Investing in Youth: A Conversation with Dr. Robert K. Ross and The CA Endowment President’s Youth Council
By: Brady Press
This post is part of a series highlighting sessions from the SOCAP 2020 Virtual Global Impact Summit. Continue reading for information on the role of youth in impact investing and philanthropy.
- We need youth representation in philanthropy, Congress, schools, etc. for full economic participation and full health and wellness to make real change in the US
- Including youth in philanthropy and investment decisions broadens perspectives, pushes the status quo and creates more inclusive impact
- We should be creating an intergenerational, intersectional trajectory that is tailored to youth power in a way that isn’t tokenizing or marginalizing youth — not just bringing them on to say you have diversity on your board but actually grasping their voices, stories and experiences
The California Endowment’s President’s Youth Council (PYC) is a body of youth ambassadors across California that serve in partnership with CEO Robert K. Ross to ultimately shape The California Endowment’s investments and culture. The PYC has served as a precursor to TCE’s Advancing Racial Equity process. This session speaks to the innovative practice of engaging young people as authentic thought-partners and how youth-led narrative change, empowerment and governance is critical for movement work.
- Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment
- Leslie (Lupe) Renteria Salome, PYC Ambassadors for Youth, President’s Youth Council
- Karla Ortiz, PYC Ambassadors for Youth, President’s Youth Council
- Jahiem “Geo” Jones, PYC Ambassadors for Youth, President’s Youth Council
Why did you create the President’s Youth Council (PYC)?
Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment
- This is probably the most important social justice moment in the last 100 years and young people are always at the forefront of social justice change (John Lewis, MLK Jr., Malcom X, etc.). I wanted to always make sure I had young people in my brain to inform my role as a foundation president; I want to be close to the ideas of young people
- At the California Endowment, we have a 10-year strategic plan and a corresponding youth action plan on how we should invest our grant dollars. We established the Youth Council 7 years ago; we have 14 healthy community sites across the state of California and we try to have 1 youth representative from each site (ranging from ages 16–24)
- The Youth Council members come from distressed and difficult neighborhoods around California and we meet 4 times per year to talk through strategies, topics and issues
- Some of the ideas from the Youth Council that we’re beginning to put into practice are:
- The importance of full inclusion on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation
- The importance of trauma; young people are reporting a lot of trauma that impacts their health and wellness and have informed me of the need to have a more trauma-informed approach to our grant making and strategies
- Ideas like finding community based alternatives to youth prisons and the Youth Philanthropy Institute where grants are provided by the Youth Council that encourage entrepreneurship for wellness and making sure there are community spaces dedicated to healing, restoration, reflection and gathering and kinship. These spaces will hopefully be owned by the communities they’re located in and are intended to move wellness and healing forward
Karla Ortiz, PYC Ambassadors for Youth, President’s Youth Council
- As we’re doing these action plans we’re always thinking about the importance of the ideas of young people and also challenging these ideas, pushing older folks to come out of their comfort zone
- We’re all about shifting and changing the narrative that has been in place for so long, A lot of our grant money went to healing youth trauma and the leadership pipeline
- More institutions should be funding young people and training and teaching them what philanthropy looks like — what does it even mean to grant money?
- PYC is unique because all of us are young people who are on the grounds doing the work and who know what our community needs and how to show up in the best way
- My biggest takeaway from PYC was the development and growth — development of myself as an organizer and someone who has a taste of what philanthropy looks like and all that goes into it
- I recommend to all young people to create authentic relationships and meet people halfway. Understand adultism and work together. PYC is creating this intergenerational approach where we’re always trying to invite our elders into the space as well
Jahiem “Geo” Jones, PYC Ambassadors for Youth, President’s Youth Council
- I joined the PYC when I was 16 and just learning what a W9 is. It’s important to invest in youth but even much younger than 16; it’s grabbing youth in middle school and putting them into these positions of power
- I know bringing in younger members can seem scary to board members, but it’s about taking that risk and asking what do we actually see in this young person that frightens us? Is it because they’ll be creative and have a different perspective?
- We have to be able to guide youth and see how we can help them navigate their career paths because not everyone wants to work in philanthropy or social justice — how can we craft a professional development pipeline that is tailored to getting them to the career they want so they can be successful
- We should be creating an intergenerational, intersectional trajectory that is tailored to what we call youth organizing and youth power that isn’t tokenizing or marginalizing them, that’s not just bringing them on so you can say you have diversity and youth on your board but actually grasping their voices, stories and experiences
- My advice to young people is to be vulnerable and be able to voice what you need. It’s scary, but being able to say what you need right now (whether its transportation, mental health needs, etc.) is a rare opportunity
Dr. Ross, knowing you’ve been in partnership with PYC for years, what does a youth adult partnership look like?
Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment
- Sometimes you can tokenize young people’s participation if you’re not careful. You really have to bring young people on board with the seriousness adults see in one another, which requires humility, grace and dignity
- Young people by definition are passionate and impatient and will push us to uncomfortable places, but that’s what we need to make real change in this country
- Even if I don’t do everything they want me to do, they’re pushing me. This is exactly what we need in philanthropy, in Congress, in schools, etc. for full economic participation and full health and wellness
- It’s important that these young people show up with their full selves and their full visions. Don’t show up trying to be an adult — be vulnerable and share your greatest fears and struggles in addition to hopes and dreams
Want to know more?
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