Developing Preliminary Evidence-Based Research with Youth Serving Organizations in the Greater Twin Cities Metro Area

February 12, 2016–The Sundance Family Foundation and Wilder Research are launching a 24-month project to develop the capacity of thirteen youth-serving organizations working with underrepresented and low-income youth in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area. These organizations offer Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) programs that combine personal and business skills, youth social and emotional learning, and community leadership opportunities. They provide key supports that help youth age 16-24 learn the soft and hard skills needed to get a livable wage job in manufacturing, trades and technology.

Over the past seven years, Sundance has been supporting non-profit enterprises that identify innovative YSE approaches and guide youth to take their place in the economic growth of low-income neighborhoods. “We believe that these promising programs work to ‘put poverty out of business,’” states Sundance Family Foundation Co-founder/President, Nancy Jacobs.

Wilder Research has a long history of enhancing the research capacity of nonprofits, by providing contracted external analysis and reporting. Wilder’s teams of scientific researchers work with organizations of all sizes at the local, state, and national level to help them bring about needed change, increase their effectiveness, and demonstrate the value of what they do.

The Need for Research and Expanded Funding for YSE

The emerging field of Youth Social Entrepreneurship is not yet well defined or adequately funded even though more than 90% of identified Youth Social Entrepreneurship programs around the country specifically target low-income or otherwise marginalized youth.

Successful YSE programs often struggle to receive funding from local and national foundations and government units because their multidimensional programs nested in thriving enterprises are complex. In the best of these programs, youth are not only working at their jobs, but are also engaging in the community and acquiring a gamut of social and emotional skills. These programs allow youth to think expansively and creatively design very bright futures for themselves.

Advancing the Field Through Research

Without providing preliminary evidence based, and longitudinal research, it is hard to prove that YSE programs are indeed the innovative social solutions that improve lives, strengthen communities, foster civic engagement, service and volunteering, and eliminate disparities facing communities and their youth. This project will make evidencing success possible.

The Evidencing YSE collaboration with Wilder supports thirteen youth serving organizations as they enhance their internal data, analysis and reporting systems. The cohort includes: Appetite for Change, Cookie Cart, Cycles for Change, Dream of Wild Health, Elpis Enterprises, Emerge Community Development (EMERGE), Genesys Works–Twin Cities, Juxtaposition Arts, Keystone Community Services, Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau, Pillsbury United Communities, St. Paul Youth Services, and Urban Roots.

According to Darryl Lindsey, Director of Operations at Appetite for Change, “We are always guarded about letting people outside of our community research us–they have been doing it far too long. We are pleased to be a part of a project which will ultimately give us the capacity to generate our own data, and prove that our community engagement strategies are effective.”

The project, in this early stage, is being launched by the Sundance Family Foundation, Dorsey & Whitney Law LLC, Dorsey & Whitney Trust, Jacobs Investments, Metta Financial LLC, and several Anonymous Donors with other funders coming in at various stages of development.

Contact for more information, or visit Copies of a white paper describing YSE are available at

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