In the United States, roughly 4.9 million youth ages 16 to 24 are not in school or working. This figure translates into one in seven young Americans. Youth disconnection profoundly impacts individuals and society, resulting in unfulfilled lives and staggering social costs. The challenge of youth disconnection reach even greater proportions across the globe, with one third of the world’s 1.2 billion youth neither employed, nor in education and training. We refer to this group of disconnected youth as “opportunity youth;” a term they choose for themselves to bring focus to their potential.
Recognizing that solutions to global challenges transcend national boundaries, in 2016, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) launched (Re)Connecting Youth: Exchanging Global Lessons. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), this two-year initiative sought to identify and share innovative global approaches for increasing youth connection with practitioners, policymakers, and funders across the United States. Ultimately, the goal was to foster learning and energize support for holistic solutions aimed at providing millions of youth in the U.S. who are not in work or school with opportunities to lead healthy, productive lives.
(Re)Connecting Youth had three goals:
- Learn from global innovations and proven practices to enhance U.S. stakeholders’ ability to improve connectedness and resilience among adolescents and young adults
- Identify practitioners, policymakers, and funders who are receptive to and could benefit from global learning experiences and provide them with opportunities for dialogue and exchange to encourage the incorporation of more holistic and effective approaches to positive youth development
- Implement and learn from approaches to successfully facilitate cross-country learning exchange, so that global ideas can inform approaches within the U.S.
The U.S. project team prioritized global approaches that were holistic and that incorporated at least one of the following thematic features:
- Youth involved in the design and delivery of programs for opportunity youth to promote peer-led programming, youth leadership, civic engagement, and movement building.
- Social-emotional and life skills integrated into second chance, job readiness, vocational training, and other programs serving opportunity youth.
- Creative engagement and recruitment strategies involving sports, play, or culture used to appeal to youth participants.
- Labor market analysis and employer engagement considered to ensure that youth are acquiring the skills needed to succeed.
Learn more about the (Re)Connecting Youth Framework, and Learning Exchanges, and dig into lessons learned through the final report, Lessons Across Borders: The Role of Young Protagonists in Fostering Youth Reconnection.
For more on (Re)Connecting Youth, Contact Giovany Delgado.
Support for this initiative was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.