May 2014 e-news: Youthprise Around the Country
May’s edition of Youthprise’s monthly e-news is all about the convenings. Lately we’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot to share Youthprise’s work and the work of partner organizations on national platforms. And trust us, from research to systems building, there is a lot to share. So dive into this month’s e-news to learn about how we’ve shared our work and learned from national partners in Baltimore, New York City, Dayton and here in Minneapolis.
Every Hour Counts: Map, Gap & Roll
by Karen Kingsley, Director of Public Policy and Communications
This May Youthprise traveled to Baltimore to attend the Every Hour Counts National Institute. Every Hour Counts is a national coalition of cities working to build expanded learning systems that coordinate public and private sector partners to improve learning beyond the classroom.
The Minneapolis/St. Paul team included representatives of the following organizations: Sprockets, Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, Minneapolis Public Schools, City of Minneapolis Department of Public Health, Generation Next and Youthprise.
The convening offered a platform for these organizations to share work happening across the Twin Cities and to learn from national partners. Our President, Wokie Weah, spoke on a panel about the role of intermediaries like Youthprise in building sustainable systems for learning beyond the classroom. She highlighted the Minnesota model for systems, which adds a strong focus on youth engagement to efforts around data and quality.
Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was recognized during the conference and spoke about his work with Generation Next, a cradle to career initiative in the Twin Cities focused on reducing the achievement gap. His message, we need to “map, gap & roll,” described the need to bring partners together to create a coordinated system to ensure that young people are succeeding.
National participants in the institute included teams from Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo/Syracuse, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Nashville, New York, Omaha, Palm Beach County, Pittsburgh, Providence, Richmond, Washington D.C., and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was a great opportunity to learn from other cities and to share our expertise on a national stage.
What was powerful about this convening was not only the national connections being made, but also how we strengthened our local partnerships as part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul team. We strategized together about how to create an integrated regional system that spans the Twin Cities and discussed ways that we can measure youth outcomes including indicators around social emotional learning.
Exchange, Engage and Educate: Youthprise at the Kettering Foundation
by David Kim, Research Manager
The Kettering Foundation brings together people from around the country and world to produce knowledge around critical issues related to democracy and citizenship. For Kettering, as distinguished in the book Politics is About Relationships, constructive talk only gets you so far—eventually you have to become political and wrestle with the tensions. This is deliberation. The Kettering Foundation encourages the question, “How do you create opportunities for people to find themselves in these kinds of deliberative conversations?”
Youthprise was recently invited to participate in research exchange at the Kettering Foundation in Ohio. Youthprise President, Wokie Weah and I came together with other leaders in the field to talk about research and community education. Issues were raised around high-stakes testing, divides between in-school and out-of-school programming, engaging communities in dialogue around critical issues, and personal health when doing this kind of work. Frustrations and potential remedies were voiced surrounding the devaluing of community expertise. The divide between “professionals” and “community members” was explored and critiqued.
From the discussion, I developed a few reflections:
1. Although a wide range of topics were engaged, a strong theme that emerged was healing. For many in the room, this was the goal, whether it is for Black men in Circles in Detroit, dispossessed young people in Detroit, or entire communities in New Orleans. However many people did not initially use the term “healing” as a descriptor for their work; but when it was named, there was overwhelming agreement that for many of us, this was what we truly wanted. We need to name this in our future work and collaboration.
2. It is often assumed that we will “automatically” or “more naturally” fit in and gel with people who look like us or have similar experiences according to race, gender, class and sexual identity. But from what I heard in our discussion, it seems that these spaces can often be the most dangerous or most difficult for organizing together, commonly because alliance and collaboration are assumed, and therefore not worked out collectively. Andrea Smith and others have asserted that organizing in Women of Color or LGBTQITS spaces is actually more precarious than working with other communities. This changes the way we organize and engage others.
3. As one of the only young people in attendance, I felt there was a lack of youth voice. The dialogue would have been greatly enriched with more young people at the table.
4. Notions of democracy and citizenship are often taken as a given, but as the youngest person, I did not have any generic understanding of what these meant in that space. Furthermore, I believe that a necessary task is to deconstruct and re-define what these actually do mean. They are not the same for everybody, and definitions of democracy and citizenship determine the way we do community-based work; therefore, these definitions hold great power, and a process for dismantling this power is essential for authentic dialogue and work in the fields of community development and youth development.
Making the Connections at bushCONNECT
by Bianca Dawkins, Policy and Outreach Community Builder and Lizzy Shramko, Storyteller & Online Community Builder
In April two Youthprise staff members had the opportunity to attend bushCONNECT, a regional convening that connected leaders from across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Pollen partnered with the Bush Foundation to provide access to the conference for Pollenites – members of their regional community of movers and shakers. Bianca Dawkins and Lizzy Shramko, were selected to attend the conference and bring Youthprise’s youth-adult partnership lens to the big event.
