At a time when more than 6.7 million young people are not in school and are unemployed, this cutting-edge Challenge spotlights the power of young people to shape the solutions, and harnesses social media to support social innovation.
“As a White House Council Member, last summer I met with various organizations across the country and the youth that they serve,” said Jon Bon Jovi. “What I saw on these visits were bright, determined, focused young people who were seeking out opportunities to overcome obstacles. These young individuals have learned which services work and which don’t. They have learned that working with like-minded organizations in their communities can create jobs and opportunities.”
“The SparkOpportunity Challenge is a platform for all youth to submit solutions and potentially have their ideas for reconnecting their peers come to life,” says Jon Bon Jovi.
The SparkOpportunity Challenge (SPARKOPPORTUNITY.ORG) calls on young people to submit videos or text detailing their solutions and use social media to campaign for the ideas that they think can really work. The top-voted winners will receive an iPad, start-up grants of $1,500, and mentoring from recognized business and policy leaders to see their ideas brought to life locally.
The Challenge was developed by SparkAction, an initiative of the nonprofit Forum for Youth Investment, and The Youth Leadership Institute, along with a coalition of leading youth organizations across the country.
Organizers are launching this online effort in response to the White House Council for Community Solutions’ call for the nation to do more to reconnect young people with the education, training and comprehensive social supports critical for long-term employment and lifelong economic independence.
The Challenge is designed to spotlight youth-driven solutions and identify new ideas from young people from all walks of life. All solutions are fair game, from entrepreneurial start-ups to ideas for social change.
“Lifting the voices of youth to forge innovative solutions is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing as well. We are delighted to be part of an effort that does just that,” says C.J. Callen, CEO of the Youth Leadership Institute. The Institute has formed a National Youth Ambassadors initiative to build opportunities for stakeholders in communities to hear the unique and vital perspectives of young people seeking pathways to educational and employment opportunities.
“The Youth Ambassadors bring strong ideas to the table and are the most effective role models and mentors for struggling youth because of what they’ve overcome and what they’ve achieved,” says Caitlin Johnson, co-founder of SparkAction.org, which hosted the highly successful “Ask the Secretary” contest for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during the National Youth Summit.
“The SparkOpportunity Challenge will amplify the work of the National Youth Ambassadors initiative, providing all young people across the country a chance to share their solutions to some of the greatest challenges they face—unemployment and the lack of opportunities—and make a real difference,” says Johnson.
To join the SparkOpportunity Challenge, young people and their adult allies can visit SPARKOPPORTUNITY.ORG, submit ideas to create jobs and opportunities, and vote for the ones they think can work.
About the Partnership: the SparkOpportunity Challenge is led by three organizations:
The Forum for Youth Investment is a nonprofit, nonpartisan “action tank” dedicated to helping communities and the nation make sure all young people are Ready by 21®: ready for college, work and life. It was founded by Karen Pittman, a nationally recognized pioneer of the field of youth development in the United States.
SparkAction, which developed the Challenge idea and platform, is a collaborative journalism and advocacy website to mobilize action by and for children and youth. Its stories and action tools help concerned young people and adults get informed and get involved across the full range of issues affecting children, youth and families.
The Youth Leadership Institute has been an innovative leader in field of youth development for over 20 years, working to build communities that invest in youth and support young people in their work for effective community change. YLI serves youth and communities through advocacy, training and consulting services, and through community-based programs.