11: A conduit for multiple funding streams – the Philadelphia Youth Network

The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is a city-wide collaboration that “raises money as a collaborator and invests in the collaborative”.111 The organisation stewards public and private funds to a single point of access with the aim to help young people (15-24 year olds) achieve economic, educational and personal success.

The PYN manages a $28 million budget with 80 per cent spent on programming. Two thirds of funding comes from public sources with the remainder coming from the private sector. The PYN contracts with a network of 50 to 60 not-for-profit organisations to identify marginalised youth and reconnect them to college and career pathways. There are 50 full-time staff with an additional 40 to 50 staff employed in summer, whose job is to “know everything and connect the dots”.111 The PYN also runs some programmes directly.

The PYN describes itself as an organisation promoting collective impact rather than just a fiscal management agency. It plays a role as a convenor for best practice sharing and advocate for systems change. The PYN also acts as a single point of access for business and it has a strong relationship with local businesses having established a number of champions in the private sector including the Chamber of Commerce. While the PYN is not generally considered to be as bureaucratic as government, it is still subject to the requirements of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). In this regard, it acts as a translator to other organisations.

Oversight of all public and private funding for youth employment support in the city means that PYN can align resources to bring programmes to scale, fill gaps in provision and introduce new education options, and review and adapt approaches. In a context where the mayor serves a 4 to 5 year-term and there is a lack of stability in city government, the PYN also provides greater consistency and certainly for local stakeholders. The city government is, nevertheless, an important part of the system.

To date its programmes serve approximately 10,000 young people per year in Philadelphia, although its impact is considered to be wider due to its advocacy work. The graduation rate increased from 49 per cent in 2006 to 65 per cent in 2012/13, and is attributed to partners coming together to work collectively to reduce dropout rates (the target is 80 per cent).113 The Philadelphia School District remains in severe financial crisis, however, and wider youth support programmes are also under-resourced (there are 15,000 applicants for 7,000 placements). Yet as a result of its success within this context, other cities like Pittsburgh are actively seeking to replicate the model used by PYN.


  • 111 Interview
  • 112 Interview
  • 113 Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success (2014) The Sixth Annual Report to Mayor Michael A. Nutter