Wondering About Another Way Forward?

What’s Possible… When Donors Take Young People’s Lead

Many of us working in the philanthropic sector have the intention of making the world more equitable and just, especially for young people. Yet, too many of us still have that sinking feeling that all that we have attempted is not enough– that our processes and interventions still don’t feel right. We are trying to make the world better for children and youth, but we aren’t achieving that.

Maybe you’ve made some changes to your funding approach to more meaningfully engage your youth and youth-focused grantee partners, to decolonize your grantmaking, or to shift power. You’ve tried:

  • inviting a small group of young people to review dense grant applications (only in English) submitted by a short list of potential grantee partners; or


  • “training” or holding hackathon-type selection processes where young people (mostly from Africa, Asia, or the LAC region) are coached to pace the stage and “pitch” their ideas to your global North-based board; or


  • adding an indicator to your grantee reporting around the quality of “youth participation” but with limited ways to make that feedback actionable.  

If those changes still do not feel like enough, that’s likely for good reason. They aren’t…

Change is sometimes incremental…. 

However, change that does not address the root causes of young people’s vulnerabilities – systemic oppressions like racism and colonialism that strengthen the root drivers of their well-being and power– is incomplete. 

Still, you may find that the impact of your efforts does not disrupt the power dynamics in your institution in the ways you hoped. Or, your portfolio still does not communicate the shifts you intended to make. You may wonder why your portfolio does not look much different than before.  Or, you wonder what should happen with the youth advisory members once the grants are made. What if they still want to stay involved but you have no other mechanisms in place to engage with them?  

We’ve been wondering the same… 

The Children’s Rights Innovation Fund (CRIF) in collaboration with We Trust You(th) are charting another way forward seeking to demonstrate What’s Possible when donors (and NGOs) take young people’s lead.  To unite with us, join What’s Possible.