01/23/2013 09:19 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

The Youth Are Watching -- Do You Believe in Them?

By Brandy Bertram, Executive Director, YouthBiz

Hi there! Thanks for following whatever curiosity, connection, and/or set of links brought you to our first blog post in this Jobraising challenge. I am humbled and grateful for our inclusion in this community of thought and action leaders from all over the country. HuffPost, Skoll Foundation, CrowdRise, and McKinsey & Co are stirring the proverbial pot of invention and stoking the fires of innovation. This challenge is a big deal -- it will make us all be and do better -- and I fully plan on seizing the opportunity!

Thus, here we are, you and me, in what I hope is the beginning of a wonderful conversation about what is, and what could be, about youth entrepreneurship, and the future of our nation. Over the next six weeks I will share our story with you, beginning today with a verbal portrait of our organization, the set of shared beliefs that fuel our work, and the opportunity that faces us. I hope, in exchange, that you will share your story, thoughts and wisdom with me. Together, I imagine that we can create some serious energy behind some bold ideas.

If that sounds like your idea of a good time, keep reading!

Organizational Background:

YouthBiz was launched in 1992 in the heart of Denver's Five Points community. It wasn't a pretty year for our inner city neighborhood. We experienced record numbers of youth-on-youth violence fueled by gang wars and a struggling local economy. A local community leader, together with a brave team of 9 youth, stepped up to be part of the solution, creating a series of entrepreneurial projects to increase income and build translatable workforce experience for their peers.

Twenty years, 5,000 youth, and $1.5 million in youth earnings later, YouthBiz has launched the next generation of programming, one that places the ownership and opportunity squarely in the hands of our remarkable youth. We are investing in experiences and resources that build our young people's ability to thrive and find prosperity in the face of challenge, launching new programming, and forming new partnerships that will increase our impact, maximize our resources, and enhance the entrepreneurial experience for even more youth.

A Mini Manifesto:

Everything we do at YouthBiz is driven by a shared set of beliefs that are reflected here:

We believe that the youth we serve are extraordinary. We believe that they are smart, savvy, courageous and fully capable of manifesting success in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them and our community.

We believe in entrepreneurship. We believe that it is a model for generating innovative solutions to complex challenges, and that it is a proven pathway for creating economic and social prosperity.

We believe that entrepreneurship delivers life-long Impact. We believe the practice of entrepreneurship delivers critical life-long outcomes for youth including increased income, increased relevancy to academic content, increased resiliency and positive risk taking skills, and increased connection to community.

We believe that entrepreneurship is best learned by doing it. Our model allows youth to experience entrepreneurship first-hand, processes their experience into learning, draw strategic conclusions, and then quickly test their new ideas in another action-based setting.

We believe in the power of community. We value the diverse community of entrepreneurial leaders within our community and we intentionally connect our youth with them, as well as the venues and networks that support them.

As YouthBiz family, we believe that we are entrepreneurs, and that our work is best done when we are thinking and acting as such.

For all of the reasons above, we believe that YouthBiz is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the youth entrepreneurship education industry, and we are committed to growing the scope, scale and sustainability of our model so that all youth who identify as entrepreneurs can access and leverage the resources they need to maximize their entrepreneurial potential.

The Opportunity:

As you may have guessed, I'm of the opinion (with good evidence!) that YouthBiz is a phenomenal organization doing real, meaningful, game changing work with the finest, most talented group of urban youth you could ever meet. January 2013 finds us on the precipice of realizing our mission at a new level -- one that allows us to impact the nation's job crisis directly and significantly. We have the right model at the right time, led by an amazing team of Board and staff, all social entrepreneurs.

We have set a series of strategic goals that will push our organization beyond the boundaries of comfort into the realm of true innovation. Our ability to achieve these aggressive goals is largely dependent on our ability to attract others like you into our community to enrich our model and provide the resources that we need to deliver exceptional entrepreneurship education and development programs to urban communities throughout the country. I invite you to join us -- go to the Jobraising website and contribute today. The youth are watching. Do you believe in them, and their ability to think and act like the entrepreneurial leaders we all need enough to invest in their future? The time is now and there is no half way. In the words of the Jedi Master, "Do or do not. There is no try".

Brandy Bertram, luckiest Executive Director ever!