Opportunity Youth


10,000 Reconnected Campaign

The Chicago citywide goal is to reconnect 10,000 youth, ages 16-24, to school or work by 2020.

Chicago has approximately 60,000 “Opportunity Youth” (OY)—youth ages 16-24 who are out of school and work. Every year that passes, more youth become disconnected and remain jobless as adults. Stopping the flow of generations of youth not connected to employment or education, as well as reducing the size of the current Opportunity Youth population, is imperative for Chicago’s economic health and public safety.

Progress to Date

Opportunity Youth Working Group

From July 2016 to February 2017, Thrive Chicago convened and facilitated a collaborative of private and public sector stakeholders known as the Opportunity Youth Working Group. The mission of this group was to build new knowledge about Opportunity Youth in Chicago and to produce a set of shared solutions for connecting them with employment and education. Members of this group included youth-facing public sector agencies, local funders, research institutions, youth leaders, and community providers together representing over 30 organizations across the city. Over the course of 8 months, the Opportunity Youth Working Group generated 10 recommendations that were unveiled at an Opportunity Youth Summit held on March 14, 2017. Thrive Chicago will help drive forward in order to reach the citywide goal of reconnecting 10,000 Opportunity Youth by 2020.

Data Infrastructure

Thrive Chicago is building a data infrastructure in partnership with University of Chicago’s Urban Labs to better understand the needs and trends of Opportunity Youth. This data will also enable evaluation of various programs and interventions, which will help determine which approaches are most effective at improving outcomes for Opportunity Youth.  This is done with the support of a $3.6 million investment by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF).

Next Steps

To achieve this citywide goal of 10,000 reconnected, Thrive will convene the following Action Teams in 2017:

  • RECONNECTION ACTION TEAM  – The Reconnection Action team will work directly with service providers to recruit and implement the best practices around how to identify the most disconnected Opportunity Youth and connect them to the myriad of services they need to begin their return to school and/or work.
  • LEARN AND EARN ACTION TEAM – The Learn and Earn Action Team will work directly with organizations that run apprenticeship or paid internship programs for disconnected youth to help these organizations better identify and implement best practices for training Opportunity Youth and connecting them to paid work experience.
  • YOUTH EMPLOYMENT ACTION TEAM – The Youth Employment Action Team will work directly with both nonprofit organizations and employers to build better supports for Opportunity Youth to help ensure their long-term employment.Each Action Team will enable participating organizations to learn from peers in the field as well as apply the best research available nationally and locally. In support of this work, Thrive Chicago will convene, facilitate and monitor the impact of these efforts, allowing the participating organizations and the city to continually improve their efforts with this population. In doing so, this work will not only offer the organizations serving youth critical supports they need but also offer Chicago a better understanding of the effectiveness of different program elements so we can quickly scale what is working citywide.


For more information or to become involved, please contact info@thrivechi.org

Additional Summit Resources

Opportunity Youth Summit Agenda
Opportunity Youth Summit Program

Boston Private Industry Council Presentation
Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago Presentation

Press Box

Initiative pledges to get 10,000 Chicago youths back to work or school in 3 years – Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Contact Reporter, Chicago Tribune

Group launches effort to employ 10,000 at-risk young Chicagoans – Greg Hinz on Politics, Crain’s Chicago Business

Campaign Hopes To Cut Down Chicago’s Youth Joblessness By 10,000 – Andrew Gill, WBEZ