YouthBuild USA was started informally in 1988 and incorporated in 1990 after the program's success in five New York City neighborhoods. Its mission was to guide the process of replicating and scaling up the YouthBuild program across the United States. There are now 260 YouthBuild programs in 46 states, Washington, DC, and the Virgin Islands. Approximately 110,000 YouthBuild students have built 21,000 units of affordable, increasingly green housing since 1994.
Community- and faith-based nonprofit organizations sponsor most YouthBuild programs, many of which are led by social entrepreneurs who have started YouthBuild in their communities. Dorothy Stoneman, recipient of the 2007 Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship, started the first YouthBuild program in East Harlem in 1978.
The national YouthBuild network benefits from extraordinary public-private partnerships. Local YouthBuild programs and YouthBuild USA receive financial support from diverse public, private, national and local sources. YouthBuild USA works with federal funding agencies to assure the quality and increase the impact of local YouthBuild programs. Primary funding for local YouthBuild programs comes from the U.S. Department of Labor under the federal YouthBuild program, administered by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), which makes grants directly to local sponsors of YouthBuild programs on a competitive basis.
A key aspect of YouthBuild USA’s role in the early years was to build sufficient political awareness and support to get YouthBuild authorized as a federal program. This occurred in 1992 through the leadership of Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Since then, YouthBuild USA has worked with champions and allies in Congress to ensure an annual appropriation for the federal YouthBuild program. This is not a set-aside or earmark; YouthBuild is equivalent in law to Peace Corps and Head Start.
YouthBuild program funds are distributed directly by the federal government through a competitive process to local community-based organizations that run YouthBuild programs in their neighborhoods. YouthBuild USA also must compete for a national contract with the federal government to provide training, technical assistance, and data management assistance to the government’s YouthBuild grantees. The U.S. Department of Labor is the current managing federal agency.
YouthBuild USA also supports local YouthBuild programs in a variety of ways, independent of the U.S. Department of Labor, to complement and supplement the government program and to maintain the catalytic, innovative, movement-building spirit of the YouthBuild network.
The reach of YouthBuild USA is not limited to YouthBuild programs; it extends to the broader youth and community development fields to diminish poverty in the United States and internationally.