Held at the Guthrie, it was clear that Bush’s mentality for the event was “go big, or go home.” As soon as we entered the lobby there was a sea of orange-clad Bush staff that were eager to help us navigate the conference. This was really helpful for us because we were not expert conference-goers and the support in navigating tickets, stations and selfie booths was great. Bush clearly made an effort for the event to be interactive. There was an app created to help conference goers organize their schedule and connect with other attendees, a ticket exchange intended to encourage collaboration and conversation between attendees, and spaces throughout the event to network. Relationship building is central to youth-adult partnerships, and it is a core part of the work that we do at Youthprise, so having the opportunity, support and spaces to connect with other attendees was especially meaningful for us.
Another exciting component of the conference was the presence of Youthprise grantees and partners. The first session that we attended was called “Fail Safe: Fostering a Culture of Innovation” featuring DeAnna Cummings from Juxtaposition Arts. DeAnna shared her experiences leading Juxtaposition through transitions and shared some of the amazing work that she is doing with arts, youth and entrepreneurship on the Northside. Irene Fernando, a former Youthprise board member, was also a presenter at the conference. Outside of sessions, we had the opportunity to connect with many partners including Charities Review Council, Minnesota Council on Foundations, The BrandLab, and many more.
Ultimately bushCON was a conference like no other. With an emphasis on connecting, the event provided a space for us to connect with leaders in the region and to share the work that Youthprise is doing and our philosophy on youth-adult partnerships. We only wish more young people had been able to attend to build their leadership skills and make these important connections. Thanks to Pollen for continually providing spaces for young leaders at their own events and for connecting us with bushCON!
CPAR in NYC: Putting Minnesota on the Map
by Jorge Rivas
As an intermediary, Youthprise is uniquely positioned to impact learning beyond the classroom in Minnesota and nationally. We do this by strategically combining funding, capacity building, policy & communications, and research & evaluation. We see all of our work through a unique lens; youth-adult partnerships inform all aspects of what we do. Our Youth Research Team is an example of how our different philosophies and approaches overlap and intersect.
At the end of May, our Youth Research Team traveled to New York City to participate in a weeklong Critical Participatory Action Research Institute organized by the national research organization, The Public Science Project. CPAR is a critical epistemological framework that places participation and action at the center of research work, and locates knowledge in communities – not just in the hands of academic researchers. Community members and youth, the people most directly impacted by issues, strategize about what needs to be researched and how this research is conducted.
The institute, which took place at the City University of New York, consisted of seminars, roundtables and hands-on workshops where team members learned from national leaders about the history of CPAR, refined our understanding of the methodology, and strategized about the intentional implementation in our work here in Minnesota. CPAR is an
This institute exposed us to researchers and organizers from around the country that build connections between community and research work – and position community members as researchers themselves. We learned more about the history of Critical Participatory Action Research, and how it has been used historically to bridge gaps in access, engage community members and change the face of the field of research. Our work at Youthprise is centered on a related approach – Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR).
One of the biggest takeaways from the conference is the importance of bringing your full self to the process of YPAR. There are no equal or safe spaces, just more equal and more safe spaces.
Our Youth Research Team is currently coordinating a series of projects with youth-led research groups around the state ranging from youth in Minneapolis organizing around health disparities to youth on a Dakota reservation organizing a midwifery program. The team is also a part of a national Research Justice Network that shares learnings and strategizes about how to best impact all fields through transformative research practices.
The strategies that we incorporate into our research work at Youthprise are indicative of a larger shift towards engaging the community through authentic and inclusive research. We differ in that we center our research work on individual sources of knowledge coming from marginalized communities that are the most directly impacted by the issues that we all face. Like all of our work, the research that we do models our youth engagement strategies by having young people do the work themselves. In the past months, we have realized that as a team our capacity must increase to respond to the demand for youth-led research.
Owing to Youthprise’s position as an increasingly impactful intermediary in the OST field, we are developing our capacity as a research institution to be a regional hub for youth-led research work. As with all of our work here at Youthprise, we center our work around our philosophy of Youth Engagement. In research that means putting youth at the controls of what we research and how we do it. At Youthprise, we could do no less.
VISTA Americorps position open at the Sanneh Foundation. Applications due June 3rd. More info here.
Allied Media Conference, June 19th-22nd, Detroit, Wayne State University. Register here.
Youthprise grantee information sessions, June 24th & July 8th. More information and registration links here.