2014 marks five years since YSI began convening, connecting, cultivating and supporting youth-led organizing.
Where We Came From
The Youth Social Infrastructure (YSI) collaborative began as an initial meeting in 2009 hosted by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Laidlaw Foundation and Tides Canada Initiative that brought together youth organizers and adult allies to explore a strategic opportunity:
How can we create an underlying infrastructure to share learning, successes and challenges among an emerging wave of grassroots and institutional innovations in youth engagement and youth organizing across Ontario?
What We've Achieved
Since those days, the collaborative has sustained itself as a regenerating movement and community of practice that has directly engaged over 500+ people in the youth sector through small and large gatherings, workshops in participatory facilitation methods, peer-to-peer and mentoring relationships, as well as networking opportunities. Our achievements include:
- Three province-wide stakeholder gatherings: From 2009-2013, we brought together over 100 youth sector grantees and adult allies from policy, funding, service provider and grassroots bodies for generative, system-wide conversations.
- Training in participatory leadership: Our experienced stewards have trained over 100 youth and adult organizers in a participatory leadership approach called the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter.
- Self-organized governance: In November 2010, we successfully shifted our leadership from the Laidlaw Foundation to a self-sustaining Core Team of volunteers, which was renewed in 2012.
- Regular member engagement: We only hold meetings that come with a specific call from our community, who respond based on their interest and capacity. Though the rhythm of our engagement is fluid, we average at least 10 core team meetings a year.
- System transformation: A brief evaluation by the Ontario Trillium Foundation in Fall 2012 found that Core Team members were transforming the programming, organizational structures, governance and engagement practices of their home organizations to mirror the work of the YSI Collaborative -- such as promoting youth engagement across the mental health system through The New Mentality.
- Piloting a regional "nest" structure: Our Northern coordinator has developed a "nest" of supports that bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous young organizers in the Algoma region of Northern Ontario, including a regional gathering of 40 youth and adult leaders.
- Developmental evaluation (DE): In 2014, our core team is taking our learning culture to a new level with three experiential training sessions by DE practitioner Marc Langois.