Black and green filter of girl looking through phone.

Young Futures, a non-profit dedicated to supporting teens as they navigate the complexities of the digital world, unveils its first funding challenge, The Lonely Hearts Club.

I hear you’ve been involved with something exciting lately. Tell me more about Young Futures. 

Young Futures is non-profit on a mission to make the digital world an easier place to grow up. 

Building upon years of investments and insights gleaned by our seed funders and partners at Pivotal Ventures, the Susan Crown Exchange and The Goodness Web, we’re here to ensure that teens ages 10-19, along with their families, have the support they need to navigate the digital wilderness. 

Our strategies to achieve this are straightforward. First, we’re here to help the helpers. We’ll hold thematic funding challenges twice a year to find and fund new solutions that promote youth wellbeing in today’s tech-driven world. 

Following each challenge, we’ll convene a community of awarded early-stage founders, “Young Futures Innovators” and engage with them in our 6-month Academy program providing mentorship, community, and storytelling support. 

Taken together, we’re working to uplift an ecosystem of both practical solutions — tools, activities, and resources — and like-minded leaders to ensure more young people have what they need to engage with tech in healthy ways.

You mentioned Pivotal Ventures, the Susan Crown Exchange, and The Goodness Web, who else is behind Young Futures? 

We have a small but mighty team that I am obsessed with. Katya Hancock, our founding Executive Director, is a seasoned impact-driven operator, executive and empathetic leader deeply committed to our mission. Kristine Gloria, PhD, is our Director of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation and brings with her decades of experience in responsible tech development as an entrepreneur and non-profit professional. As Program Manager, I have the privilege of rounding out the team with my expertise in youth development and grantmaking. 

We’ve been in a flow since we’ve launched. It's been so fun learning from, and working alongside these two incredible women to launch Young Futures.

Tell me more about this first funding challenge? 

We are still buzzing from the launch of our first challenge this month at SXSW and are currently accepting applications through April 5 for The Lonely Hearts Club. We anticipate awarding up to 10 organizations a total of $1 million. 

This challenge is centered on social connection and that tension of being hyper connected through tech yet feeling lonely and lacking meaningful social connection. Did you know that roughly half of kids are feeling like they don’t belong at their school? So we’re here to ask, how can we support these teens to have stable, supportive, and meaningful relationships while acknowledging the “pull of the screen” and the fact that we –both teens and adults– are online almost constantly. 

So what’s the big-picture goal here? What does success for Young Futures look like? 

Everyone I’ve talked to about Young Futures has such a personal and relatable connection when it comes to youth and tech, especially parents. 

Teens crave privacy. They want to connect with their friends on platforms and devices that all their other friends have. All the while, parents are struggling to figure out how much is too much oversight, and what the heck is Discord, anyway? 

Success looks like a world where all teens have the tools and mentorship they need to support their wellbeing. A world where they feel self-aware in learning and knowing what’s best for them, and choosing when and how to use tech in ways that make them feel good. A world where they are empowered by the adults in their lives who engage in meaningful conversations about how and why we use tech. 

And selfishly, I’ve got skin in the game here, too. My daughter recently turned one. Success for me means that when Millie is a teen, she has access to tech built with her unique developmental needs in mind. Tech that doesn’t exploit her and her data for profit, and most of all, tech that offers ways to enrich her life in positive ways that complement her IRL experiences.  

That’s pretty lofty, I love it. How can people support this mission? 

Thanks for asking! We’d love for readers to: 

  1. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated on our work, including new funding challenges, event updates, news from our partners, and future updates from our YF Innovators. If you don’t mind a gif in your inbox every now and then, this is for you. 
  2. Share our funding challenge with your network. If you know of a non-profit that fits our challenge brief, please encourage them to apply before April 5th. 
  3. Reach out to us for partnership opportunities. We can't and won't achieve this mission alone. We'd love to hear and learn from you. If you share our mission, reach out directly to Kristine, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Partnerships is her love language.