Youth & Peer Empowerment

Amplifying the voices of youth leaders seeking to create innovative solutions in the pursuit of emotional wellbeing

Youth & Peer Empowerment

The Youth Innovation Committee formed in February 2019 to identify unmet mental health needs of California youth and identify opportunities for innovation.

The Committee has 14 members, ages 15-25, from 12 different California counties. It worked with the Youth Leadership Institute, the Born This Way Foundation, California Youth Connection, The Children’s Trust, and others to gather research, host focus groups, and conduct a statewide survey to better understand opportunities to improve the mental wellness of young people.


The goal of the project is to highlight innovation projects that respond to key challenges affecting youth mental wellness.

After a deep dive into the research, the Youth Innovation Project Committee through a collaborative process chose to focus on increasing preventive mental health services in schools using youth-led approaches. The proposed innovations will be presented to county mental health leaders for potential funding.


In May 2018, under the leadership of former Commission Chairs, John Boyd and Khatera Tamplen, the Commission proposed to launch a Youth Innovation Project to support the development of youth-led proposals for innovation.

To ensure that the project is inclusive of youth voices, the Commission conducted pre-project focus groups with youth leaders. These sessions provided an inclusive space for youth to give input into the development of the project, including the recruitment of a Youth Committee; a framework for listening sessions, ideation sessions, and a summit; and the language used to identify all aspects of the project.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee spent 2021 in an advisory role and will reconvene in 2022 to discuss opportunities to showcase project outcomes.

Expected Outcomes

Collaboration from counties across the state is essential to maximize the opportunity for realizing the vision and strengths of young California leaders. This project offers a platform to amplify the voices of youth and give them the power of choice in creating ways to overcome the challenges they face in pursuit of emotional wellbeing. Three collaborative Idea Labs held with youth and adult allies produced several innovative solutions for improving mental health outcomes in schools.

As a result of the collaboration, feedback and direct requests received from youth and counties through the idea lab process, the Commission funded the Youth Leadership Institute to work with a group of youth leaders to develop a youth engagement toolkit. The toolkit will be developed by youth in partnership with county MHSA staff, and other key community partners. A working draft is expected late summer 2022.

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