According to a Measure of America report released on March 8, nearly 100,000 youth in Phoenix, AZ ages 16-24 were “disconnected” in 2010— neither enrolled in school nor employed in work. In less than a decade, however, the community has decreased its disconnected youth population more than any other metro area, by 26%, down to 74,000 currently. A great deal of the credit for this drop goes to a collective effort of nearly 100 businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, schools, and political leaders, who joined together to create Opportunities for Youth, a partnership working towards reducing the number of disconnected youth in Phoenix.
Opportunities for Youth provides connection and support for participating organizations to help them coordinate services to disconnected youth. It also helps raise awareness of the issue and advocates for policies at the local and state level to underwrite efforts to reduce the number of disconnected youth. In addition, the organization works with local employers to create job pathways for youth and hosts several youth job fairs each year.
“I’m giving them a big thumbs up,” said Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America, a national organization that produces youth-disconnection reports. “We’ve been watching Phoenix closely. They really brought together all of the key players. They took it on in such a serious way, saying, ‘We can’t be last.'”
Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) recognizes that many cities want to collaboratively address the needs of children, youth, and families. The City of Little Rock turned to ACS to develop the city’s first ever three-year Master Plan for Children, Youth, and Families in February 2015. Little Rock’s Master Plan was completed in June 2016 and provided a clear roadmap for a coordinated, citywide approach relevant to the needs, desires, and expectations of its residents. Read the full case study here to learn more about how ACS used facilitation expertise, strategy development, research, and community engagement to build capacity and create new city processes and a strategic roadmap for children, youth, and families.