WHAT ARE YOUR PROGRAMS THIS YEAR THAT I CAN GO TO?
See our upcoming Jams section for more information on this year’s programs. If you don’t see something offered this year that seems appropriate to you, but you are interested in our organization in general, please ask to be on our mailing list, and we will keep you informed of future programs.
DO YOU HAVE ANY RESOURCES FOR YOUNGER KIDS?
At this time, we are not offering any programs for youth under age 15. Anyone interested in being on our mailing list will be notified of our future programs, including if we ever offer anything for children, but when this was written we had no plans to do so. However, children who are interested now will be 15 before long…
In the meanwhile, we recommend three outstanding programs that serve younger kids. Youth Empowered Action (YEA!) Camp is held over the summer for kids ages 10-13 to support the next generation of young social changemakers. Contact amazing organizer and Jam alum, Nora Kramer, to learn more. Hidden Villa in Northern California has for more than 50 years held outstanding multicultural environmental stewardship camps for young people who want to change the world. We have heard wonderful things about their work. The Power of Hope does outstanding camps in the Northwestern US that use the arts and creative expression as tools for building community and helping diverse young people (ages 14-18) to find their voice and change the world. They generate outstanding responses, and although their program are almost always full, they could well be worth contacting.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A JAM?
Each Jam is unique in many ways, adapting to the specific needs and culture of the community hosting it. But most Jams also have certain things in common. There is food of course – healthy, natural food that is, as much as possible, grown and produced locally, in harmony with the environment and the resource base of the Earth. We always try to hold Jams in a beautiful natural environment, which supports participants in being nourished and inspired throughout our time together. And there are the people – diverse, inspiring, courageous and committed peers create a powerful opportunity for relationship building and transformational dialogue even if we did nothing. But of course, we don’t do nothing. At Jams we:
- Create a safe space where participants can “take off their masks,” so that they can step out with all of who they are and feel welcomed and accepted.
- Support each participant to look at their personal and family history, where they are, where they want to go in their lives and work, what challenges they face, what resources they have, and what steps they can take to move from where they are, to where they want to be.
- Share knowledge, insights and life experience. Jam participants are expert in a diverse range of global issues and skill sets. By pooling wisdom, insights, and tools, there are tremendous opportunities for shared learning and growth.
- Engage mentors. Not always, but most Jams bring in elder guest presenters who have sometimes decades of experience in the very areas in which the Jam participants are engaged. These elders share the best of what they’ve learned, and engage the Jams in meaningful and sometimes transformational intergenerational dialogue.
- Explore our relationship – as a community and in our own lives and organizations – to issues of gender, race, class and power. Where are we in our journeys with these issues, and how can we do the work as individuals and as a Jam community to uproot patterns of violence and learn to do things differently in the world?
- Support networking and movement building. Jam participants identify and communicate their personal and organizational needs and resources, and build strategic bonds of partnership that can help individuals and movements join forces and work synergistically.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A JAM?
The truth is, that’s when the real work starts. Our alumni have gone on to start more than 800 organizations and social entrepreneurial ventures, and a recent survey showed that 96% of our alumni made valuable contacts at the Jam, and 100% feel that Jams are a unique space for young changemakers to engage with each other. YES! alumni have joined forces to support movements as diverse as building democracy in Latin America, campaigning for human rights in the Philippines, aiding refugee communities during the war in Lebanon, helping to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, raising many hundreds of thousands of dollars to support one another’s work and many, many other collaborative projects.
HOW DO WE SELECT JAMMERS?
Each Jam has its own selection process, depending on the constituency and themes of that Jam. Most Jams have a selection committee, consisting of 3-4 members of that Jam’s facilitation and/or leadership team, that reviews applications. Potential participants generally fill out a substantive application form, which accomplishes several goals:
- It enables the selection committee to get to know and move towards selecting participants;
- It enables the facilitation team to get to know who is coming to a Jam so that the themes and content can be of optimal relevance to the particular group assembled; and
- Potential participants can clarify their own thinking about their life’s journey and how the Jam fits into their path – which can be valuable reflection in its own right.
Jam participants are selected primarily on the basis of factors like diversity (within the target audience we look for diversity of age, ethnicity, geography, economic background, religion, area of focus, gender, sexual orientation, and more), alignment with the themes of the Jam, leadership skills, depth of impact, connection to a community, and ability to work constructively across differences.
WHAT IS YOUR AGE FOCUS?
YES! was founded in 1990 by a couple of teen-agers, with a specific focus on teens. At first, we said we would never hire anyone over the age of 21. Then our co-founder, Ryan, turned 21 and we decided that a birthday did not render him useless to the organization. As the years went by, we saw the value in continuity, and we realized that sometimes getting older means we also learn a few things that can be useful to an organization’s effectiveness. Our target audience crept up to 20-somethings, and then to young adults.
