Friday, January 16, 2015

5 Youth Advocacy Trends to Watch in 2015

Today, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates releases our 2015 Advocacy Agenda! Like every year, there are bureaucratic hurdles to jump and procedural barriers to break to ensure the needs of young people are properly being met. So let’s hop to it, we’ve got quite the advocacy season ahead of us!

Also, don’t forget to check out DCAYA’s full advocacy agenda for the coming year. We will need the power of your voice to truly make lasting change!

Holistic Funding to Curb Family Homelessness

One important youth area to watch in this budget season is funding around family homelessness. Nearly half of the homeless families currently in the shelter system are youth-headed. DC General and two hotel buildings are almost at capacity for sheltering families, and more families continue to enter the system daily during hypothermia season. There are several budget items that have an impact on alleviating family homelessness: a plan to close DC General, the Local Rent Supplement Program, Permanent Supportive Housing, Rapid Re-Housing, the Housing Production Trust Fund, year-round access to shelter, public housing, funding the Dignity Bill, and more. Overall, we will be working closely with all of our advocacy partners to ensure that every piece of the homelessness budget puzzle is put in place to help young families find and keep affordable housing.

Increasing Local Investments to Expanded Learning Programs

In 2015, DCAYA is focused on increasing local funding to expanded learning programs. Currently, the District heavily relies on federal funds, namely the 21st Century Community Learning grants, to support its afterschool programs. With a new Congress in place, there are increased concerns that the 21st Century grants will either be drastically cut or completely eliminated in the upcoming federal budget. DC must be prepared to protect its investments in education. We must begin adding local funds to ensure that the infrastructure and program implementation of critical expanded learning programs are not lost because of federal funding fluctuations.

Continued Collaboration to Amp Up Youth Workforce Development Programming

This year, DCAYA is driving home our commitment to high-quality, year round workforce development opportunities for youth across the District by co-facilitating the first-ever Youth Workforce Leaders Academy (YWLA) cohort. DCAYA and our partners are convening leaders in the youth workforce sphere in a unique peer learning environment to scale up best practices and locally-informed solutions across DC. Especially in light of the implementation of new federal youth workforce legislation this summer (the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), it’s a great time to come together as a community to discuss what’s been working and where improvements can be made, both organizationally and system-wide.

We look forward to the creative partnerships, professional networks, and increased organizational resources that will result from YWLA for years to come!

Easing Access to Youth Development Opportunities through Transportation Subsidies 

Look for a strong advocacy front around expanding the District’s transportation subsidy programs to include youth. DCAYA’s Connecting Youth to Opportunity report demonstrated that transportation proves to be a pervasive barrier to youth accessing youth development programs, school, and workforce opportunities. According to the study, over 33% of respondents reported spending over $30 a week or $120 a month on transportation. Based on reported income data, this suggests youth are spending between 15-30% of their monthly income on transportation alone.

In partnership with our colleagues at Raise DC’s Disconnected Youth Change Network, we’ll be presenting our policy recommendations to Mayor Bowser’s team and council staff during the 2015 budget season.
Increased Use of Visual Data to Break Down Wonky Policy Asks

Policy analysts and funders alike are realizing that white papers and data sets are necessary to our mission, but can leave out a large advocacy audience.

Last year, DCAYA experienced firsthand the influential power of visual tools when we invested time into creating an infographic to explain the gaps in homeless youth services. The effort paid off as councilmembers publically commended the infographic and asked the advocacy community to continue using visuals to breakdown our, at times, complicated policy asks.

Look for additional visuals this year as we delve into the issues facing young people and be sure to get involved with our advocacy campaigns via social media to continue growing our strong advocacy front.

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