The Challenge by linzhengnd


									The Challenge
Too many youth are being pushed to the side. Bad schools, gang profiling, few jobs,
random violence -- circumstances such as these make it hard for youth to believe that
they make a difference in their lives, the lives of their peers, and in their communities.
Powerlessness is the message. Disconnection is the outcome.

We all suffer when young people disengage.                   What young people dream
is what society becomes. Their intellect and passions can fuel a society based on
hopefulness, connection and social justice or one based on fear, indifference, and

                                                        Our View
At Youth In Focus, we believe youth are powerful. They have control over themselves.
They have influence with their peers. They see the world in novel different ways. We
believe that this is especially true for youth most at the margins in society.
From our viewpoint, knowledge         = power    . By harnessing individual experiences
and understanding, youth can generate shared knowledge about themselves and their
peers. They can play critically informed and powerful roles in shaping their own futures
and ours. When youth and adults jointly hold knowledge and power, they become
partners in creating a socially just world.
Our Role
Youth In Focus is a nonprofit consulting and training organization that promotes youth
empowerment, organizational improvement, and community change. We bring youth
and their adult partners together in Youth REP – a process of youth-led action
Research, Evaluation and Planning. When youth engage in Youth REP,
young people play critically informed and powerful roles in shaping their own futures,
and collaborate with each other and with adults to improve the institutions and
communities that affect their lives. Since 1990, Youth In Focus has worked with
thousands of youth, in over 200 projects, and in dozens of communities, leading youth in
powerful experiential learning in the service of positive social change.

The Work
Field-tested and developed over 15 years, Youth REP is a curriculum that engages youth
and the sponsoring organization in a youth-led action research, evaluation, and planning
process. In a typical Youth REP project, young people receive 6-9 months of intensive
and experiential training in the methods and concepts of youth-led research, evaluation
and planning. This training includes interactive discussions, simulations and role-plays,
small and large group work sessions, field trips, secondary research on their topics, and
guest speakers and field trips. Through these activities, youth participants define a
research/ evaluation topic, develop and implement a rigorous research design, analyze
data, develop findings and recommendations, document
and present their analysis, and develop action plans to
implement their recommendations.

Through Youth REP projects, youth and adults engage
in new roles– youth learn to determine the direction of
their learning and the project, while adults gain skills in scaffolding rather than restricting
meaningful youth voice and leadership. YIF’s projects help bring youth voice to
reshaping institutions that serve youth (educational, health, juvenile justice, community
development) to be more responsive to their needs, assets, and aspirations, and more
inclusive of their leadership. YIF provides our organizational partners with innovative
and site-specific training, coaching, curriculum design, and facilitation to build their
capacity to support, sustain, and celebrate youth-led research, evaluation and planning
processes in their organizations and communities.
Three Initiatives
Youth In Focus seeks to partner with organizations that serve youth and communities
typically marginalized by mainstream policies and institutions. In particular, we seek
offer Youth REP in the service of youth of color, immigrant youth, LGBTQ youth and
low-income youth. Youth REP projects fall into one of our three current initiative areas:

The Education Justice Initiative (EJI) brings youth voices and experiences to
forefront of decisions made about educational reforms and schooling. The EJI works to
promote increased youth engagement in school improvement, leadership development,
and decision-making and to link youth work to local action in education equity in the Bay
Area. Past projects and partners have included: Oakland Unified School District,
San Francisco School District, OASIS Charter School, San Francisco Education Fund’s
Peer Resources, Coalition of Essential Schools, Cross-Cities Campaign for Urban School
Reform, Youth Together, and Youth Empowerment School.

The Health Justice Initiative (HJI) supports youth-led action research and
evaluation on health issues that youth identify in the Bay Area. The HJI supports LGBTQ
youth of color in conducting action research on health issues broadly defined, to include
issues relating to identity, mental health, community health, and access. Through this
work, the HJI addresses health impacts on youth in respect to racism, poverty, violence,
HIV/AIDS and STIs, relationships, sex work, drugs and alcohol, and any other issues
young people identify as affecting their well being. An example project includes the
current work of the Youth Empowerment Team and the San Francisco Lesbian Gay
Bisexual Transgender Center. Despite the city’s reputation, the team found significant
needs among LGBTQ youth in San Francisco. The team presented its findings to a room
of over 150 people, including elected officials, foundation staff, service providers, and
their peers. For their work, the youth will receive a KQED Local Hero’s Award on June

