“Contrary to what you might hear in the media, affordable health care is still a top priority for young adults,” says Young Invincibles (YI) Executive Director Aaron Smith. Young Invincibles was founded in 2009 to create a powerful movement of young adults focused on issues that matter: health, education, and jobs. Unlike previous attempts to organize young people, which were sporadic and targeted toward university campuses, YI engages low-income working young adults, non-traditional students, and young people of color.
The Packard Foundation’s Children’s Health Insurance program invested early on in Young Invincibles; seeing an incredible potential to advance youth leadership through YI’s reach – on campus and online – and increase access to health care and education. Since 2009, YI has grown fast: staff size more than doubled in 2013, shifting the organizational structure to encompass a 22-state presence and the opening of a West Coast office in California. In the context of these changes, YI applied for an Organizational Effectiveness (OE) grant to help them create a three-year vision.
The OE team worked closely with Foundation program officers and YI to tailor the type of support that would best position YI for success. With a budget of $15,000, YI hired a consultant who clarified stakeholder interests, organizational strengths and weaknesses, organizational values, “big goals,” and a framework for planning. With the framework and the strategic components in place, YI staff produced a strategic plan in less than three months.
The new strategic plan has helped YI focus its mission as a “convener” of existing youth experts, organizations, and networks to change policies that impact youth. A new program focus is to enroll more young parents and their children in affordable health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The plan also has had an impact on YI as an organization. As a result of the plan, YI created its first Board of Directors, which will help keep the strategic plan on track, raise funds and establish YI as an independent nonprofit with 501c(3) tax exempt status by summer 2014. The planning process also resulted in ongoing processes for staff engagement and better collaboration between campaigns and departments. Finally, YI has increased its representation of diverse youth in management and staff positions.
With every OE grant, the Packard Foundation hopes to see more dynamic, resilient, and networked organizations better able to achieve their missions, so that the Foundation in turn, can achieve its mission. “YI has a proven record for raising young adult voices to change policies in health and education,” said program officer, Liane Wong. “Their new strategic plan will expand their reach in states to improve access to health care for millions of young parents and their children.”