YDI was founded in 1991 as a project of the Fund for the City of New York in support of the New York City Beacons Initiative that created school-based community centers for children, youth and families. At the time, the Beacons Initiative was the largest municipal investment in youth services in the City’s history. YDI ensured this innovative model’s success by providing an array of training, professional development, and programmatic supports. The Beacons Initiative was a catalyst for the out-of-school time movement in New York City that now incorporates a variety of community-based program models which YDI continues to support today.

In 1996, the foundations of Youth Development were emergent, but its practitioners had no common language or set of approaches and outcomes that defined their field and could be leveraged to scale positive impact for young people. To remedy this, YDI launched Networks for Youth Development, a three-year intensive learning community that sought to capture both research and practitioner expertise to codify and document youth development practices. Through Networks, a collaborative of youth-serving organizations worked together to identify, articulate, and disseminate the best practices of the youth development field and to create a system of staff development to support those practices. Networks and it’s broadly disseminated set of informative flip-books helped guide the professional development and programming strategies for countless staff and organizations in NYC and around the country.

In its second decade, YDI worked in partnership with the New York City Department of Education to bring the youth development framework into education settings. YDI facilitated the development of the model for Family Group/Advisory school-based programs, initiated the Community Education Pathways to Success (CEPS) model to integrate youth development, social supports, and academic instruction at community-based organizations that provide career-related services and supported the expansion of the Learning to Work Program, which services nearly 19,000 students in alternative education settings.

This collaboration made clear that building capacity in youth development was needed that extended far beyond programs in schools and after-school settings. In 2003, in partnership with The Pinkerton Foundation, YDI began facilitating the Career Internship Network (CIN), a learning community and capacity building initiative to develop, grow, and sustain strong career internship programs across the city. Through CIN, YDI provides youth development training, workshops, and on-site technical assistance to the leadership, middle managers, and line staff of organizations that host high school internships at many of New York City’s major cultural institutions. YDI also expanded to support the implementation of Project Rise, an application of the CEPS model in workforce settings. Project Rise targeted unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds who are out of school and lack a high school credential. They then engaged these young people in a combination of education opportunities, paid internships, and case management as a pathway to long-term economic self-sufficiency.

Today, YDI works with nearly 400 programs annually across the youth-serving field in areas including education, college access, workforce development, juvenile justice, youth leadership, foster care, out-of-school time, literacy, and more; impacting some 20,000 young people across New York City.  

The Youth Development Institute is a project of the Fund for the City of New York.