20 Years of Power: The 2020 National Youth Organizing Field Scan–Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing

Since its inception 20 years ago, the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) has served to connect youth organizing practitioners, funders, and stakeholders to a wide range of resources designed to strengthen the field of youth organizing. As part of its major contributions, FCYO routinely publishes scans of the youth organizing field. FCYO Field Scans provide a wide-angled view of the youth organizing field at a particular moment in time, contextualized in the field’s history and accompanied by a forecast of where the field’s contributions might lead in coming years. Previous field scans were published in 2004, 2010, and 2013. 

This year, the 2020 National Youth Organizing Field Scan comprises a series of four reports that together offer an in-depth look into a field that has grown significantly over the last two decades. This report – the largest and most comprehensive of the four – shares findings across several data sources and concludes by bringing FCYO leaders and researchers into conversation about the state of the youth organizing field. Its contents include discussions about the ways in which youth organizing groups navigate complex social and political landscapes to address pressing issues as well as the field’s spectrum of engagement models, budgets, and staffing, all of which are important indicators of the field’s growth and viability. Collectively, this report offers an understanding of how far the field has come in the past 20 years and a vision of where it is headed. 

Accompanying this report are Poised to Lead, a quick and accessible snapshot of the youth organizing field in this moment; Investing in the Power of Young People: 20 Years of Philanthropic Support for Youth Organizing, a funder scan that highlights the maturity of the field of foundations supporting this work; and a third, yet-to-be-titled report offering a deeper look at youth organizing to improve the health of our nation. 

Data from this report were collected through a year-long, mixed methods scan of the field of youth organizing, including a survey completed by 312 youth organizing groups as well as interviews and focus groups with 59 youth organizing leaders across 38 organizations. The survey was administered and analyzed by Dr. Veronica Terriquez with support from Jonathan Sanchez. Interviews and focus group data were collected and analyzed by the Research Hub for Youth Organizing at CU Boulder and led by Dr. Siomara Valladares and Dr. Michelle Renée Valladares with support from Matt Garcia, Kate Baca, and Dr. Ben Kirshner. Interviews with funders were collected and analyzed by Dr. Seema Shah at Comm|Veda Consulting. This report is a collaboration between FCYO and the University of Colorado Boulder; the analyses and writing in this report was led by the Research Hub in consultation with FCYO staff. 

As a research team, we wish to acknowledge that it is impossible to determine how much of the increase in survey responses from groups over the years is the result of an actual increase in the number of organizations that exist in 2020 versus changes in data collection methodology or the growing credibility and networking power of FCYO as an organization. The idea that more organizations exist in more states and in better communication is backed up by interview and focus group data. Importantly, each field scan was methodologically different and led by different research teams. When we make comparisons across scans from different years, we make the best comparisons we can, but these comparisons are not perfect. 

As authors, we are profoundly inspired and indebted to the youth organizing leaders who took precious time away from their organizing to respond to the survey and participate in our conversations. We humbly hope that we accurately convey the same level of urgency, commitment, and dedication demonstrated by youth leaders throughout this year.