In last week’s post I mentioned Youth Factor (YF), a U.S.-based non-profit that supports COJDECA (the Guatemalan youth empowerment project). Well, as promised, this post is about YF as another example of what youth can do to make this world a better place.
YF is a joint effort between young professionals from diverse countries who realized that their abilities and resources could be used to support grassroots youth organizations like COJDECA. Incorporated in fall of 2008, the mission of YF is to “advance youth empowerment globally by forging strategic partnerships to achieve greater outcomes for youths and communities”. As YF’s Directive Board puts it, “Youth Factor sees young people as the world’s most underestimated factor for affecting change in communities, programs, and policy. As of 2008, there were nearly 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 on the planet. That is the largest number of youths the world has ever seen. We cannot ignore the potential power of this rising generation. Young people are taking a lead in community and global change, but they need our help.”
YF identifies and supports projects aimed at improving the futures of marginalized youths and the communities in which they live. Based on a venture philanthropy philosophy, it “invests” time, skills, and resources in these projects. Personally, I am very interested in this kind of approach, because it is focused on a program’s potential to achieve social results (social profitability), which I think is so much more effective than pure philanthropy. That is why I accepted the invitation to volunteer with YF and in this way support COJDECA, and other similar organizations, to achieve better social outcomes for our countries.
In September 2008, I had the opportunity to meet the majority of YF members, at a retreat in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. Although I had already worked with them for one year (over the phone and e-mail), this was the first opportunity I had to meet almost all of them in person. It was so fulfilling to share a weekend with such amazing young people! YF members come from diverse countries (United States, Bulgaria, China, Guatemala, Venezuela and Colombia) and from diverse professional backgrounds (finance, business administration, political science, history, psychology, philosophy, environmental studies, engineering, architecture, and international studies). This diversity put to work is an amazing tool to support youth organizations out there that are working everyday for their communities. In the picture you can see some of YF members at the mentioned retreat.
YF operates on a network structure, in which different entities and organizations are connected to contribute to YF’s mission. In the case of COJDECA, through this network YF does fundraising for its activities, trains the youth in leadership and management skills, and supports them in the design of communication tools to promote their initiative among different stakeholders. For example, as I learned from an article written by YF member Mark Owens, Danya International, a social impact driven company promoting health and education solutions through science, technology, and creativity, became an early partner of YF with a generous contribution of USD$5,000 to further the mission of empowering the youth of Guatemala. Dr. Hoffman (Danya founder and CEO) shared his impression of the youth by saying "This seemed to be a very meaningful youth development program for youth who would otherwise receive minimal education, work in fields, or possibly get involved in negative social activities. Every village and community should have a grogram like this that educates and empowers their youth to take a more active role in their self-development and making a contribution to the community." It is YF’s objective to connect potential funders like Danya International to the work youth do on the ground, something that is not easily achieved otherwise.
YF members usually provide the training in leadership and management skills themselves. In the picture, YF member Matt Morton is having a meeting with COJDECA’s Executive Committee, in which a number of ideas for the strengthening of COJDECA’s leadership were being discussed. Approximately two visits per year are scheduled for each of the YF partners’ projects, to enrich the partnership with personal exchanges of ideas and better knowledge of the reality in which each project is working.
As you can see, YF is formed by young people, just like you and me! It’s amazing how many ways are there to work for having a better present and future for our world. What do you think about YF’s model? Does it give you any ideas for organizations that you may start? Or are you already working/volunteering with an organization based on a venture philanthropy model? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it!