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Foster care and youth homelessness issues don’t recognize state boundaries. These issues are everywhere.  Earlier this fall, we were fortunate enough to visit California Youth Connection in San Francisco to spend some time working with them and learning best practices from each other.

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California Youth Connection (CYC) is a youth-led organization, created to develop leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative and policy change. Our goal for connecting with CYC was to form an alliance. We wanted to be able to build off of one another and continue to grow and make change in our own communities.

Right off the bat, we noticed many similarities between our organizations. Youth and young adults have leadership roles in both organizations. We each also have multiple chapters with chapter leaders who are young adults with lived experience. However there are some differences. Mockingbird also includes youth homelessness work while CYC focuses on foster care. One cool thing I saw at CYC is that they have a shadowing day where multiple youth go to the state capitol and shadow different legislators.

While in San Francisco, we had the opportunity to receive an abbreviated demo of two different trainings to help give us different perspectives and outlooks and to give us some concrete information about what other organizations are doing. One of these trainings was systems thinking training – a super interesting concept. This training was designed by the Waters Foundation and we discussed different kinds of thinking and ways we could better use our ways of thinking to make change.

The second training was Youth – Plan, Act, Now! (Y-PLAN). Created by The Center for Cities + Schools in Berkeley, it empowers young people to tackle real-world problems in their communities through project-based civic engagement.

So what’s next in the new year? We definitely learned some new techniques and ways to make change in our communities. And there is also so much more that we need to do to continue the work we are doing. We will continue to build this alliance through trips and Skype sessions because we know the importance of collaboratively thinking about systems and effecting positive change.

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