By 2007, we realized we were at a crossroads. After 17 years of engaging young changemakers on a peer-to-peer basis, many of our program partners and staff were getting into their 30s (and even in one case, gulp, their 40s!). We were in danger of morphing into a seniors rights organization in a few short decades. How could we build on our accomplishments, relationships, and all that we’d learned, while making space for the creativity, innovation, and youthful spirit of a new generation of leadership to step in? At our 2007 YES! Community Summit, we brought together our staff, board, and organizing partners from 5 continents to address these and other questions.
Coming out of the Community Summit, we have developed systems for cultivating new and youthful leadership in every aspect of our operations and programming, while recognizing that we are an intergenerational organization that is committed to the next generation of changemakers. Most (though not all) of our events focus on ages 18-35 or 20-40 with a median age in the mid to late 20s. We feel this is a critical and formative age for leadership development. At the same time, we have an ever-growing alumni base now numbering in the thousands that does and will continue to age, and we maintain an ongoing commitment to supporting their lives and work even if they do travel around the sun a few more times.
We believe that the youthful spirit is vital to the future of our world. While we focus largely on people under the age of 35, we also believe that the passion, innovation, creativity and boldness often associated with young folks is not limited to a specific age. In fact, we often quote Samuel Ullman, who said:
"Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.
Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in an adult of 60 more than a child of 20. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Whether 60 or 16, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing childlike appetite of what's next. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from people and from the infinite, so long are you young."
HOW CAN AN OLDER PERSON GET INVOLVED?
There are many ways that folks who are over age 35, or who do not fit the particular criteria or areas of focus of specific events we are planning, can engage with YES!. These include:
- Get on our email list. You can receive quarterly updates on our work, share in our learning journey, and learn about new opportunities for engagement as they emerge.
- Come to one of our intergenerational workshops, which we hold in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Santa Cruz area many times annually. These are afternoon-long or day-long events that provide an experience of YES!’s work, and valuable skills and tools for diverse people of all ages who desire to make a difference in the world.
- Volunteer your time in support of YES!’s work. Depending on your skills, geographic location, and level of time availability, there are numerous ways you might be able to contribute time in ways that will support YES!’s mission and provide you with some interesting opportunities to engage with our work and the extraordinary community of young changemakers with whom we collaborate. See our wish list for some possible opportunities!
- Come to one of our free fundraising house parties – or host one in your community.
- Donate to YES!. We welcome your partnership on any scale as an investment in the future of our work.
- Learn about and connect up with our alumni. YES! alumni are doing some extraordinary work in 65+ nations.
- Share your ideas. Are there other ways you want to engage with YES!’s work or mission? Write us and let us know what’s on your mind or in your heart.
HOW CAN I SUPPORT YES!?
IS THERE ANY EMPLOYMENT AVAILABLE?
We are not actively looking for staff, as we tend to hire from a pool of people already deeply connected to our work. However, anyone is welcome to send us a resume or bio, or to introduce themselves with a letter, and we will keep these on file in case something should ever open up. The reality, however, is that someone sending us an unsolicited resume or bio is unlikely to be hired for anything. The best way to get involved with YES! in an ongoing way is to volunteer in our office, to volunteer by helping to drive people to and from our events (most of them being in the San Francisco Bay Area, California) or by assisting our cooks at our events, and to offer to be a "virtual volunteer" from a remote location if you don’t live in Northern California but can commit significant time in support or our work. We also need excellent vegetarian cooks who are skilled in cooking for multi-cultural groups that include many non-vegetarians, on a low budget. Financial donations are another excellent way to partner with us. If you are interested in being a volunteer, cook, and/or intern, contact us and we can discuss specifics to see if it can be worked out in a mutually beneficial way.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FUNDRAISING ADVICE FOR ME?
YES!’s fundraising philosophy strives to be in alignment with our values of sustainability and authenticity, and we endeavor to create donor relationships that are healthy and transformative. Building bridges (connecting people and their resources in solidarity, not charity) is part of how we fulfill our vision of a world working together for a thriving, just and sustainable future. YES! is blessed with many partnerships in the work we do and we believe that which is appreciated, appreciates!
We are indebted to Lynne Twist, founder of The Soul of Money Institute, for her years of support and for helping us to ground YES!’s development efforts in a place of love and gratitude. We encourage you to visit her website and find out more about how to fundraise from the heart and in service to your mission,www.soulofmoney.org
DO YOU ENGAGE POLITICALLY? AND IF SO, HOW?
YES! is a non-profit organization, and we do not engage in advocacy for or against any candidate for public office. Many of our alumni and constituents do engage in political issues and causes, and we often support their movements insofar as the law allows. We believe that the movement towards a thriving, just and sustainable way of life for all must include a diversity of insights and visions, and we are saddened by the partisan bickering, ego, and power struggles that have so come to dominate “business as usual” in modern politics. At the same time, we believe that these are times that call us to take a stand, boldly and courageously, on behalf of life. If silence is the voice of complicity, then these are not times to stay quiet. So with respect for each individual’s unique perspective and unique gifts, we are committed to nurturing a new generation of social change leaders. And we know that there are political implications to this commitment.