YouthBanks are grantmaking outifts that are operated by young people. Meaning, they have the final say in their grantmaking decisions, with a little guidance from a few experienced adults. This model has been around for a number of years, and YouthBanks now operate in nearly 30 countries around the world, including in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
To some, it may seem a bit unnerving to give all the grantmaking power to adolescents and teenagers. But advocates of YouthBanks point to multiple benefits, such as increasing the civic efficacy and careers of young people, along with fostering their empathy for people different from themselves. Most obviously, YouthBanks are a great way to nurture the practice of philanthropy, especially in societies that may have little tradition of giving. In turn, expanding philanthropy is seen by many funders as a key to building a robust civil society in places where the state has often been the dominant actor.
One of the biggest boosters of YouthBanks in the foundation world is the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, a major civil society funder, which began supporting the YouthBank model in 2010. Since then, Mott has awarded close to $1.3 million in grants to support YouthBanks around the world. Most recently, it gave a $200,000 grant to the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, which will use the money "to increase youth involvement in local philanthropy development and civic action by strengthening the YouthBank movement in the Central and Eastern Europe and Russia region." Mott gave the same amount to the group in 2012.
Mott has also supported the Community Volunteers Foundation in Turkey to promote YouthBanks in that country, and backed other groups in this space in Central Europe.
Mott's backing of YouthBanks is supported out of its Civil Society program which makes grants to organizations in Southeast Europe, the Western Former Soviet Union, South Africa, and the United States.