SparkAction is a collaborative journalism and advocacy site to mobilize action by and for young people.
There's no shortage of important information and stories, and it can be hard to stay on top of what matters and get the full picture. SparkAction's site and e-newsletters are your one-stop shop for news and tools to make a difference in the lives of children and youth. We gather, synthesize and promote the best information on a range of child and youth issues across the development spectrum, from organizations and leaders across the country.
SparkAction: Free Tools to Boost Your Communications and Mobilization Impact (October 16, 2012)
As an online journalism and advocacy center by and for the child and youth field, SparkAction's site and e-newsletters aim to:
- Connect concerned adults and young people—whether they’re new to the issues or already activists—to compelling stories, context and accurate information on children’s issues, as well as tools to take action, from volunteering to advocating for better policies and programs.
- Help child- and youth-focused organizations effectively reach a broad audience (the public, professional peers, and policymakers) with their content and materials.
- Elevate the voices and perspectives of young people themselves.
- Break down silos in the broad child and youth field and strengthen connections among organizations and agencies to create a stronger, unified voice for children and youth.
SparkAction gives visitors stories, information and tools to learn about a range of issues and to take action to improve policies and programs, and, ultimately, the fabric of our nation as a whole.
SparkAction is a merger of Connectforkids.org, the YouthPolicyActionCenter and the National Youth Development Information Center. SparkAction's team worked with a steering committee of more than 100 organizations across the country to develop the mission and brand and to design this site.
Our story, in brief:
Connect for Kids was launched as KidsCampaigns in 1996 by The Benton Foundation, to demonstrate effective use of new media and communications technologies (particularly the Internet) to further the field of children’s research and advocacy. The groundwork for Connect For Kids was laid in 1991 through the work of the Coalition for America's Children, co-founded by The Benton Foundation. The Coalition's "Who's for Kids and Who's Just Kidding" campaigns worked to put kids at the forefront of the public agenda and to make political candidates accountable on kids' issues.
In 1999, KidsCampaigns redesigned the site and changed its name to Connect For Kids based on research on our usability and effectiveness. At the time, it was the largest gateway website for news and information on children's issues. In 2003, Connect For Kids became an independent nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, funding problems led the Board of Directors to decide to shut down Connect for Kids in 2006. Its assets were transferred to the Forum for Youth Investment.
The Youth Policy Action Center (YPAC) launched in 2005, the result of more than 30 of the country’s leading national advocacy organizations working together. YPAC gives young people and adults the information and tools they need to learn about state and federal policy, contact elected officials, organize campaigns and connect with each other to effect real change. Since its launch, YPAC has helped 32,000 people send more than 73,000 messages to their elected officials.
The National Youth Development Information Center, an initiative of the National Collaboration for Youth, offered youth workers a one-stop website for publications and professional development resources covering: funding, programming, research, policy, job and training opportunities. NYDIC also maintained one of the largest online libraries, providing practice-related information at low-cost or no cost. NYDIC's goal was to provide constant opportunities for practitioners to share knowledge and experience, enabling them to build the best practice in the field of youth development.
Together, we are now SparkAction.org. SparkAction is committed to preserving the legacy of these organizations by continuing to grow and innovate, and to gather, promote and produce the highest-quality stories, publications, data, and interactive action tools.
The National Collaboration for Youth (NCY) is a 40-year old coalition of the National Assembly member organizations that have a significant interest in youth development. Its mission is to provide a united voice as advocates for youth to improve the conditions of young people in America, and to help young people reach their full potential. NCY's members include more than 50 national, nonprofit, youth development organizations. Collectively, its members serve more than 40 million young people, employ over 100,000 paid staff and more than six million volunteers and have a physical presence in virtually every community in America.
The Campaign for Youth (CFY) is an alliance of organizations concerned about the persistence, yet seeming invisibility, of the challenges confronting young people in America who are disconnected from education, employment and opportunity. Established in 2002 by the leadership of national youth-serving organizations, CFY works to build a united voice for disadvantaged youth in this nation by raising awareness about their needs and advocating for the expansion of opportunities and supports that prepare youth for their future roles as workers, parents, civic leaders and engaged members of caring communities.
Child Advocacy 360 is an independent nonprofit service that finds, reviews and reports on the efforts of child advocacy groups to improve the lives of children across the nation, with a particular focus on preventing and addressing abuse and neglect. It was founded in 2007 on the premise that stories about what's working can be an effective lever to engage people to learn and take action to improve the lives of children and youth. Child Advocacy 360 manages the Communications as Catalyst section of our Action Center, and provides SparkAction with its signature content: Who’s Doing What That Works.
In addition, our Launch Partners help spread the word about SparkAction and how it can help...
We serve a wide audience, ranging from professional child advocates to parents to policymakers and young people. We also reach health care professionals, journalists, researchers, grandparents, guardians, and others. Periodically we conduct surveys of our visitors and subscribers. Help us help you - you don't have to wait for a survey to tell us about yourself and how you use SparkAction. What do you use and what do you need?
SparkAction's main products are:
A searchable, comprehensive site housing:
- original and reprinted feature articles, and Youth Voices content offering a first-hand take on the issues
- links to organizations and their content,
- instant action alerts and tools to make a difference in your community or across the nation, and
- a state section to help visitors make local connections and get involved in their hometown.
