Participatory Grantmaking to Support Local Youth Organizing

Blue Future
6 min readMar 28, 2022


As Blue Future continues to expand our impact within the youth organizing and leadership development pipeline for the progressive movement, it’s important that we continue refining the ways we use our resources to drive impact. In that spirit, we recently hired 35 organizers — 80% women, 80% representing BIPOC communities, and 41% representing the LGBTQ+ community — through our Organize for Democracy Leadership program.

Yet, to better create space for leadership to emerge — a key outcome of the civil rights movement and organizing work done by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee — we also wanted to get back to our early organizing tactics of fortifying strategic partnerships with state based local groups. So, we launched our fourth Youth Power Fund program.

The Youth Power Fund is a grant and fellowship opportunity for progressive student organizers and local youth-led organizations. The goal of the Youth Power Fund is to support local youth-led organizations and student organizers with direct funding and a community of learning to unleash youth voter engagement in key Congressional districts and competitive Senate states for the 2022 election.

This year, we used a transparent, participatory grantmaking process to involve our alumni in making funding decisions. We created our inaugural participatory grantmaking committee, representing the racial, gender, sexuality, ability, economic, and geographic diversity of Blue Future’s previous grantees and organizing alumni. We invited folks to:

  • Be trained in the basic principles of participatory grantmaking
  • Review applications and provide scores based on a rubric
  • Interview funding applicants
  • Decide with a cohort of alumni which projects to fund
  • Support Blue Future as we build the next generation of leaders

Our committee of youth leaders deliberated over several weeks. It’s with great enthusiasm that we were able to invest in the following organizations working to developing youth leadership and driving impact on important issues and electoral campaigns across the country.

At Forward Montana, we have BIG dreams for our state. However, an unfriendly political climate, a housing, and climate crisis, and continual attacks on our democracy pose big risks to our lives and futures. While there are no simple solutions, there are countless creative, compassionate, and dedicated young Montanans who believe in a better future for all. Forward Montana builds political power with and for young Montanans by driving a culture of

civic engagement, and electing leaders and passing policies that are representative of the needs and vision of our generation. This partnership with Blue Future will help us mobilize young voters around Montana’s newest congressional district!

Somos Tejas mission is to cultivate a vibrant culture of civic participation in the Latino community that becomes a transformative force towards a more progressive and inclusive Tejas. In order to create a change here in Tejas, we will first need to engage people and get them active in their communities. Thanks to Blue Future we will be able to provide our volunteers with the support they need to register more voters and reach more homes!

Generation Ratify is a 100% youth-led movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and advance gender equality. Our movement has empowered young people across the country to advocate for essential gender-based issues. We’ve organized national lobby days, protests, and even wrote an amicus brief. This grant will fund our organizers efforts to advance gender equality while also ensuring candidates and politicians make the ERA and gender equality a top issue.

Rise trains and hires community college and university students to organize campaigns focused on eliminating tuition and fees, expanding financial aid and ending student hunger and homelessness, and getting out the vote. Rise at Central Michigan University and Blue Future together can make a difference and get students involved and prepared to vote.

The Georgia Youth Justice Coalition is a group of student organizers from across the state who work at the intersection of education and democracy. We advocate for the needs of students statewide, including fully funded schools, representation in school staff, and curriculums that are as diverse as Georgia’s student population. While GYJC is statewide, we intend to spend this money investing further in the youth-of-color-led operations in our Gwinnett County specifically, as we are the largest, and most diverse county with major May elections!

Great Plains Action Society addresses the trauma Indigenous Peoples and the earth have faced and works to prevent further colonial-capitalist violence through mutual aid, culture & tradition, direct action, and political engagement. We are working hard to decolonize ourselves and the world around us. Decolonization is the movement away from colonial capitalist structures, which are also largely built on white supremacy. We feel very strongly that Indigenous ideologies and practices are the antitheses of colonial capitalism, and we deploy these tools to fight and build on our vision.

When we imagine a strong, independent political infrastructure, we see a focus on relationships and community as radical individualism only benefits the wealthy. We organize from the bottom up through grassroots and frontline efforts and we are informed by the communities that we serve and are a part of. This work has made it very clear that mutual aid is necessary for achieving our decolonized vision as this radical love helps heal and activate more folks on the ground to get culturally, civically, and politically involved.

The Texas College Democrats represent, assist, and support 28 campus chapters across the state of Texas, which cumulatively register thousands of voters a year, engage in progressive campus activism, and democratize access to careers in politics. We are grateful for Blue Future’s support and excited to use their gift to partially fund our next round of chapter micro-grants.

The mission of Zero Hour is to center the voices of diverse youth in the conversation around climate and environmental justice. Zero Hour is a youth-led movement creating entry points, training, and resources for new young activists and organizers (and adults who support our vision) wanting to take concrete action around climate change. Together, we are a movement of unstoppable youth organizing to protect our rights and access to the natural resources and a clean, safe, and healthy environment that will ensure a livable future where we not just survive, but flourish.

Blue Future will continue the momentum by bringing our grantees together periodically in a learning community to connect with each other, share best practices and organizing ideas, and strengthen our community of youth organizers nationwide. We are proud to have incorporated a participatory grant making practice, as it’s strengthened our decisions and created a new, unique space for leadership to emerge for our alumni.



Blue Future

Blue Future is building a diverse youth movement that will inspire, mobilize and invest in young people to organize for a brighter tomorrow.