Tuesday, July 2, 2013

CNYD, A Pioneer in the Youth Development Field, Is Closing Its Doors, Part 1

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
As a former practitioner and CNYD staff person, I was saddened to receive an announcement letter from Founder and Executive Director, Sue Eldredge, that the Community Network for Youth Development (CNYD) was closing its doors. CNYD served as a true pioneer in promoting the ideas of youth development by creating youth program training methods and tools, and a large demonstration through a citywide initiative, the San Francisco Beacon Initiative. CNYD staff had a large influence on the early afterschool movement in California, producing the Youth Development Guide for Afterschool with CDE and for advocating and offering training for the first statewide high school afterschool initiative in the United States. CNYD also served as a training ground for some of the most influential trainers and consultants in the afterschool field. 

I reached out to a few of my colleagues to get their response to CNYD's closing. You can also join us in thanking CNYD for all its contributions to the field and your work by adding a message of appreciation to this group card by July 15, 2013.

Below are comments from national, state, and local leaders in the field followed by a few quotes from my recent conversation with Sue Eldredge. 

Karen Pittman
"CNYD was a pioneer, not just in advancing the core principles of youth development, but in bringing people together across sectors to support youth, and in organizational capacity building. CNYD’s work over the past two decades to deepen, strengthen and support the work of youth organizations and youth workers led the way and set a high bar for the many youth development and after-school intermediaries now operating across the nation. To ensure that we and others continue to learn from their pioneering work, we are happy to showcase terrific resources developed by CNYD over the years: http://sparkaction.org/content/cnyd-resources" - Karen Pittman, President and CEO, Forum for Youth Investment

Michael Funk
"Very early in my career, CNYD helped me understand the asset based movement in the early 1990s. I remember a CNYD conference on Community and Youth Development. It was one of the first of it's kind. CNYD also supported me as the new director of the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center where I met Sam Piha for the first time.  I "cut my teeth" for the work I do now through the work of CNYD. I am now the After School Division Director at the California Department of Education. I continually draw upon and benefit from the lessons learned from the staff at CNYD. Thanks to Sue, for being an early pioneer in our collective work!" - Michael Funk, Director of the After School Division, California Department of Education

Claudia Jasin
"Jamestown’s work with CNYD in the late 1990’s set the course for the our steadfast commitment to providing kids in our programs with the highest-quality youth development experience.  Over the years, CNYD provided invaluable training, tools, and advocacy to support our work towards this goal.  To this day, we are still using many of those resources when training our staff or talking to funders. In a nutshell, CNYD has left an indelible fingerprint on the organization." - Claudia Jasin, Executive Director, Jamestown Community Center

Katie Brackenridge
"I was in the first Youth Development Learning Network, back in 1997.  It was so exciting to find out that all the things I thought could work for youth actually fit into a framework, linked to research and with specific strategies for implementation.  What a relief and resource!  More than 15 years later, the supports and opportunities still underpin my work in youth services, policy and advocacy.   And, there are CNYD trainees and staff anchoring excellent youth service organizations around California.  I am continually grateful for the creativity, innovation and critical thinking that made CNYD such a powerful agent of change for youth and the people who work with them." - Katie Brackenridge, Sr. Director, Out of School Time Initiatives, Partnership for Children and Youth


Q: Can you describe why and how CNYD was originally formed? 
Sue Eldredge
A: In 1992, the Carnegie Foundation on Adolescent Development published A Matter of Time: Risk and Opportunity in the Non-School Hours, the result of five years of study highlighting the contributions of the largely invisible community-based youth serving sector.  During the same period, I led a local community research project based at the Stanford Center for the Study of Children, Youth and Their Families, that highlighted the important ways grassroots community agencies throughout the Bay Area were responding to the unmet needs of young people outside of the schools.  The study was shaped and guided by an advisory group of organizational leaders and youth workers from agencies doing some of the most exciting and groundbreaking work locally. We surveyed, interviewed and brought together over 1000 Bay Area practitioners to talk about their work and how it could be strengthened.  One of the resounding recommendations was the need for an organization that could support this growing and almost invisible sector. Our earliest efforts centered on educating the public, policymakers and funders about the growing youth development field and providing professional development opportunities for youth workers.  We were greatly influenced by the leadership and early framing and language that Karen Pittman and her colleagues at the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research provided and connections to a handful of other colleagues that were just beginning to provide emerging intermediary support for the youth development field.

Q: Can you say a few words about why CNYD is closing its doors?
A: It was a difficult and long deliberated decision to close CNYD after so many years of contribution to the field and lasting impact.  However, in the current climate, there is simply neither the sustained focus on youth development nor the resources necessary to work deeply in ways that take advantage of CNYD's unique capacities for longer lasting systems change.  Organizations have lifecycles and the Board and I are felt that CNYD had amply fulfilled its mission to build and support the youth development field.  There are many skilled organizations and individuals that continue to provide youth development training and we have made our sizable resources available so that they can be used by all that carry on the important work of youth development capacity building.

Q: What do you believe are the major contributions that CNYD brought to the youth service field?
A: We are very proud of CNYD's long lasting influence.  Our approach and our resources continue to be evident in the work of many organizations throughout the Bay Area.  These are some high points of all that was accomplished over two decades by so many talented CNYD staff working in partnership with the Bay Area youth development community:
  • In the early 1990's CNYD played an important role in galvanizing support for the growing youth development movement throughout the Bay Area, educating and mobilizing youth organization leaders, practitioners, policymakers and funders.
  • As widespread acceptance of a focus on positive development was cemented, CNYD was in the forefront nationally, developing training and assessment resources that supported the field to make breakthrough changes in practice, and move us from principles and ideals to measurable outcomes in our work with young people. 
CNYD's footprint is also  very strong in the afterschool and out-of-school arenas. 
  • CNYD served as the intermediary for the first six years of the San Francisco Beacons Initiative, the first and largest California school-based project, demonstrating the importance of community-based agencies working in partnership with schools to create youth development-centered supports and services.  Fifteen years later, the San Francisco Beacon Center continues to flourish as a long-term part of the fabric of the youth services system in San Francisco. 
  • Because of CNYD's Beacon leadership, we were called upon to work across California in the early years of federal and state funding for the expansion of school-based afterschool programs.  CNYD played an important role in helping policymakers and practitioners understand why youth development practice was critical to the impact of afterschool programming and developed training resources and approaches that are still used today.  We championed the expansion of high school afterschool programming and we were an important influence in broadening afterschool outcomes to include measures beyond academic learning.
Sue Eldredge was the founder and Executive Director of the Community Network for Youth Development (CNYD) for twenty years. CNYD’s work led to the infusion of youth development practice into policy, capacity-building and evaluation efforts in the Bay Area and in ever wider arenas.  A graduate of Stanford University, Sue’s past experience includes work in the philanthropic world, research, and design and delivery of training and technical assistance systems for nonprofit, educational and governmental agencies.

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