The Youth Action Institute is a public policy research fellowship that supports young New Yorkers in investigating and testing solutions to the issues and policies that affect their lives.
How It Works
Each year, a cohort of up to 15 New York City youth researches a current public safety issue and formulates policy recommendations to address the needs of impacted young people. Fellows are between the ages of 16 and 21 and represent a cross section of diverse neighborhoods and backgrounds. They are selected for the program based on their experiences, interests, and commitment to working on long-term projects. Fellows often have firsthand experience of the issue they will be researching, such as being in foster care or housing instability.
The following multi-phase curriculum builds Fellows’ leadership, research, collaboration, and analytical skills, and helps them develop substantive and actionable policy recommendations:
During the first one to two months, Fellows receive intensive training on power, access, oppression, and liberation. From this foundation, training moves into qualitative research fundamentals and practices, listening skills, interviewing techniques, and information presentation skills. Fellows also learn how New York City government operates in the topic area of focus. The training phase typically kicks off with a weekend retreat that lays a foundation for trust, teamwork, and collaboration.
Teams of Fellows identify a research area and guiding question, then design and implement a research plan that includes interviews, site visits, and focus groups. During this phase, Fellows meet with experts in the field, community members, and public officials. They also meet directly with groups of impacted young people in either focus group or Restorative Circle formats.
Fellows analyze their data to pull out key findings, then use those findings to craft credible, actionable, and targeted policy proposals. These preliminary proposals are then re-analyzed to identify areas for clarification or further inquiry. Fellows then revise or craft additional research questions, revise or design new research protocols, and embark on a second iteration of the fieldwork phase.
Feedback, Publication, and Advocacy
Upon completing at least two iterations of the fieldwork-policy development cycle, Fellows then present their recommendations to research process participants and other stakeholders, such as broader groups of young people, agency officials, community members, parents, youth workers, and more. These meetings are intended to be feedback-gathering experiences, where a wide range of audiences may offer affirmation, constructive criticism, or suggestions for action steps. Fellows incorporate the feedback they receive and then prepare publication materials for their final recommendations and their research findings. These materials will be tailored to a range of different audiences, including policymakers, researchers, and both youth and adult community members. The final work of Fellows is to find opportunities to advocate for their recommendations; such opportunities can include testifying to City Council, presenting at conferences, presenting at community board meetings, hosting peer education sessions, and launching social media campaigns.
The Youth Action Institute was formerly known as the Youth Justice Board, a highly respected leadership development program with similar goals and structures. The transformation into the Youth Action Institute is reflective of our deepening commitment to being genuinely youth-led, and responding to the needs and feedback of our members and alumni.
Next Move NYC
The Youth Justice Board collaborated to create NextMoveNYC.org, a website designed to help disconnected young people achieve their goals. It offers users links to education, social services, and job training. Next Move NYC is also optimized for mobile phone use.