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Social Movements and Governing Power

Building a Statewide Youth Movement and YO! California’s 2019 Emerging Organizers Fellowship


By Veronica Terriquez, Jennifer Soto, and Nicole White

Over the last decade, youth organizing groups across the state of California have led successful local, regional, and statewide campaigns. Their success is due in part to deep investments in the youth organizing infrastructure, talented and committed youth leaders and allies, and the increasing sophistication of youth-led campaigns. YO! California (Cali) represents a critical component of this infrastructure, providing training and support for youth organizing groups across the state.

YO! Cali has hosted a fellowship program to bolster the capacities of young organizers for three years. Known as the Emerging Organizers Fellowship Program, this nine-month development opportunity offered young staff members in-person convenings, monthly webinars, local hands-on organizing, and individualized coaching. The goal was to help them not only implement campaigns, but also to advance transformational social change in marginalized communities.

This brief report presents the results of pre- and post-test surveys administered to the second cohort of fellows at the beginning of the program (January 2019) and at the end of the Emerging Organizers program (September 2019). These surveys measure the growth in organizing capacities among fellows. This report also summarizes responses to open-ended survey questions administered to fellows at the end of the program and results from an open-ended survey of their supervisors. The findings focus on the growth of 18 racially diverse fellows, aged 18-30, who completed the program. Importantly, this group includes members of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations as well. Overall, findings from this evaluation suggest that YO! Cali’s Emerging Organizers Fellowship plays an important role in building an inclusive movement for racial justice in California.


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    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

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    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

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    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

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    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

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