2013 National Youth Organizing Field Scan: The State of the Field of Youth Organizing

In 2013, FCYO released its last National Field Scan, the most comprehensive report on the state of the field of youth organizing since its previous scan in 2010.  The report documents a field that has made important advances in grassroots organizing work, supporting the holistic development of young people, engagement with state-level and national social justice networks and alliances, and organizational management and sustainability. The field scan report also identifies significant challenges facing youth organizers, the most pressing of which is a significant decrease in foundation funding. The report offers detailed analysis of the trends, opportunities and challenges currently facing the field, and offers recommendations for funders interested in supporting youth organizing. 

In 2013, the field of youth organizing reached a level of maturity and power not previously seen in its campaign work – the report shows that a majority of respondents engage in a wide variety of campaign issue areas simultaneously, partner with young people and adults, participate in statewide and national networks and alliances at unprecedented levels and have achieved impressive victories at the local, state and national levels. FCYO’s findings also strongly support the power of youth organizing as a civic engagement strategy for young people of color, a rising force in the electorate as evidenced by 2008 & 2012 presidential elections.

The report also focuses on how youth organizers have expanded and deepened programs to support the holistic development of young people – youth support structures have become increasingly formalized across the field, with groups building customized in-house support programs or partnering with service providers to meet the specific needs of young people and their communities. In furthering this work, youth organizing continues to build its capacity to improve outcomes for low-income young people and young people of color in terms of academic performance, college readiness and civic engagement.

While the field has shown considerable advances, and is poised to make significant impact at the many levels on which it operates, it is also experiencing a reduction in funding that could threaten growth. Over 40% of survey respondents reported a recent decrease in foundation funding, and told us of having to make tough decisions when planning for a leaner future. Participants also expressed difficulty navigating an increasingly unstable funding climate, with funding being more issue-focused, shorter-term, and more restrictive. Despite these challenges, youth organizers are exploring innovative ways to efficiently resource their work to build long-term financial sustainability. In line with its recently-launched Field Sustainability Project, FCYO offers analysis and recommendations for supporting sustainability in the field.

As the only national intermediary dedicated to building resources to the field of youth organizing, FCYO has been an important source of knowledge for funders interested in supporting this work since 2000. The 2013 Field Scan offers an important picture of youth organizing at an important time in its history and the broader political moment.