Objective: Recruit and support young leaders who are committed to building effective organizations for social change in the Greater Bay Area.
In a Nutshell: On The Verge (OTV) helps up-and-coming leaders develop the skills to lead nonprofit and community-based organizations. Each participant is partnered with a coach, who is an experienced professional in community work. Each coach oversees 15 young leaders, and meets with them individually and in team sessions. The teams are plugged into community programs to work on specific issues.
For example, some youth are helping to create what they believe is the nation’s first youth-led emancipation program for foster youth. OTV also offers an advanced program for those who want to develop their own programs or organizations.
Where and When it Happens: OTV is a program of On The Move, a nonprofit based in the Greater Bay Area that focuses on community leadership development. The program operates from something of a virtual office; meetings take place in homes, offices and community buildings. New groups begin every six months in rural and urban neighborhoods around the Bay Area.
Each leader meets for 15 hours per month with coaches and team members.
Who Started It and Who Runs It: The program was started in June 2003 by On The Move staffers Leslie Medine, Diana Gordon and Roger Jordan, who saw a looming leadership vacuum for area nonprofits. More than 73 percent of nonprofit heads around the country are baby boomers, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation survey, and that could soon mean a large wave of retirements at the top.
OTV is run by two part-time On The Move staff members who are graduates of the first OTV teams. The program relies heavily on its 15 volunteers, each of whom contributes an estimated 100 hours a year.
Obstacles: “Initially, teams were geographically diverse,” Medine says, with young leaders from Santa Cruz paired with others from as far away as Sacramento, a distance of some 150 miles. “Because we meet 15 hours per month, the travel time was a great challenge.” After the first two years, OTV shifted to a “place-based approach,” where young leaders are paired with a coach in their locale.
Cost: The annual operating budget for OTV is $200,000.
Who Pays: OTV says its largest donor is an anonymous person. Supporters also include the Surdna Foundation and the Whitman Institute.
Youth Served: Since its inception, 72 young leaders have joined OTV. They are all in their 20s; they must have at least two years of work experience at community organizations, schools or government agencies; and they must commit themselves to the monthly 15 hours of team meetings for a year. OTV neighborhoods are chosen based on a set of criteria that includes the presence of a “critical mass of young leaders” and “a common issue or program that young leaders could work on together,” Medine says.
Turn-On: Participants “get connection to a peer group of people all over the Bay Area, and have access to a cadre of experts available to respond to them day or night,” Medine says.
Turn-Off: “The biggest grumbles are about finding the time to meet, holding each other accountable and continuously working on communication skills with each other,” Medine says.
Results: Seventy percent of OTV graduates have gone on to the advanced program. Upon entering OTV, approximately 25 percent of the young leaders were managing some part of a community organization, according to Medine. After two years of operation, OTV says, 75 percent of its former members are in positions of authority at existing programs or have started their own organizations.