We represent the National Youth Employment Coalition’s staff, as well as board members who have led the effort to develop a new strategic roadmap for NYEC. At our Annual Forum in December we hosted a discussion of the roadmap for the next 10 years. We received some great feedback, which the working groups crafting the roadmap have incorporated. We are providing an overview of these priorities as they stand today, and how you can contribute to NYEC’s next chapter.
While NYEC has been working for more than 40 years to create an equitable transition to adulthood for all young people, we know that the way current systems and policies are designed cannot meet this moment. In addition to a lack of resources, they reflect the racism, sexism, ableism, and ageism of our society. For example, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 4.6 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 were opportunity youth, not in school or working. New data suggests that now as many as 1 in 3 young people are disconnected, more than 10 million.
The seismic shifts exacerbated by the pandemic demand a radically different approach. Groups of NYEC members have worked throughout 2020 to develop a roadmap for the next 10 years – the period over which we will be seeing labor-market ramifications exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are defining three priority areas of work we will pursue, and laying out a detailed action plan for the next two years.
What Are the Challenges NYEC Tackles?
We know that many organizations are doing amazing work to create good jobs and training opportunities for young people. More than 3,000 such nonprofit organizations exist today. These organizations are deeply connected to their communities and to the young people they serve, but they often have limited resources, national connections, and political influence.
Similarly, at regional and national levels, many organizations are tackling pieces of the systemic problems facing young people: building youth power, documenting the staggering disparities facing young people of color and youth with disabilities in our labor market, creating place-based collaboratives that look across systems to solve problems, collecting best practices and proposing scalable frameworks, advocating on behalf of and with young people at statehouse and in Washington. There are organizations doing admirable work in all these areas, but they may lack relationships with a cross-section of organizations doing work on the ground – and the young people affected by our various human-services systems.
How Does NYEC Contribute to a Solution?
NYEC brings together the capacities and players needed for an equitable transition to adulthood, and to implement it. NYEC is the bridge for practitioners to national conversations and their voice. NYEC is a conduit between policymakers and those on the ground. NYEC is a meeting ground and incubator for solutions.
NYEC brings to the table a national base of member organizations, a longtime focus on racial equity, deep connections with the field and with policymakers, and a growing area of expertise in youth-adult partnership.
NYEC’s biggest strength is in mobilizing a nationwide and diverse set of audiences – young leaders, frontline practitioners, program directors, system leaders, funders, researchers, and others – to achieve big goals. NYEC is the hub: one organization cannot solve the thorny, systemic problems that have brought us to a pandemic year, nor address the lasting consequences of 2020. But NYEC can make sure connections are made, solutions are shared, and young people are at the center.
What We Believe: Principles for Our Work
Our efforts will be guided by principles that reflect the needs of young people and strengthen communities.
- Center Race and Gender Equity
- Expand Opportunities for the Most Vulnerable
- Invest in Capacity Building and Local Decision-Making
- Co-Design Solutions with Young People
- Prepare the Next Generation of Leaders
Additionally, our work is grounded in recognition and appreciation of the amazing work that so many individuals and organizations are already doing to expand opportunities for young people. NYEC’s work must be done in authentic partnership with these individuals and organizations, and must be additive, not duplicative, at all points.
Our Strategic Priorities for 2021-2031
Over the next 10 years, NYEC will write a new chapter. We hope you will rally around our strategic priorities:
- Sharing Information with and Setting a Vision for the Field: NYEC is uniquely positioned as a membership organization to translate practice to policy, and to incubate ideas that build upon the experience and insights of our membership. As we grow and diversify NYEC’s membership, we will continue to foster interconnectedness and peer knowledge sharing among practitioners, youth leaders, and policymakers.
- Policy, Advocacy and Cohering the Field: NYEC will drive policies that guarantee economic mobility for all young people in the United States, positioning NYEC as a go-to voice on youth policy for federal policymakers. This work will build upon decades of insights, publications and projects by NYEC and its partners to confront systemic challenges facing young people.
- Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders: NYEC will strive to become a model for youth-adult partnership, acknowledging the power of youth and giving legitimacy to their lived experience. NYEC will cultivate the next generation of field leaders through professional development, mentorship, and opportunities for national impact.
We don’t have all the answers, we are learning, growing and adapting to the changing environment like many other orgs but what is clear is our principles that guide our work and decision making.
Our Action Plan for 2021 and 2022
Sharing Information with and Setting a Vision for the Field
Though the youth field has made enormous strides over the past decades, efforts continue to be fragmented and outcomes are disparate for our most vulnerable youth. Across the country service providers need access to up-to-date best practices, new funding sources, and opportunities to collaborate across sector. To strengthen connections among members, disseminate more resources, and grow our membership, over the next two years we will:
- Build community through tailored working groups and cohorts focused on professional development and project-based work;
- Create more opportunities on the federal level, at NYEC convenings and within academia, to connect members with policymakers; and
- Strengthen NYEC’s website to add a members-only section, spark interaction among members, and offer more writing opportunities.
Policy, Advocacy and Cohering the Field
All young people need access to economic mobility to live healthy and productive lives. Today, a patchwork of policies attempts to make this possible, but a unified and bolder strategy is needed to make it a reality. NYEC will set out to cohere the field around a framework that equitably strengthens the transition to adulthood for youth 14-24 year old. Over the next two years we will:
- Develop and receive buy-in from NYEC members around a comprehensive youth agenda that centers dismantling systems of oppression;
- Create spaces for organizations and young people to work together to create solutions for issues affecting young people;
- Leverage elected leaders and champions for moving policies forward, including through the the U.S Congress, governors, and mayors;
- Sustain existing federal advocacy coalitions, invite new partners, and create new venues.
Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders
NYEC has a successful track record of organizing major convenings, convening monthly learning opportunities, creating and updating trainings, and supporting young-adult leadership. NYEC will double down on its field-building focus by offering professional development opportunities that cultivate the next generation of leaders.
Over the next two years, NYEC will:
- Join with other national opportunity-youth organizations to establish standards for successful and meaningful youth engagement;
- Support member organizations to build sustainable and impactful local and regional young-adult leadership bodies; and
- Increase young-adult representation on NYEC’s staff and in its leadership bodies, including the board of directors, while providing access to mentorship and advancement.
How can you help NYEC build the field?
For NYEC to tackle these critical needs requires growing NYEC’s membership, relationships with funders, and convening revenue. Your organization can join NYEC to get access to our new Member Portal, support staff to attend our convenings to connect with colleagues, share effective practices and policy recommendations, and partner with us on projects or workshops. We will be rolling out new member benefits throughout 2021, and new ways to showcase their great work. We hope you will join us on the journey.