In 2022, Voices’ board and staff joined hands to reflect on its nearly 30-year history and to identify new guiding language for the organization.
Our new guiding framework acknowledges the roles of structural racism and economic disenfranchisement in erecting barriers to opportunity for all young people in Virginia. We recognize that achieving the dream of our founders will require us to fearlessly uproot racism and economic injustice in the systems that serve children and their families. Our vision of a Virginia that centers young people requires us to take an intersectional, multi-issue approach, dismantling many barriers to opportunity at once.
In her book The Measure of Our Success, renowned civil rights champion and child advocate Marian Wright Edelman shares an essay titled, “If the child is safe, everyone is safe,” drawing from a sermon by British theologian G. Campbell Morgan. Voices believes that when we actively place the needs of children in the center of our public policy debates, we create the conditions for entire families and communities to flourish. Our theory of change draws a throughline from Voices’ day-to-day research, advocacy, and community building work to the transformational impact we seek to have on the Commonwealth. Each element of our theory of change recognizes that young people can and should have agency to influence the policies impacting their lives.
Voices lives out its mission by serving as collector, convenor, and cultivator. We collect data to track and identify trends, and we conduct research to model possibilities and inform policies that affect young people and their families. Through our statewide policy networks and roundtables, we convene individuals and advocates around youth issues and join them together with decision makers. And through our outreach and engagement work, including Virginia’s Youth in Action, we cultivate the voices of young people and their champions.
Our work informs policy makers on the needs of young people and provides young people and their families with the information and confidence they need to advocate for themselves. When we practice deep engagement with young people while honoring their agency, their voices are brought to bear in the halls of power. And by overcoming partisanship and committing to collaboration with advocates and state agencies, we can enact laws and policies that benefit all young people.
When our work is successful, the result is transformation on a community level. Communities receive proactive investments that eliminate systemic inequities, and families are well informed and well resourced.
Thriving children and families
Success in our work looks like young people having access to all they need to realize their brightest potential. Investments support all needs of a young person’s life, including physical health, mental health, economic security, family stability, food access, education, and community safety.
Systems honor youth agency
Many of the world’s most successful movements for justice and human equality have been led by young people. We believe in the limitless potential of young people and trust them as experts in what they need to thrive. Our work is successful when young people are regarded as experts on their own needs.