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The Power of Ten

A program which provides a structure for youth to support each other in small groups, focusing on network building within each group and between groups, as they navigate a path to employment. Each member will identify and reach out to their connections asking them to identify two more folk - sources of information on career paths. As each group member engages their own connections building a network of resources and knowledge they will share this with their group. This exercise increases the impact of networking for the group as a whole. This will be the foundation for a program in which participants will work, learn and create, developing skills applicable for a job search, interview process and subsequent employment.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

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                                      The Power of Ten 

Building on an initiative such as Americorps, and the observation behind the work of The Posse Foundation, "The Power of Ten", is a program which will create an ecosystem in which youth are joined together in groups, teams, pods, posses, as a vehicle to create connections leading to peer to peer support, as they navigate the path to employment.  These connections will be the foundation of a network which will expand exponentially as each individual in the group shares their own network with each other.

The ecosystem will function to provide a space for youth to develop work skills, be exposed to career options, meet with mentors, receive training in job hunting, resume writing and interview skills - peer to peer and via facilitators, and to be reflective through a variety of creative activities.  The ecosystem will be a foundation for all of these programmatic elements as it provides employment itself within a particular industry, in the case of a pilot program, the health field.  The idea is not to gear youth to work in this field,  although that may be one  outcome.  Rather the idea for this pilot is to provide work experience in an industry which can expose youth to opportunities in which they can develop their skillset as it relates to employment in general - professionalism, interacting with others, taking direction, problem solving, critical thinking, organizational skills, responsibility etc.  These are skills that are critical for employment in any field.
There is no professional skill requirement to enter this program.  One is not expected to be a health care worker to join.  The program will be a one to two year commitment.

Why Health Care for the Pilot Project?

US News and World Report - 100 Best Jobs 2014  -  According to this report more than 1/3 of these jobs are within the healthcare field.  Many others are associated with health care.  For example clerical workers, web developers, data analysts and fitness workers all support health care.  Hence this ecosystem is one in which youth can be exposed to many viable employment options,  as they gain general skills applicable to employment in any field,  and as they develop their networks which will be key to opening doors for possible jobs going forward.  Also educational requirements for jobs on this list are broad opening up this industry to the full spectrum of unemployed youth.  

Americorp has a successful community health care program  in place which serves underserved communities across the USA.  This may be a possible program to build onto.

Health care as a model has the potential to scale to communities in other countries.  There are models in place in the developing world in which workers are trained in community health.  They care for the sick in remote and underserved communities.  Might the millions of unemployed youth in other parts of the world participate in further developing these programs, utilizing their creativity and entrepreneurial talents, on their path to employment?  Can this serve as an opportunity for these youth much as I describe for youth in America above?  Can a young workforce also provide a much needed service in their local communities?

Where will the pilot be developed and why?

I envision the pilot being developed in a low income urban community which can benefit from this program in multiple ways.  Local youth who lack connections, often important on the path to employment, will benefit greatly from participating in a program that emphasizes network building.  I envision the youth corp to be a combination of local youth and youth from other communities in an effort to create connections beyond one's base,  and to provide cross cultural experiences enhancing one's skillset,  as youth learn to work with, and in the service of, folk of diverse backgrounds.  Citizens in these communities can benefit greatly from a corp of young workers engaged in community health programming.  There is the possibility here for community engagement and creative programming that will enrich the work experiences of youth and benefit the local community.


1 - Networks will develop between individuals in each group and between groups.
2  - There will be opportunities for youth to develop their entrepreneurial skills, form teams and develop their own projects.  As youth engage in their community work they will be tasked to look, listen and identify problems that need solutions.  They will be given the freedom once or twice a month to meet and brainstorm around these problems.  Community engagement will be encouraged.  
Hackathons will be a tool used to generate and collaborate around ideas.  Community members will be invited to participate.  Possible seeds for new business development?
3 - Improv workshops will be held as a means to develop interview skills.
4 - There will be workshops on financial literacy.   Making a budget and the value of saving will be discussed. How a retirement plan works and the tax advantages will be discussed.  Many co workers that I know do not take advantage of this opportunity because they do not fully understand it.  It will be great to start this conversation with youth when they start their working lives.  Saving will be especially important when working in an economy where there is job instability.
5 - Youth can choose to work as health mentors for seniors within the community.  This will be one possible employment path within this program.


Questions For The Community:
1 - What is your feeling about mixing the groups of 10 between high school grads and college students/college grads?  Do you think this will enrich their experiences, detract from them?  What they have in common is they are on the same path - to employment.  
2- What other programs exist that this might be built onto?
3 - Any Americorp workers on the platform?  What is your sense of this idea? Does Americorp currently have a job search training component?


Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

to be continued:

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

to be continued:

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

My hypothesis is that groups will share their connections. I would like to test that assumption first. What I know - 1) Adult friends definitely share connections on behalf of their teen and young adult children. I know many instances where a youth had a summer job or first job based on the network of their parent. In my world this is a fact. I tested this entire idea on the street with a young neighbor - whom I had just met. She is 27. She has a masters degree in a communications/writing field. She was unable to find employment. She lived in NYC, originally from Florida. While looking for work she did find an unpaid internship at the BBC in NY. She lived on friend's couches. She told me she was lucky enough to have that option - ie; lucky enough to be able to survive without earning money and therefore able to do the unpaid internship. After that internship she was out of work for about 18 months. She did get some freelance work from her BBC contacts. She now has a job at a public television station in NYC. She was referred there by her father. He had a connection. When she arrived that person had already passed her CV to a colleague. She met with the colleague and was offered the position. 2) Youth in low income neighborhoods have fewer professional connections. Youth who do not go to college will not have an alumni network. They may however have undiscovered connections . In this program we will investigate together how to discover these connections. We well develop a letter that each youth can give to their connections, and their secondary contacts, explaining what the program is about giving it validity and encouraging people to participate. So the first thing to examine is whether youth will share their contacts. How will they feel about it? I know that if one of my friends' children asked me to speak with their friend about my work I would do it. I am not sure they would ask me. Their mom might though. Would youth do it for peers that they are just meeting - who are not their friends. Perhaps the program should evolve over the first 6 months so that the youth can form their own "connections" - get to know each other. I would also like to see if youth think about their friends needs. - ex. John meets Tim in his group. They have been working together for 6 months. They share an interest in basketball outside of work but have different academic interests and different educational backgrounds. As the months pass John realizes that Tim is really into animal care, volunteering at the ASPCA in his off time. John's neighbor is a vet and he asks Tim if he would want to meet him. Tim is not interested in pursuing further education - he graduated from a community college. He does not want to be a vet. John thinks that his neighbor might know about possibilities working with animals in different settings - like a zoo, or a vet's assistant. He figures a vet would know what is out there. I wonder if this type of scenario might happen organically - especially in a program where talk about networking and future employment is on the radar. I wonder if I ask youth now what they would say about the possibilities of this actually happening. I would like to ask youth about these ideas as a first round.

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • I'm more throwing the idea out there to inspire potential implementers


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

The idea looks great! How do you see the group meetings fitting into a school schedule? Are they after school? And how are the groups chosen?

About the questions you mentioned, I think a mix of high school and college would be good, but it might be tough for scheduling. Ten people is a ton to get together for any one time, even if it is regular.
It would definitely be good to build onto something that's already happening. It could be a school club- there are lots of those.

Also, this might sound strange, but how do you make this cool for high school kids, especially lower-income cities that aren't already motivated to look for jobs? Talking about jobs and searching for professional connections might not be appealing to them. How could you either motivate them to do it, or make them to get involved (like in school) so that they eventually see the benefits and pursue it?

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Gavin. The idea here is to have a work program in place for youth that have graduated from high school and need to find a job + youth that are college grads and also are looking for work. The common thing here is that they are unemployed and looking for work.
They find out about this program (not sure how yet) and decide to join it. Perhaps this program is built onto an existing work/service program such as Americorp. In the program youth are put into groups/teams. Each team will rotate as a whole as their tasks change over time. The pilot program that I suggest is to be structured within the field of community health. There are many things youth can do in this area. Of course there will be facilitators and guides etc. to orient them to their work responsibilities. The basic idea is that it is a work program providing an opportunity to gain experience as an employee. Skills are acquired on the job that are necessary for success in any job - punctuality, taking direction, working with others, customer service - things like that. In addition to working everyday there will be trainings on how to conduct a job search, write a CV, participate in an interview. This is so that the youth can take the next step - find regular employment after this program finishes. The power of the group is the support it affords each individual in this process. The group becomes it's own network - there are 10 people in the group - each has their own contacts - my hope is that they will share their contacts with each other - in this way each individual will have many more contacts and this will open doors for the next step - a job that is outside of the program.
Kids from low income communities also need to find their path to employment. Working with a group which can support all of it's members, within a program like this, might be a way forward for them - as it might for all youth.

I will need to clarify the post so that readers understand the full picture. Thanks for the questions. It makes me realize the post needs editing.

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