The Youthprise Approach: Advancing Racial Equity through Public Policy

Published on March 13, 2015 | Written by

Unknownby Britt Heinz-Amborn, Policy Fellow

Britt here, public policy student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, UMN. I’m reporting on an exciting partnership underway between Youthprise and the Humphrey School.

Over the last six months, Karen (Youthprise policy director) and I have grappled with the question: just how do we be intentional about examining policy through a “racial equity lens”? We envision a world where race is not a determinant of success for young people, but how do we get there? After conducting an exhaustive search of what’s being done across the country to advance racial equity in the lives of young people, we’re moving forward to implement our findings.

The first step will likely not be a surprise: involve young people. The second is: be intentional, not neutral, about racial equity.

Turns out this is both a process and a product. We’ve adopted a racial equity framework and an assessment tool that will serve as guides to thinking and acting when we take up a policy position. The tool guides us through a set of action-oriented questions based on principles of inclusion, transparency and equity. Chief among these principles is to meaningfully include those most affected by the proposed policy in each stage of the policy process. Like the approach taken by the Youthprise Research & Design team, this requires that we engage the people most impacted by the issue we want to resolve, include their perspective and work with them to determine action steps along the way.

To give this tool a test run, we’re partnering with a few groups of young people in the Twin Cities to help us think about a bill that’s currently in the legislature. Rather than designing the policy that we think will most help them, based on piles of literature and good intentions (though that’s certainly present as well), we’re inviting them to the table. We’re asking for their take and their ideas.

This process not only allows us to practice our values, it elevates the voices of young people, of communities of color; it acknowledges difference across intersecting identities and invites consideration of how a policy will play out across each. In doing this, we take a stand that racial equity is an invaluable tool to build a Minnesota in which all youth thrive.

As an ally and researcher, it is critical that I acknowledge what I don’t know and what I can’t know.  It’s essential that I listen; that I position myself as a learner in the room, not an expert; that my skills are best utilized as a resource and conduit for those most impacted to be heard.

This is what’s attractive to me about Youthprise and why I’m honored to take up the work. Youthprise is in the business of making waves, of thinking big, building capacity for social change, and disrupting the status quo. I believe in a future where race is not a determinant to life’s outcomes; explicitly advancing racial equity through policy is a step on the way there.

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