Mission & Purpose

Founded in 2000, the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) is a dynamic collective of social justice funders and youth organizing practitioners dedicated to advancing youth organizing as a strategy for youth development and social change. FCYO’s mission is to increase resources to the field of youth organizing and promote the leadership of low-income young people and young people of color in social justice organizing. Our work is focused on the following program areas:

  • Strategic Grantmaking & Capacity Building: to strengthen the organizational capacity, sustainability, power, and efficacy of youth organizing groups
  • Infrastructure Development: to build a more connected youth organizing field with shared strategies to engage more young people, expand power, and address pressing issues
  • Funder Advocacy, Advisory, and Learning: to build an aligned and growing base of funders committed to youth organizing
  • Research and Communications: to expand the base of knowledge about the impacts of youth organizing and develop a shared narrative around this work

History

During the 1990's, youth organizing gained considerable momentum as a viable way for young people (ages 12-24) to realize their leadership potential and effect concrete changes in their communities and local institutions. Where just a handful of youth organizing groups existed ten years ago, now over 100 community-based efforts across the country are engaging thousands of youth to wage strategic, intentional campaigns around public school reform, environmental justice, police brutality, welfare reform, youth services funding, the prison and criminal justice system, and a host of other issues.

In pursuit of a vision of democratic participation, principled leadership and social change, these youth have secured sizeable victories over the last decade or so. In the process, they are gaining critical awareness and knowledge, analytical and problem-solving skills, and renewed hope that change and improvement is possible. Youth organizing has particularly appealed to some of the nation's most marginalized youth, including poor youth, youth of color, and out-of-school youth.

FCYO was founded to respond to two immediate needs in the field of youth organizing:

  • The need for commitment, support and resources for long-term stability, sustainability and wider impact of youth organizing groups given their growth, maturation and challenges.
  • The need for sustained, expanded support and funding for youth organizing beyond philanthropic trends. 

In 1997, a group of grantmakers (Ford Foundation, Edward W. Hazen Foundation, Jewish Fund for Justice, Merck Family Fund, Open Society Institute, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Surdna Foundation) hosted a briefing about the leadership of young people and advancing positive systemic changes in the community. Drawing over 75 funders, the event signified a clear groundswell of activity and interest around this powerful strategy called youth organizing. Recognizing that scarce resources were targeted to this relatively young but promising field, the working group issued a mandate for a collaborative funder effort to catalyze support for youth organizing. In 2000, the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing was formally launched.

FCYO seeks to bring about a society in which young people are integral leaders and decision-makers in their own lives and communities, and in which the systems and institutions that serve them and their families are held accountable. Youth are one of the largest, fastest growing and increasingly diverse populations in the U.S. today. Given the current disinvestment in quality public education and strong community infrastructures, and the parallel increase in fast track poverty, unemployment and incarceration, the vision of FCYO is even more urgent.

To date, FCYO, with its funding partners, have disbursed over $6.5 million dollars to the field of youth organizing, and has worked with over 75 foundations and youth organizing groups across the country to continue to build the field of youth organizing.