Youth Social Entrepreneurship

Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE)

The Sundance Family Foundation has been championing Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) as a way to support youth ages 14-24 in low-income communities, communities of color, and underrepresented communities.

YSE programs integrate positive youth development, community engagement, workforce readiness and agile thinking, or, social entrepreneurship. Nonprofits with YSE enterprises offer youth their first wage-earning jobs, and an incubated setting where youth can take a variety of business and community leadership positions. They often obtain certificates or dual courses to be used to gain admission to post-secondary training or employment.

A YSE program is a transformative asset-based model of youth development. It includes the development of entrepreneurial thought, business and personal skills and community engagement. Together, these learnings inspire youth to acquire the self-confidence to explore careers, post-secondary training, and to embark upon meaningful sustainable futures.

Five Strategies to Expand the Field of YSE

Sundance Family Foundation is seeding and cultivating the field of YSE by focusing on five strategies to expand the field of Youth Social Entrepreneurship:

  • Building the capacity of nonprofits to produce rigorous evidence-based evaluation
  • Developing bridges and pipelines between youth-serving nonprofits, post-secondary training, and job opportunities
  • Creating innovative transportation, training and workplace mentoring pilot projects
  • Producing Wunderkammers: Community Tech and Training Exploratoriums which provide hands-on career engagement with working technicians
  • Communicating these bold innovations through video, social media, and storytelling.

Changemakers: Teens Who Learn and Earn

One of our own ventures has been the development of the Changemakers: Teens Who Learn and Earn and Invested. Both award winning films showcase personal stories about how participating in social entrepreneurship has changed lives. Links to these are found in the YSE Resources section of this website. Copies of this film can be obtained by emailing or calling our office at 612 822 8580.

YSE Evidence-Based Research

SIF Evaluation Guidelines from the Corporation for National and Community Service outlines the various types of research that can be gathered from YSE nonprofits. Typically, nonprofits can provide preliminary evidence-based analysis and reporting. However, even at this level, they must have a robust data capacity system in place.

In 2013 Sundance hosted  20 nonprofits working with youth in low-income communities, or youth from communities of color. Executive Directors met to build alliances together, support one another, advance the field of YSE. Sundance continued to host quarterly meetings and 3-Annual Summits each attended by 150-200 managers and youth. In this side-by-side work, Sundance learned that non-profits in low-income neighborhoods were providing abundant work readiness training to youth but could not produce the data required to attain DEED, DLI, federal DOL or large foundation grants.

In 2015, triggered by the Opportunity Nation Conference in Washington DC, Sundance learned that:

1) Providing an “abundance of support” but not measuring exact work readiness skills is not helpful. Skills that are now measured include attendance, punctuality, workplace appearance, taking initiative, quality of work, communication skills, response to supervision, teamwork, problem-solving/critical thinking, workplace culture, and engagement in the community.

2) While providing youth of color with work readiness skills, nonprofits were not creating a bridge between their programs and employers.

3) Youth they were serving seemed to be facing the same 25-45% local youth unemployment (North Mpls, Eastside St. Paul, Frogtown) as others in the community who were not in these programs. Our work helped them recognize this disconnect and take steps to resolve it.

4) Grassroots nonprofits weren’t capturing the data in a way that would allow them to access workforce development dollars. They were focused on youth development dollars, not realizing that youth development and workplace readiness soft-skills development were very similar.

In 2016 Sundance contracted with Wilder Research and formed a cohort of 14 youth-serving nonprofits. These YSE leaders have been meeting together quarterly, and individually monthly with a Research Scientist as they developed or revised their logic models, developed evaluation plans, selected common data collection tools, created databases and began collecting data. The cohort used tools as outlined in the Workforce Improvement and Opportunity Act of 2014.

In 2018 the Wilder Cohort produced evidence-based data on 278 youth. The data proved the effectiveness of this Youth Social Entrepreneurship model, which is also called a Youth Training Model.