On behalf of the board and staff of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, we wanted to share a few key updates on the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota (YWI MN). As we move out of the research and development phase of the YWI MN, there are many exciting developments unfolding as we work together to create a world of opportunity, safety, and respect for all young women in the state.

The Women’s Foundation has committed $9 million to this seven-year Initiative focused on young women between the ages of 12 and 24. Launched in October 2016, it is a public-private partnership that the Women’s Foundation co-leads with the Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota. We made a grant to the University of Minnesota Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) to conduct community action research and a grant to the YWCA St. Paul to provide leadership development and compensation to the young women who sit on the Young Women’s Cabinet.

The participation of community-specific Working Groups and the Young Women’s Cabinet, along with the Listening Sessions held in eight statewide communities, have been essential to building the statewide YWI MN Blueprint for Action.

The YWI MN’s true “superpower?” It is centered on young women (ages 12-24) from eight communities all across the state — African American, African Immigrant, American Indian, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latina, LGBTQ, Disabilities, and Greater Minnesota. Young women will be key drivers of the work over the next seven years.

We built the YWI MN out of work we’ve led targeted to girls and young women since 2002, including our girlsBEST (girls Building Economic Success Together) Fund and MN Girls Are Not for Sale Fund.

We’re delighted to announce a new member of our team who will be leading the YWI MN with us. Lulete Mola has been named our Director of Community Impact. Lulete’s leadership will strengthen the Initiative and keep it centered with young women, community, and grounded with their perspectives and voices. Lulete will also lead the implementation and management of the Foundation’s grantmaking, evaluation, leadership and field-building programs that enable large scale systems change. What we’re most excited about are the fresh perspectives and innovative ideas Lulete brings to our work, impacting the whole of the Foundation. Read more about Lulete and other new talent we’ve welcomed to the Foundation team, here.

Key Updates for the YWI MN Blueprint for Action:

  • There are many parts in motion to build out the YWI MN campaign. Over the summer, we will continue to refine the YWI MN Blueprint for Action in partnership with Dr. Lauren Martin and UROC. Our public release with the Governor’s Office is slated for October 3.
  • Toolkit: As part of this release, we’ll share a toolkit that introduces Minnesotans to the YWI MN and invites corporations, government, and nonprofits to engage in creating the solutions necessary to secure sustainable systems change across Minnesota.
  • Grantmaking RFP: Also this fall, we’re especially excited to open our first round of YWI MN grantmaking with a request for proposals (RFP) led by a grantmaking committee of young women. We’ll share details about this release in October.
  • Expanding Opportunity and Leadership: We’re already seeing pathways to opportunity open for young women. Recently, we held a YWI MN luncheon that was attended by state Governor Mark Dayton, Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher, and Vanessa Goodthunder, a member of the YWI Cabinet. We’ve known Vanessa through our girlsBEST Fund and she served as a panel-moderator for the American Indian Listening Session we held in November, 2015. As a result of these leadership experiences, Vanessa was appointed to a position in the Governor’s Office as Aide to Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher. This is a terrific example of the kind of opportunity we want to ensure for all girls in the state.
  • National: The work to ensure opportunity, safety, and respect for all young women extends far beyond Minnesota’s borders. With seven other women’s foundations across the country, we’ve created a National Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives where young women are at the center of solutions, leading change.(Pictured, l-r) Vanessa Goodthunder (Aide to Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher), Lee Roper-Batker (President & CEO, WFM), Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Lulete Mola (Dir. of Community Impact, WFM), Saanii Hernandez (Vice President, WFM), and Jaime Tincher (Chief of Staff, Office of Gov. Mark Dayton & Lt. Gov. Tina Smith.

We are so thankful for your support of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. Your partnership is needed to shape, grow, and sustain what we know will be a successful seven-year Initiative!

If you have any questions about the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, please get in touch.

Together, we’re on a mission to create a Minnesota where every young woman has the opportunity to thrive and is the champion of her own life.

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