From 2014-2017, Urban Strategies Council was honored to serve as the backbone for the Oakland-Alameda County Opportunity Youth Initiative. This prestigious three-year pilot was funded by the Aspen Institute at 26 sites throughout the nation, to better understand and serve the needs of Opportunity Youth. The Aspen Institute continues to create space to share best practices and continued learning about the dynamic issues most pressing young adults by hosting bi-annual convenings of its former sites.

Several staff attended its most recent convening in Renton, Washington which overlooks the Seattle skyline.

A conference highlight was a powerful keynote address by john a. powell on the importance of Targeted Universalism and how necessary this transformational approach is to not only respecting individualism, but also in dignifying the greater good.  powell identified targeted universalism as the optimal approach in crafting policy by which universal goals (like healthcare and education) are achieved through approaches that do not single out any one demographic group. In theory, this approach lessens disparities while increasing access, opportunity, and equity.

Opportunity Youth are among the most fluid populations, which makes them difficult to track.  There is no one measure of a disconnected young adult, thus no single approach to reduce their numbers in Alameda County, or America for that matter. The more familiar we become with common characteristics of this population and their expressed needs, the more targeted we can be in increasing positive outcomes for their self-sufficiency, education, and employment.

The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, through the Opportunity Youth Forum, continues to provide space for national convenings with its former sites. The objective of creating this space is for partners to share universal goals and targeted approaches for increasing positive outcomes in the lives of young adults ages 18-24.  The Opportunity Youth Forum also holds important space for overlapping projects like the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. By bringing organizations doing similar work out of their silos, they are better able to learn and alignment around universal goals and targeted outcomes.

In addition to its backbone role for the Oakland-Alameda County Opportunity Youth Initiative, Urban Strategies Council is a member of the California Opportunity Youth Network, or COYN. This statewide body includes representation from San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Del Norte who address the unique needs of our state’s disconnected young adults for improved, targeted outcomes.