Newark, NJ – Today Victoria Foundation announced the inaugural cohort of Newark youth in its NextGen Grantmakers initiative. The project, a partnership with The Gem Project, is a part of the foundation’s new mission to strengthen community power, foster economic justice, and promote youth self-determination, in order to build community power for generations to come.
During the 2022-2023 school year, nine 16-17 year-old high school students, representing all the wards in Newark, are being educated and exposed to grantmaking and will develop their own funding process allocating up to $50,000 to support Newark-based nonprofits that center youth in their work, prioritizing: youth organizing, expression, and youth leadership as key funding selected by this cohort. Victoria Foundation has partnered with The Gem Project, a Newark -based youth organizing and leadership fellowship nonprofit to co-facilitate and co-design this program.
“We are excited to open doors and access to philanthropy for young Black and Brown people in Newark, to feel empowered in the role they can play in shaping how these resources meet community priorities,” shared Victoria Foundation Executive Officer Craig Drinkard, “Over our 100 year history, Victoria Foundation has supported youth through educational programs and summer camps. This is a deepening of that commitment as we live into our new direction. Ultimately, we want youth to have a strong voice in all of our work.”
The initiative aims to increase familiarity of the philanthropic sector and processes for Black and Brown youth, to offer access and exposure in a field that is largely white-led and where grantmaking resources are often deployed without transparency and without community input.
“For so many Black and Brown youth, they have the insights and know-how of what their communities need, but philanthropy has not historically been a sector that is inclusive or accessible to people without means,” shared Aqeela Sherrills, Victoria Foundation trustee and nationally recognized leader in community based public safety. “Our communities are incredibly philanthropic and have a culture of caring for each other. This is an opportunity to learn about it as a sector, and provide the opportunity to experience and shape the process.”
In their first meeting, the NextGen Grantmakers defined their vision and mission for this cohort, and began sharing the ways they would invest in their communities, developing a robust list including healthcare, cleaner and safer spaces to gather, and support and services for unhoused people. In upcoming sessions they will develop grantmaking criteria, set parameters of a grant cycle, develop requests for letters of intent, full grantseeking applications, and explore professions in the philanthropic industry. By June 2023, they will have awarded grants totalling $50,000, and will conclude with site visits and evaluations.
Brianna Suárez is the Strategy Officer leading the Foundation’s work on Youth Self-Determination and staff lead for this initiative. “This is an important part of our new framework, to elevate and listen to the voices of young people in Newark. The NextGen initiative is a step in that direction as we are learning how to build a culture of co-design in our organization in a way that respects their experiences and leans into our expertise in grantmaking,” shared Suárez.
Victoria Foundation is one in a handful of foundations that are incorporating community-led grantmaking approaches, and one of the few with a youth-specific program that puts decision making and design in their hands.
The NextGen Grantmakers will open a grant application process in early 2023, with grants going to selected organizations by June 2023.