Let’s Scale a Youth Network

By Sara Grimes

Obama admits to having many reasons to be cynical while in the White House.  What kept him sane was meeting with young people throughout the nation and world excited to make an impact. Last week was the #ObamaSummit. There he stated, after his presidency and turning 56, he now wants his legacy to focus on this:

“The most exciting thing for me was the ideas of creating a hub..a network…where young people..from every background..could start learning fro each other.  Because if we could create an architecture for those young people to..scale up all the amazing stuff they were doing locally.  And not just to root themselves locally, but to germinate…change all around the country and around the world…then there was no problem we couldn’t solve” — Barack Obama via Real Clear Politics

Right now we live in the most technologically networked world in human history.  Yet we often find our local organizations and volunteer activities silhoed.

Obama’s presidential campaign sought to bridge these silhoes. His team created a grassroots GOTV (Get out the vote) plan called the “Snowflake campaign” where a central hub of campaign organizers would train field workers to knock on doors and have candid conversations with locals (Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America).  Regional teams in one location would then train regional teams in the neighboring location, infiltrating rural Pennsylvania or Wisconsin organically and making a scalable impact on public opinion and voter turnout.

This is a great analogy for what Obama hopes to do with today’s youth.  More and more, activists and non-profits are learning to rely on partnership networks to advance their engagement and accelerate their impact.  It’s important that today’s youth have access to local and national hubs where they can connect with other youth of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures.  This is how perspectives change, ideas emerge, and actions grow.

In a society where divisiveness is becoming more and more the norm, it is critical that we find ways to expose our youth as well as ALL folks to people of all variety and backgrounds who can shift their perspective and deepen their empathy.  We’ve already seen the disturbing damage that can happen when we label a nation, an ethnicity, a gender, or an ability “other” instead of embracing them as one of “us”.  Providing a central location in person and virtually for people to come together and exchange ideas to better the world is something that we should all strive to create.  Shared space spawns shared community action. It’s time we create hubs of collective action.



Sara recently received her Master’s degree in Public Affairs at University of San Francisco.  She completed this while working full time as social media associate and program manager for  environmental education non-profits NatureBridge and Action for Nature. Sara has been a committed social justice advocate since her days writing cultural content pieces for the University of Washington’s student newspaper through her days serving in Americorps. She enjoys working in social entrepreneurship, since it allows her to invest in the cross section of innovation and active citizenship.