The Forum’s Thought Leadership Roundtable: A Conversation with Thaddeus Ferber

In April and May of 2021, Karen Pittman sat down with the Forum’s three program executives and, together, they told the broader story of how the Forum is changing the odds for young people and explored the future of our work to advance equity, research, policy, and practice across all the systems and settings that shape young people’s lives. Each executive leads a unit and a set of named centers and initiatives intended to drive one of the Forum’s strategic approaches.

  • Strengthening Practices & Programs: The Forum empowers youth development, education, and human service system leaders to adopt, implement, and scale management, staff policies, and practices that ensure young people have access to high quality, coordinated supports they need to succeed.
  • Improving & Aligning Policies: The Forum helps policymakers, funders, advocates, and rising leaders increase their capacity by aligning with other advocates, departments, sectors, and levels of government to use data and evidence to support the whole child and pursue racial and social equity.
  • Planning & Partnering for Impact: The Forum supports boundary-spanning leaders charged with creating or implementing plans that require a focus on the bigger picture. The team helps leaders connect the dots across complex and sometimes competing goals, services, plans, and partners.

View clips or the full-length recording of Karen’s recent conversation with Thaddeus Ferber, Executive Vice President of the Forum and Co-Founder of SparkAction. The conversation focused on the Forum’s efforts to improve and align policies.

Ferber shares how formative personal and social encounters with racism and other inequities have fueled his longtime commitment to the Forum and its work advancing equity in research, policy, and practice across all the systems and settings that shape young lives.

Ferber and Pittman discuss the Forum’s sustained efforts to shift federal focus from negative to positive youth policymaking, moving the conversation from “fixing” youth toward asset-based youth development, and building knowledge about the types of environments where youth are best able to learn and thrive.

Ferber and Pittman shed light on the Forum’s transition from a think tank to an action tank working comprehensively with policymakers and advocates to develop sustainable, flexible systems geared toward building, supporting, and scaling positive youth environments.

Ferber dives into the Forum’s strategic approach to align policies, coordinate services, and get young people involved. Ferber and Pittman then discuss the Forum’s efforts to encourage both data-driven prioritization and big-picture budgeting in the field of youth development and increase the political clout of youth organizations.

Ferber and Pittman share how the Forum is actively engaging with issues around socio-structural racism to better support youth at opposite ends of the age and risk continua.

Ferber speaks to the importance of storytelling in crafting equity-centered policy, namely, providing advocacy platforms for diverse young leaders to own their own narratives and depict themselves in authentic ways as they build relationships with people in power and work toward a more just and equitable America.

Ferber and Pittman touch on the Forum’s goals around the integration and advancement of allied youth fields as well as the ways in which the Forum has striven to achieve those goals.