Merita Irby

  • Managing Partner, Big Picture Approach Training & Consulting
  • Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, The Forum for Youth Investment

Merita is a chief architect of both the Forum and its signature initiative, Ready by 21®. Having founded the Forum with Karen Pittman in 1998, she is managing partner of Big Picture Approach Training & Consulting and a coach to state and local partnerships.  Merita works with leaders in school districts, governmental departments, community collaboratives and non-governmental organizations nationwide.

Merita began her career as a classroom teacher in Central America and inner-city schools in the United States. As a senior research associate at Stanford University, she worked on a five-year study of community-based urban youth organizations and co-authored Urban Sanctuaries: Neighborhood Organizations in the Lives and Futures of Inner-City Youth. Teaming with Karen Pittman at the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, Merita directed a multi-site study on school collaboration with youth organizations.

In 1995, she joined Karen in starting the President’s Crime Prevention Council, chaired by Vice President Al Gore. They then joined the International Youth Foundation, charged with creating its Learning Department to facilitate learning among the foundation’s Global Partner Network and developing a U.S. strategy – work that later gave rise to the Forum.

Merita has also served on the boards and advisory committees for numerous organizations, including the American Camp Association and the Civic Mission of Schools. Merita earned a master’s degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.