Pioneering Philanthropic Investment in Young Leaders Using Arts and Culture, and Organizing Strategies to Build Community Power and Advance Transformational Societal Change

NEW YORK NY – The Youth Organizing and Culture Change Fund (YOCCF) today announced its inaugural cohort of ten New York City-based youth-led and youth-serving organizations that will receive support to advance their work and build community at the intersection of organizing, arts, culture, and systemic social transformation. With catalytic funding provided by the Ford Foundation and Emily Davie and Joseph S. Kornfeld Foundation, YOCCF will offer invited organizations capacity building support, leadership development opportunities, and community-building efforts with artists, cultural producers, and philanthropic partners. Through the two-year pilot program, YOCCF participants will learn, develop, and test cultural and organizing strategies that lead to systemic, transformative societal change in communities across the city.

“Despite the central role of youth organizing and cultural strategies in creating and accelerating systemic change, philanthropy has historically underfunded and overlooked these efforts,” said Nyoka Acevedo, Coordinator for YOCCF. “Whether it’s leading the front line of a march or pioneering innovative ways to amplify social justice issues on social media platforms, young people are the vanguard of creating the cultural changes needed in order for the citizens of our city to thrive. Youth organizers are worthy of the investment needed to continue to blaze a path forward that is equitable and just for all.”

”The Ford Foundation and Kornfeld Foundation have created an onramp for funders to meaningfully invest in youth organizing by supporting their ability to harness arts and cultural power. All inequality and unjust policies start in the realm of culture,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation.

New York City and national funders including Andrus Family Fund, David Rockefeller Fund, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, JBP Foundation, New York Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Scherman Foundation, Sobrato Foundation, Trinity Wall Street, and the Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund, have come together and expressed excitement about the opportunity to bolster the power of youth organizing.

“Our country faces multiple crises arising from the pandemic, rising white nationalism, threats to our democracy, climate crisis, and growing racial and economic inequality. YOCCF will support youth leaders and organizers to take action, building solidarity and durable power in communities that need it the most,” said Katy Clark, Executive Director of the Kornfeld Foundation and former President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, one of the seed funders. “We know that when people see themselves reflected in the culture and art produced by youth from their communities, they become inspired to join efforts advancing social justice.”

“It was made clear in our last midterm election that young people, particularly members of Gen Z, are paying close attention to the course in which our country is moving,” said Manuela Arciniegas, Program Officer for the Ford Foundation. “Young voters made it clear that they will continue to play an active role in the political futures of their communities and our nation, and in many ways, will be the factor determining the ways in which our political and cultural landscape evolves. YOCCF will ensure that young leaders working on the frontlines have the community, support, and resources they need to keep advancing their work in creative ways that resonate with the people they serve, and to moving our communities forward in a more inclusive, fair, and just direction.”

“As a youth organizer in the immigrant youth movement I’ve experienced the power of bringing together organizing and culture change strategies to grow our movements and win campaigns,” said Cristina Jiménez, co-founder of United We Dream and an independent consultant. “This fund will ensure that young people organizing in a city or region have the opportunity to strengthen their culture change strategies, build relationships and collaborations with artists, and accelerate their impact. Our vision is to explore opportunities to bring this catalytic infusion of resources and knowledge to youth organizing enclaves across the country.”

Historically, philanthropy has overlooked and underfunded both the field of youth organizing and artists and creatives leveraging the power of arts and culture to create positive social change. Despite the use of creative and collaborative strategies that are proven to positively impact communities, many youth organizing groups are understaffed and receive very little support compared to youth services and development efforts. YOCCF seeks to address this disparity by intentionally investing in these efforts and by building closer relationships between young people working in organizing and advancing cultural change work, ensuring that they have the resources and tools that will lead to their long-term sustainability and impact.

Each organization invited to participate in the inaugural YOCCF cohort, also known as YOCCF Movement Partners, will receive a two-year $160,000 general operating grant, and the opportunity to participate in a learning cohort led by the Center for Cultural Power (CCP). YOCCF Movement Partners will also receive an opportunity to participate in movement-building coaching with Universal Partnership to strengthen and expand their organizing and cultural strategies skills and capacities.

CCP’s cohort methodology is rooted in theory in practice that moves participants through consciousness-building, creative inquiry, critical thinking, and storytelling as primary tools for systemic change and leadership development. CCPF’s framework engages artists and cultural workers as leaders expanding their creative practices to incorporate cultural strategy into youth organizing.

“The Center for Cultural Power’s cohort methodology is rooted in praxis, theory in practice, that moves participants through consciousness-building, creative inquiry, critical thinking, and storytelling as primary tools for systemic change and leadership development,” said Favianna Rodriguez, founder of Center for Cultural Power. “Our framework engages artists and cultural workers as leaders expanding their creative practices to incorporate cultural strategy into youth organizing,”

“I’ve spent decades advancing social and racial justice through community organizing in New York City,” said Javier Valdéz, Director, Civic Engagement and Government, Ford Foundation. “Time and again I have seen that community organizing groups lack resources to truly activate cultural power. The opportunity to combine cultural power will be transformative for the organizing, advocacy, and communications work many groups engage in.”

2023 YOCCF Movement Partners include:

Brotherhood SisterSol
The Brotherhood Sister Sol (BroSis) is where Black and Latinx youth claim the power of their history, identity and community to build the future they want to see. By educating, organizing and training, they are challenging inequity and creating opportunity for all.

CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant communities in New York City.

DreamYard collaborates with Bronx youth, families and schools to build pathways to equity and opportunity through the arts.

DRUM was founded in 2000 to build the power of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean low wage immigrant workers, youth, and families in New York City to win economic and educational justice, and civil and immigrant rights.

El Puente
The mission of El Puente is to inspire and nurture leadership for peace and justice, working as a human rights institution in NYC and Puerto Rico with national and international impact. El Puente creates community-led movements of self-determination through a holistic leadership and membership program model, as a high impact youth and community development organization.

FIERCE is a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City.

The Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project has assisted hundreds of Haitian newcomer youth in NYC public high schools since it was founded in 2005. We ensure Haitian newcomer youth 14-21 years old are appropriately placed in high schools that support their ability to remain in school and graduate.

Groundswell brings together artists, youth, and community organizations to use art as a tool for social change.

Make the Road NY
Make the Road New York builds the power of immigrant and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice.

Sistas and Brothas United
Sistas & Brothas United (SBU) develops youth leadership through academic support services and community campaigns to change conditions in our schools, neighborhoods, and beyond.

YOCCF has been made possible by a community of support including the Ford Foundation, Kornfeld Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, David Rockefeller Fund, New York Foundation, Trinity Wall Street, Andrus Family Fund, JBP Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation, Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund, Sobrato Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and the Brisson Family Fund. For more information, visit



YOCCF empowers youth leaders at the helm of social and cultural change with the tools and support to achieve personal and collective transformation and advance racial and social justice in their communities. We recognize that the most profound positive changes in our society are rooted in the legacy of community organizing and cultural production working in tandem towards the same goals. Therefore, we partner with community and cultural leaders, artists, funders and narrative changemakers and offer relationships and resources to advance their vision for change and build and scale their power together. Established in 2022, YOCCF and our national community of youth, organizers, artists, creatives, educators, and funders aims to build a proven model of youth organizing that advances social change and creates durable cultural power. Our movement has just begun. For more information, visit

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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