YDO is devoted to making San Diego’s youth a priority by targeting and leveraging resources – in government, philanthropic, business, and community based organizations – to support what youth and communities need to thrive.


Youth have a biological imperative for growth and development and are resilient by nature. Given the right environment and supports, they will thrive.


Neighborhood of residence and race should not determine a young person’s ability to thrive and succeed in education, training, and employment – but that is the case in San Diego County. YDO acknowledges this opportunity gap and is working to jump start systems change to address it. Working together as a region to address these inequities by increasing academic achievement, increasing physical and behavioral health, and providing access to training and high paying jobs is critical to addressing the opportunity gap.

Three city high schools account for 35% of all 12th grade dropouts

Unified School District students (2012-2013 school year) have <75% probability of graduating high scool in four years

Although youth are the future of any community, San Diego has yet to embrace an overarching and comprehensive strategy to promote their wellbeing. In the absence of a strategy – services are not coordinated – and youth who are succeeding but surrounded by pressures, are more likely to succumb to gangs, drugs, and other negative influences. Consider the following:

  • There are areas in San Diego where 1 in 28 kids are unattached to school or work.
  • Youth homicide is still a concern in some areas of San Diego.
  • Youth poverty is on the rise in San Diego.
  • Services are not connected and coordinated, leaving some areas without positive youth venues for out-of-school activities.
  • Differences in educational attainment by neighborhood are striking. In the southwestern communities of San Diego County, including Imperial Beach, almost one in five youth (18.9 percent) are disconnected. However, in coastal communities between Torrey Pines and Mission Bay, roughly one in every twenty-eight youth (3.6 percent) are disconnected.


Collective Action Leads to Collective Impact

No single program, organization, or institution acting in isolation can bring about large-scale social change on their own. Community-level change requires the concerted efforts of the many players who can contribute to better system performance to band together around a common agenda. Collective action is an innovative way of working that allows individual efforts to add up to big change.

In 2010, John Kania and Mark Kramer (FSG) coined the term “collective impact” in their article by the same name, in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. A collective impact effort involves many players, spans across systems, and works toward a common goal with common ways to measure progress. This concept is fundamental to our approach to everything we do. Central to collective action are youth themselves…YDO encourages, utilizes, and promotes youth participation and youth voice.

Read this article about collective impact.


YDO and our partners believe that there are four ingredients – that if done well – will deliver results for kids in the region:

Alignment of Sectors

Building strong, strategic, and operational alignment among those whose work can influence the goal. When many sectors of the community—education and workforce systems, funders, youth development organizations, libraries, health and housing agencies, and more—align their work to improve indicators of success, the collective impact will be powerful.

Youth, Parent, & Community Engagement

Engaging and supporting parents in their role as their child’s first teacher and strengthening the advocacy voice of parents and communities. Research points to the importance of the parent both as teacher and system navigator and emphasizes the need for strong partnerships among parents, schools, and community. The Road Map Project encourages and supports strong community advocacy for excellence and equity for all students.

Data Driven Practice & Policy

Using data to improve practice and policy through continuous improvement and community advocacy. Building the region’s capacity to use data will strengthen and help improve results from cradle-to-college-and-career.

Stronger Systems

Building stronger systems across the whole cradle-to-college continuum. Often we see great work happening, but the scale remains small. Systems must be built to help spread effective practices. In some cases, new collaborative infrastructure is required to handle a task that falls outside the responsibility of any one particular entity.