The Central Valley Initiative (CVI) engages youth and their adult partners in
using youth-led action research, evaluation, and planning to document and reverse the
“school to jail house pipeline” and to elevate the voices of youth among youth-serving
organizations in the Central Valley. Youth REP projects in the Central Valley focus on
education equity, disciplinary policies, educational reforms, and other issues that affect
the ability of youth to become active and productive citizens in their schools and
communities. Example projects and partners include, Davis High School and the
Catalysts for Social Justice, Sacramento Unified School District, Madera Youth Leaders,
Fathers Matter (Stockton), and Freedom Bound Center (Sacramento). The CVI provides
technical assistance and support to ESPINO – Escuela Si! Pintas No! – the first youth-led
organizing group in the Central Valley.
Our History
We were born from the desire to address the cultural and political oppression of Tibetan
refugees facing a national education system (in Nepal) that did not value, reflect or
transmit their language, history, or identity. Nancy Erbstein and Kristen Zimmerman
founded The Intercultural Oral History Project (ICOHP) – an affiliate of Cultural
Survival – in 1990 to develop education programs for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile
through which Tibetan refugee youth in Nepal would be trained to collect and document
oral histories of their elders. Jonathan London joined Youth In Focus in 1991 to adapt the
ICOHP program in partnership with a Nepali NGO called the Annapurna Conservation
Area Project, to focus on issues of cultural and ecological change with youth from a
Nepali ethnic group called the Gurungs.

These early programs established several basic values and characteristics of the
organization that would become Youth In Focus. First, local knowledge needs to be
central in any educational program or system. Second, learning by doing (project based
learning) is a powerful way to make education come alive. Third, youth (like all learners)
can be empowered by creating tangible products from their learning such as self-created
reports, booklets, exhibits and so on. Fourth, our programs
must strive to serve as a bridge between multiple
constituencies, institutions and worlds. Fifth, our work as
program developers needs to build local capacity to ensure
sustainability. Finally, as an organization, we grow from
the passions, values, and skills of the staff.

Once settled back in the United States (San Francisco Bay Area) the three co-founders
developed Community LORE (Learning through Oral History Education) to adapt their
work in South Asia to urban America. We worked in high schools and worked with
classroom teachers to infuse a youth-led research component into traditional classes as
well as through school-based programs such as Healthy Start. By exploring local issues
and contexts first hand, through interviews with other youth, local leaders, and other
community members, learning become more meaningful and relevant. By 1994, we a
adapted our youth-led research model for use in youth-led program evaluation and
applied it in a range of community-based organizations, as well as at broader scales, such
as the San Francisco juvenile justice system. The notion behind these projects was that
youth – as clients and constituents of programs, organizations, and institutions – are
ideally positioned to serve as evaluators of the same. This later became know as Youth
REP (youth-led research, evaluation and planning.) By 2000, Community LORE became
Youth In Focus, in order to reflect our observation about how difficult it was for youth-
serving organizations and institutions to focus on actual youth experiences and youth
needs. Today, Youth In Focus has a budget of over half a million (from $150,000 in
1999), two offices, and five full-time and two part-time staff.
Our Supporters
Foundations (partial listing)
Cricket Island Foundation                Rumsey Foundation
East Bay Community Foundation            San Francisco Foundation
Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund          W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation
Walter and Elise Haas Sr. Foundation     Surdna Foundation
Walter S. Johnson Foundation             Teichert Foundation
W. K. Kellogg Foundation

Individual Donors
Bernardo Reyes                           Michael J. Gast
Carl Mack                                Nantambu Mwanga
Charles & Laurla Lacy                    Otis & Willa Benning
Craig McGarvey                           Pamela Perry
Crosby & Kaneda                          Paul & Dorothy-Sue Lotke
Cyrus Kandawalla                         Paul Kivel & Mary Luckey
David & Roberta Ann Murphy               Peter London
Diana London                             Peter Mathews & Jacqueline Gong
Earl & Mavis Heyward                     R.L. Phillips
Elena Silva                              Rachel Tompkins
Elizabeth Guillen                        Robert & Lynda Jaros
Erica Etelson & David Melly              Robin Dewey
Frederick & Catherine Short              Roshan Kandawalla
Harold Jackson                           Sara Sobel
Helaina & Richard Kravitz                Sarah E. Glasser
J. L. Jursnich                           Shai Lavie
Jennifer Gong                            Sheldon I & Margery P London
Jerome A. Feldman                        Steven & Deborah Horowitz
Jesse Bachrach                           Tarabu Betserai Kirkland
Jonathan London & Nancy Erbstein         Tom Malarkey
Katherine Kolbert & Richard Rubinstein   Vigfus & Ruth Asmundson
Larry W. Collins                         Warren & Laurie Treacher
Linda & Bob Erbstein                     Wilder Management Services
Marc Braverman & Jana Kay Slater         William & Elaine Horwitz Bachrach
Marie & Robert Bockwinkel                Union Bank (Davis)
Marilee Eusebio

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