All Children and Youth in San Diego need opportunities to thrive and succeed. This can be achieved by the integration and alignment of public policy, funding, and practice among City, County, and Education systems; Philanthropic and Business communities; and Community-Based Organizations.

History of YDO

In 2006, the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP) noted dramatic increases in youth violence in San Diego’s inner city neighborhoods. SDOP immediately mobilized community leaders and conducted meetings with government officials, police, parks and recreation staff, school districts, social service agencies, and researchers to understand the underlying systemic factors that were contributing to youth violence, death, or incarceration. The meetings confirmed that youth were not receiving critical support services because, in part, those services were not connected and communicating with each other.

High school dropout rates were at a crisis-level, with 23 to 42 percent of African-American and Latino youth not finishing high school. The safety net of programs, which once made the city of San Diego a leader in keeping young people safe, had unraveled.

SDOP partnered with the San Diego Workforce Partnership; the Commission on Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression; the City of San Diego Mayor’s Office; County of San Diego – Health and Human Services Agency; San Diego Unified School District; and others to develop what is now San Diego Youth Development Office (YDO). Based on similar models in other regions (such as Safe Passages in Oakland and The Advancement Project in Los Angeles), the purpose of YDO is to serve as a neutral convener to ensure that the various perspectives and approaches in the county are coordinated to support San Diego’s youth. It acknowledges that no one entity can support San Diego’s youth, and that coordination and collaboration must be institutionalized and resident-driven to be sustainable. Such an institutionalized, systems-level approach can compel, measure, and reward ongoing coordination and collaboration for both policy development and service provision.

YDO does not seek to provide direct services. Its role is to encourage service integration and collaboration through identifying commonalities and gaps. In March 2012, YDO received seed funding from the California Endowment to hire a Director and develop a strong presence in the community. It has developed a structure to integrate and coordinate the different levels of policy and services and strives to be grounded in the wisdom of the communities it is committed to support.

YDO Director


Ian Gordon

As Director, Ian Gordon is responsible for advancing the mission of San Diego Youth Development Office (YDO) to support positive youth development strategies that improve outcomes by connecting, convening and engaging stakeholders and their resources to advance the health and economic wellbeing of San Diego’s children, youth, families, and communities. He has held positions of increasing responsibility in Federal contracting, organizational and non-profit management, community and workforce development, social science research, and business. An expert in human development, Gordon is knowledgeable of the neighborhood, cultural, physical, and psycho-social factors necessary for the healthy development of children and youth. For twenty years, he has applied social science theory, research, and best practice to a variety of initiatives and programs that have resulted in improved behavioral, educational, and employment outcomes for children and youth.

Mr. Gordon has worked with both public and private partners to advance innovative changes that benefit young people and communities. As an effectual leader, he has had to draw upon a diversified set of skills from community organizing and grants management, to research and evaluation, technical assistance and management. Gordon works to facilitate policy, systems, and community level change that supports positive youth development strategies and individual outcomes.

In addition to being Director of YDO, Mr. Gordon is the San Diego region’s site lead for a national initiative to address the policy and systems barriers that have led to the increasing number of Opportunity Youth (16 to 24-year-olds who are not connected – or insufficiently connected – to education or employment). As a result, a cross-sector collaborative of public, private, and community-based organizations, foundations, and businesses are involved in addressing high school dropout, post-secondary training, and credentialing and employment in life-sustaining careers in three local districts. Under Gordon’s leadership, YDO is the backbone organization for the San Diego Youth Opportunity Pathways Initiative (PATHWAYS) which utilizes a collective impact framework to effect policy and systems change.

Mr. Gordon has served on boards and committees including the San Diego Workforce Investment Board’s Youth Council Resource Committee, Linked Learning San Diego, San Diego County Juvenile Justice Comprehensive Strategy Task Force, California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities, California Opportunity Youth Network, City Heights Partnership for Children’s Leadership Table, Open Places San Diego, San Diego Alternatives to Incarceration Core Team, and National Youth Employment Coalition.

Mr. Gordon holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Howard University, and a Master’s degree in Human Development from The Pennsylvania State University.

YDO Advisory Board

Margie de Ruyter (CO-CHAIR)

Consultant, Community and Workforce Development
Public Consulting Group

Kevin Malone (Co-Chair)

Executive Director
San Diego Organizing Project

Lynn Sharpe-Underwood

Adjunct Faculty
Alliant University

Jennifer James

Vice President
Harder+Company Community Research

Nelli Garton, Ph.D.

Principal
Garton Strategy Group

Rebecca F. Phillpott

(Retired) Program Manager, Dropout Prevention
San Diego Unified School District

Contact Us

San Diego Youth Development Office
925 B Street, Suite 301 | San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 992-3525

If you have any additional questions, send us an email using this form!

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