In 1990, the International Youth Foundation was born — a youth development organization that, at that time, was without precedent in its scope and mission. In all, the Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) granted to IYF nearly US$70 million — the largest single commitment in WKKF history. The initial challenge was to build on Mr. Kellogg’s desire ‘to take good ideas, help them grow…invest in people and institutions…all in support of children and families.’
The IYF story began in 1989 when its founder, Rick Little, was invited to WKKF’s headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan. Rick’s first task was to conduct a scan of youth programs worldwide. Working closely with WKKF staff, he interviewed experts, business leaders, philanthropists, government officials and young people across the globe. This year-long study revealed tremendous opportunities:
The vast majority of philanthropic resources for children and youth internationally were targeted at just two age groups: youth in higher education OR children under five. Children and youth ages five to 20 were woefully underserved by the grants of foundations, foreign assistance programs, and traditional donors.
Most international grant making was directed to relief and emergency efforts. This left long-term development needs substantially underfunded.
The majority of grant making funded experimental start-up efforts, while programs that had proven effective suffered from a lack of opportunity to grow to scale, meet their challenges, and become sustainable.
WKKF wanted to encourage and nurture new philanthropic institutions, while mobilizing new resources to invest in proven, effective youth programs. If a new endeavor could go to scale and create financial sustainability, millions more children and youth could be helped each year.
IYF was thus founded on the notion that a wealth of knowledge about effective youth development programs exists, but far too few youth-serving NGOs benefit from such expertise because of scarce resources and a lack of sustained, coordinated action. The mission of the newly formed organization was to prepare young people to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. Central to achieving its vision on a global scale was IYF’s intent to build, from the ground up, an international network of organizations all working to ensure that youth anywhere on the globe could receive a quality education, learn the skills needed to get a job, and ultimately become engaged in their communities. As an intermediary among NGOs, businesses, and governments, IYF set out to identify what works, bring it to scale, and ‘make the case’ for youth to the broadest possible audience