Re-evaluating Youth Opportunity

Assessing the landscape of youth unemployment programs and goals

Overview

The Schultz Family Foundation has an accomplished past in the way of investing in solutions that help young people realize their potential, including the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative. They are passionate about the impact they had made but wanted a more detailed picture of the obstacles youth faced to gaining economic opportunity, and the ways in which the job market had changed through the 21st century. The Foundation wanted to make sure they were helping the youth as much as they possibly could with better suited metrics and a broader, longer-term time horizon.

With this initial goal in mind, the Social Impact practice at Intentional Futures set out to synthesize and distill desk research, conduct interviews with stakeholders, and present key data to the Foundation, and later would share for a broader audience of philanthropic professionals. iF’s research into youth employment programs around the country revealed that the various actors involved were disadvantaged by a lack of collaboration. In the resulting intentional learning session and replay, we set out to answer the broader question: What barriers exist to youth employment, and how can we strengthen the ecosystem and improve cooperation among all invested stakeholders?

What We Made

To set the stage for the learning session, the iF team began with identifying the opportunity seeking youth, and what exactly makes a good job. We illustrated this by a breakdown of opportunity youth, low wage workers, and low wage students and how each group was either able or unable to access economic opportunities. We then sought to challenge the orthodoxy of “good jobs” that was true 20 years ago-- youth in 2020 are presented with a far narrower range of pathways to good jobs than in 1991.

With a solid base of knowledge, we then presented the case for action. We broke this section into three main challenges facing the youth employment field today: a fragmented landscape, efficacy or scale and inconsistent or unavailable data. Since understanding the landscape was of special interest, we equipped the Foundation with an interactive map.

The system landscape of youth support

Recognizing that the world of social impact relies in equal parts on metrics and pathos appeal, the finished deck personified data-derived youth journeys by common barriers faced. Each archetype synthesized most commonly presenting career identity stages and outcomes.

The traditional youth journey

Impact

After sharing the session with the client, the Foundation asked iF to present to an additional audience of nonprofit stakeholders, philanthropic professionals and funders to begin a new era of collaboration and communication in the field.

While the impact of this work will be revealed over time, the Schultz Family Foundation team communicated that they will be reevaluating their strategy when it comes to youth opportunity over the upcoming year.

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