A biweekly e-newsletter that:
- gathers and contextualizes the latest news, research, emerging trends and policy developments affecting children, youth, families and communities,
- is designed to operate in tandem with the Youth Policy Action Center alerts.
Read the latest Update.
Thaddeus Ferber, Executive Director
Thaddeus is a national leader in online communications and advocacy; youth voice; and aligning inter-agency policy efforts for children and youth. In 2005, he launched the Youth Policy Action Center site to build a national constituency that contacts elected officials about youth issues. As Vice President of Policy at the Forum for Youth Investment, Thaddeus managed the transition of Connect for Kids from an independent organization to a project of the Forum, and oversaw the creation of SparkAction. He also helped draft and advance the Federal Youth Coordination Act, creating a council of the Secretaries of all major federal departments charged with aligning federal efforts for youth. The legislation was signed into law in 2006 but has yet to receive funding. He continues to lead a campaign calling for the creation of a White House Office on Children and Youth, as well as a campaign calling for the creation of a National Youth Council to give young people a voice in the policy decisions which affect them.
While focused domestically, Thaddeus' work has also extended internationally. He led an international delegation through Ecuador to study efforts to connect youth development with community development, and has participated in numerous international forums discussing the creation and promotion of national youth policies. Thaddeus serves on the steering committees of the Campaign for Youth and the Children's Leadership Council, and has received numerous honors including the prestigious John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, the Capitol Advantage Civic Award, the Mobilize 08 Award, and the Champion of Juvenile Justice Award. Thaddeus joined the Forum in 1998 as a John Gardner Public Service Fellow.
Prior to his work at the Forum, he assisted the President’s Crime Prevention Council (Chaired by Vice President Gore), the Stanford Center on Adolescence, the John Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities, and the HOME Afterschool Project in Alameda California. Internationally, Thaddeus worked for ELEM, a non-profit organization for runaway, homeless and neglected Israeli and Arab youth in distress. Thaddeus earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Youth Development and Policy from Stanford University.
A writer and journalist, Caitlin specializes in children's issues and the impact of welfare reform and public policy on families and communities. She has written for OneWorld, Yahoo News, Nation's Cities Weekly, KidsHealth and numerous other outlets. Caitlin has worked as a technical writer and editor in the areas of social policy, the environment, and sustainable development; assisted the Center for Law and Social Policy with its communications strategy and materials as interim director; and launched and directed the National Education Association's online project bNetSavvy.org, a site for educators, parents and 'tweens. She has also taught middle school creative writing as a DC WritersCorps instructor, and organized a nationally competitive youth poetry slam team. Caitlin holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Hoynes Fellow and received a Poe Fellowship; her fiction has appeared in Five Points, Gargoyle and other journals.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Tara is a committed advocate for policies and programs that benefit all youth and communities, especially those often labeled “high-risk.” Whether working on education reform, family support initiatives, or youth leadership development, she is passionate about ensuring that young people are nurtured into becoming active, contributing members of society.
Tara holds a master's degree in human development and psychology from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and has more than ten years of experience in community organizing, grant management, leveraging technology for social services and building alliances among diverse groups and organizations. Prior to joining SparkAction, Tara worked as an advocate for runaway and homeless youth, family support for families in crisis, and education reform in the Seattle Public Schools.
Hailing from Rochester, NY, Alison is a graduate of Denison University where she received her B.A. in Communication. She has previously interned at the American Dance Festival and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. When she is not uploading, editing, or tweeting all things SparkAction, she dances as member of the modern dance company Contradiction Dance in Silver Spring, Maryland and freelances for the award-winning magazine of her alma mater, Denison Magazine. She also roots for the Buffalo Bills and schools her coworkers in the skillful game of shuffleboard. Alison joined SparkAction in February 2011.
As the Graphic Designer and Communications Associate for the Forum for Youth Investment, Dana handles much of the look and feel of the SparkAction site. She joined the Forum and SparkAction in November 2010.
After graduating from Harvard magna cum laude, Jan lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for many years, where she earned a Master’s in Social Work degree (University of Michigan), established a psychotherapy practice and spoke as a social commentator on Michigan Public Radio. She was one of the organizing founders of the Michigan Coalition for America’s Children and President of Ann Arbor’s Young People’s Theater. After moving to Washington, DC, in 1994, Jan taught social work at The Catholic University of America, worked as a consultant at the Community Nutrition Institute and helped launch Connect for Kids and the Connect for Kids Weekly in 1996. Jan now lives in Madison, Virginia, where she is an active volunteer at the local Madison Boys and Girls Club and president of the Madison Farm2Table Steering Committee. With her husband, she weeds and harvests a substantial organic garden to feed family and friends, selling the extra fruits, herbs and vegetables to restaurants in Virginia and DC.
Eddy Ameen is an editorial contributor to SparkAction and pre-doctoral psychology intern who counsels teens in the District of Columbia Superior Court. He is formerly the executive director of the Miami homeless youth program, StandUp For Kids.
To learn more, or share your ideas or your organization’s content, contact us.