INTRODUCING OUR NEW STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK
Our refreshed mission is to “Increase equity with and for Minnesota’s indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth.”
Our refreshed vision is that “We envision a Minnesota where outcomes for youth are no longer predictable by race, geography, or socioeconomic status.”
Our four guiding values remain the same:
• Youth-centered – Ensure youth voice, participation, and leadership in processes and decisions
• Equity – Advance equity and inclusion, disrupt systems of oppression
• Self-sustainability – Ensure long-term financial sustainability and economic independence
• Impact – Advance our reach by telling our shared story and expanding relationships
From the beginning, Youthprise’s central focus has been addressing unequal access to quality learning opportunities. Through our investments, we recognize the potential of youth who are low-income, indigenous, racially diverse, or otherwise marginalized.
Our refresh is intended to emphasize those constant values while speaking more explicitly about our work and our partners in that work. As a leader in the field, we hope this will inspire other youth organizations and systems to use asset-based language while centering the needs and wants of indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth.
LESSONS FROM PAST MISSIONS
Changing one's mission may be uncommon in the charitable sector, but Youthprise has prided itself on being innovative, responsive, and overall unique. We were first established in 2010 by The McKnight Foundation, with the goal to increase the quality, accessibility, sustainability, and innovation of opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. We operated from 2011-2014 with the mission “to champion learning beyond the classroom so that all Minnesota youth thrive.”
At that time in 2011, we established the Youth Innovator Collective, where young people aged 16-25 could develop professional experience while contributing to the programs and services Youthprise supported across the state.
Informed by the collective, we studied and supported various kinds of programs and systems to foster young people’s intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical development outside of the classroom. Years of success in that area led us to develop a more holistic understanding of youth well-being where access to quality afterschool programming was one component among many. Young people also needed to be heard, to be safe, to be healthy, to be given opportunities to build skills or lead.
In response to the data we collected and the youth who informed us, we expanded our work to cover three key impact areas:
our Learning and Leadership programs promote the learning, leadership and social-emotional development of youth and seek to shift how programs engage youth in leadership and governance;
our Economic Opportunity programs create opportunities for economic prosperity by supporting programs and initiatives that build workforce skills, promote youth entrepreneurship, and expose youth to career pathways; and
our Health and Safety programs promote the holistic health and safety of young people by meeting basic needs and ensuring young people are safe and not criminalized in their communities.
In response to that guidance, our mission shifted to become more collaborative to reflect how we operated. From 2015 until 2019, Youthprise’s mission was “to reduce disparities with and for Minnesota youth.” We put youth voice front and center, and developed solutions as a team.
THE MINNESOTA PARADOX
In the past few years, there have been numerous reports discussing The Minnesota Paradox or The Two Minnesotas:
There is the Minnesota that U.S. News titled the 3rd “Best State To Live”, the state that is often among the top ten Best-Run, Healthiest, Safest, Strongest, Happiest, Most Educated, Most Innovative, Least Stressed states by many external measures.
And then there is the Minnesota that is the 2nd worst state for racial disparities, the state in which people of color are twice as likely to live in poverty, less likely to graduate from high school on time, less likely to own their own home, and more likely to die earlier.
Youthprise was well aware of these disparities, having worked on the ground with young people of color and having seen how their opportunities differed. We had heard that youth faced crisis on our streets, that youth homelessness was a social emergency; that there were limited investments in youth entrepreneurship; that youth experiences the negative impacts of federal immigration policy and the criminal justice system; and that media portrayals of youth did not show them in positive ways--these were issues we addresses through our three impact areas.
In early 2019, Youthprise board and staff attended a strategic planning retreat led by Grayhall consulting. The goal was to step back from the day-to-day work to ask where Youthprise was headed, who we were, and what we wanted to be. We sought the wisdom of the youth on our staff and board (A quarter of our staff are 25 or younger, and half of our board is 25 or younger) as well as the thoughts and ideas of partners, funders, and others across Minnesota who directly and indirectly touched the lives of youth. Dozens of stakeholders had contributed to the process, whether through focus groups, surveys, or meetings.
For the most part, we decided to continue doing as we were.
Youthprise will maintain its core work of reducing disparities by providing funding, research and advocacy to disrupt systems; and mobilizing, distributing and reinvesting resources in a youth-focused manner. One example of recent research of which we are proud is the Equity & Innovation in Expanded Learning Systems report, which profiles four of our partner organizations to identify a Minnesota-specific solution to the opportunity gap.
At the same time, Youthprise is focused on building a sustainable organization and promoting youth leadership to ensure youth success now and in the future. For example, in order to increase and diversify our funding streams, we now offer consulting services and products. This includes training and kits for Design Thinking and other processes and Youth Participatory Action Research toolkits.
However, we also decided that now was the time to get unapologetically loud about what we stand for.
We’re not just reducing disparities, we are increasing equity.
We continue to love and work with and for Minnesota youth, but we will center Minnesota’s indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
The refresh does indicate a few new changes:
- We will deepen our focus on the Native and Indigenous populations in Minnesota. We will aim for more intentional and authentic partnerships with Minnesota-based tribes, Indigenous-serving organizations, and Indigenous youth.
- We will continue to adapt and expand our work to better serve Greater Minnesota, recognizing that some Greater populations have larger lower-income populations, some have racially-diverse populations, and some have both.
- We will also be more open and intentional about our Racial Equity Learning agenda, in order to practice equity within the organization.
Youthprise's core work will remain the same:
- We will continue to use positive, forward-thinking, and asset-based language to demonstrate the confidence we have in our work.
- We will continue to center the youth who see and experience Minnesota’s disparities.
- We will continue to amplify youth voices and invite them to decision-making tables.
- We will continue to respond and adapt to the needs we perceive.
- We will continue to disrupt the status quo when it doesn't work to serve us all.
- We will continue to act as a field leader: conducting research, following results, developing best practices, and seeking innovation and improvement.
Most of all, we will continue to listen to the youth we serve while advancing racial and economic equity. Youthprise believes that "Nothing about us without us is truly for us," and that youth voice is the key element for success in youth work.