Case study: Youthline America

by Kine Nordstokka on Tue, 2010-12-14 12:48
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Name: Youthline America
Location: USA
Mission: Guarantee every young person safe and accurate information to make better decisions

Background and aims

Youthline America is being developed out of what was previously known as the New York City Youthline, a 24-7 line by and for young people. The New York City Youthline was initiated by the City of New York. The Rodney King verdict was about to come out and protests were breaking out in all big cities. 200 young people from across the city were brought together with the 17 agency heads that in one way or another were responsible for services for young people. It became very clear from that event that the young people present had never heard about the agencies or the services that were supposed to be working on their behalf. This led the City of New York to set up an information base. They sent out 500 young people across the five boroughs of New York City. They were told to list anything that they, their friends or their family would use such as day care centres and after school programmes. The young people walked block by block across New York. After the mapping the information was collected in an information base and the phone line was set up. Over 100 young people were trained to answer phone calls by other young people. They listened, gave out the most current information, problem solved, and in emergencies like a suicide they could make a seamless transfer to allow a young person to talk to a professional. The phone line was very successful and got as many as 5000 calls a day from the youth population in New York. Unfortunately, under the next elected city council the New York City Youthline slowly dwindled. However, three years later the founders were approached by one of the young mappers who encouraged them to set up a similar service again. Youthline is now in the process of building up updated, expanded and improved services under its new name Youthline America.

Key Ingredients

Youthline America offers three services for young people: mapamerica, ilivehere and onevote.

Mapamerica is a process in which youth and adults from across America identify opportunities and services in their neighbourhood for young people, children and families. The data as well as existing information collected form the basis of a youth-oriented website ilivehere.infothat provides easy access to this information.

Youthline has got a curriculum for mapping that it uses in school and after school which is tied to national education standards. The curriculum includes teambuilding skills, getting to know your neighbourhood and mapping what your ideal community would be.

Mapping is a springboard to youth leadership in a lot of different ways. It empowers young people with the knowledge they need and also inspires them to get involved in the community in terms of what they see in the gaps. Mapping is also an advocacy tool for young people. When the young people have gone out and done mapping and seen what services are provided – or not - they become aware of the lack in their communities and get inspired to do something about it. When they for example meet with their local politician they can very easily go to the site or print off map and point out where all the services are located and where the obvious gaps are. Youthline provides the youth with a really good web-based advocacy tool in this respect.

The information from the mapping goes in to a massive database and becomes available to the young people all over the States at the website At young people, parents, and professionals can find resources and opportunities in their area. When you enter your zip code you will receive information specific to your geographic area. Ilivehere is youth focused and at every stage in the process young people were engaged in creating a website that makes sense and is useful for them.

The third service provided by Youthline is This is a place where students, educators, and community partners can locate and exchange information on how to leverage the high school graduation ceremony as an entry point for recognising the importance of registering, voting and connecting. OneVote involves a ceremony, a pledge and a recognition certificate to help high schools initiate a non-partisan voter participation drive as part of the ritual of graduation. OneVote will provide the virtual tools and the basic framework for high schools to award Citizen Diplomas, along with the academic diplomas, to graduating high school seniors as they pledge to become lifelong voters.

Recommendations and lessons from practice

Many organisations who say they are youth led fail to actually give the influence and power over decision making to the youth. Instead of giving young people a true and accurate voice to be able to speak their minds, the adults are trying to interfere or influence the decisions made by young people. It is important for youth led organisations to make sure that young people are really in charge of the process.


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