New Paradigms for Empowering Youth

By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

This week I was thrilled to participate in a conversation at Microsoft’s Innovation & Policy Center in Washington, DC focused on ways the public and private sectors can work together to empower and inspire young people.

As part of the @Microsoft conversation series focused on key policy and industry topics, I joined a panel focused on “New Paradigms for Empowering Youth.” Panelists included City Year DC Corps Member Ashante Branch, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region Philanthropic Services Vice President Angela Jones Hackley, Palisades Media Ventures Chief Executive and “With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give” author Ken Stern, College Success Foundation – DC Executive Director Herbert Tillery, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy Editor Stacy Palmer. The conversation explored best practices to help youth in DC and around the nation to realize their full potential and change their worlds.

One of the most inspiring aspects of the conversation was the realization that there are so many young people eager to help others like themselves get a foothold in the world. I was particularly struck by the story of Ashante Branch, a City Year Corps Member, who recently graduated from college and is eager to show her appreciation for all those who helped her along the way. In her words, Ashante says she’s not in a position to “pay them back,” but she can certainly “give back” by helping other young people.

“In my opinion, the most critical outcome of today’s conversation was furthering the discussion of what we as individuals can be doing for other individuals, especially our youth. I think providing for our youth is very important because they have to be responsible for their own future and we have to help them realize that their current situation isn’t their final situation.” – Ashante Branch, City Year Corps Member, Washington, DC

3.21.13 - @ Microsoft Conversation on Philanthropy Photo

Our world currently stands at a crossroads – we are witnessing a larger youth population than ever before; however, youth unemployment is double that of the adult population. Countries are struggling to produce modern workforces that have the skills required for economic success, yet at the same time there is a growing gap between the skills of unemployed workers and the skills needed to perform the jobs of today and the future. Too many young people face an opportunity divide – a gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to succeed and those who do not. Closing this opportunity divide is one of the most important actions we can all take – together – to secure the future of the next generation and as a result, the future of our global economy.

The opportunity to bring people together to solve a common societal challenge was also a striking part of our panel conversation – not only the willingness, but the eagerness to pool resources, expertise, and networks to help our young people, as Ken Stern describes below, as well as the importance of holding ourselves “accountable” for real impact, in the words of Herb Tillery.

“It always amazes me a little bit that people can be working so hard on the same issues in the same city and never have the time or the connectivity to sit down together and talk about these ideas and how we solve problems together. So it’s just great that Microsoft is bringing people together to talk about how to solve the issues that challenge this city and this country.” – Ken Stern, author of “With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give”

In September 2012, Microsoft launched YouthSpark, a company-wide, global initiative with a goal to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over the next three years through partnerships with governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses. We hope through these partnerships we are able to spark a dialogue similar to the one held this week and bring together a range of programs to help tackle the critical issues facing our workforce and economy.


Following the event, Microsoft’s Innovation and Policy Center Staff had the opportunity to speak with the panelists.


Herbert Tillery shares his perspective:




We also talked with Angela Jones Hackley:




Ken Stern also discussed why this topic is important:




Finally, we spoke with City Year’s Ashante Branch regarding her response to today’s conversation:



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