Doubling the Progressive Leadership Pipeline

Publication date: 
April, 2017
The Century Foundation

Doubling the Progressive Leadership Pipeline

Investing in student leadership is essential. Students are the first and most courageous actors in major social movements, and have been on the forefront of change from the fights against Scott Walker in Wisconsin to the fossil fuel divestment movement. Student organizing, as well as the skills and networks that students build while organizing on campus, provide a testing and breeding ground for the leadership of the progressive movement. Moreover, student loans, disproportionately burdening low-income students and students of color, are a major barrier for an entire generation of diverse youth leaders who would otherwise work for progressive organizations.

Despite such barriers, student training and organizing programs are underfunded and often first to be cut when foundation endowments drop during economic downturns. Even in the best of times, analysis shows that progressive youth organizations still have 60 percent fewer staff than right-wing student organizations.

The answer to funding the gap in leadership development must be more comprehensive than asking the same big donors to donate more from the same advocacy budgets. While this approach has led to an increase in youth funding over the past fifteen years, this strategy has not achieved the scale required to turn the tide on crucial issues. . .

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