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Youth supporting youth

Maria Rodriguez's picture

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!



Submitted by Michael Boampong on
There is always a sign of relief when i see initiatives like this. At least i get to know that the world has a future and young people will always do their best to help other young people who have less opportunities for personal development. I always remember past experiences from my youth-led development work when i hear about initiatives like this. When I completed my secondary school education, I decided to take a year off to pursue my dream of creating a youth-led organization. I remember a lawyer whom my team and I approached on a fundraising campaign. He said that

Wow Michael, thank you SO much for sharing your experience with us. I am also relieved (and actually excited!) that everyday we can discover more young people doing a lot of great things for the world. We got so much ahead of us so it's inspiring to read about an experience like yours. Any advice you have for young people like us who are in the middle of building succesful social initatives?

Submitted by Michael Boampong on
Thank you for the compliments Maria. I think most people like you will find this resource useful as the world is in recession. Please visit: What i will add to this is that you will have to make sure that you stay in touch with key persons whom you think can make an impact on your social initiatives. I have come to realized that it is always good to keep in touch with key contacts who are in high positions and are in close connection with what you are doing directly. It will be good to wish them the best on spacial days. Also try to promote your activities online. Make available reports of any kind of activity no matter how small that activity might be. Lastly you must believe in your convictions. Sometimes colleagues whom you started an initiative with might not have the patience's to wait for long term benefits through initial commitments. I always say to interested starters whom i meet that most donors find it hard to commit huge amount of funds into the hands of people who have not demonstrated any project management skills and have some success stories to share with the little resources that they have. It is always good to make commitments at the initial stages and that will prove to be the bases for donors to commit their resources into your hands.

Thank you Michael, very interesting ideas, I am sure that they are very helpful for all bloggers and followers of YouThink! that are working on their own social initiatives or helping other to do so. Please keep tuned to our blog!