquely positioned to mobilize other youth, community members, and elders into alliances for both institutional and grassroots change. If centered—not merely included—in research, policy, grassroots organizing, education and philanthropy, young people radically shift the way these processes pan out. In South Minneapols, Tamales y Bicicletas is a sound example of this centering practice
“It’s not just about money or Latinos or me, it’s for everyone. Everyone deserves higher education. The youth today become the new shoulders for the next youth to stand on.”
When: Thursday, April 10th, 8:30am-12:00pm
Where: Minnesota State Capitol, 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, St Paul
When: Monday, May 5th, 1pm – 5pm
Where: TCF Bank Stadium – DQ Club Room, 2009 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN
14th Annual Latino Youth Peace and Leadership Conference: Cultivating My Well-being
When: Friday, May 9th, 8:45am-3:00pm
Where: Augsburg College, 2211 Riverside Ave. S., Minneapolis
Contact Maureen Springer for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
When: Friday, June 13th, 10am – 3pm