Global Fund for Children and The Imperative launch youth-led mental health initiative

This new Spark Fund partnership is a youth-led participatory grantmaking initiative focused on the mental health and wellbeing of Black boys and young men.

WASHINGTON, DC and ATLANTA, GEORGIA, Nov. 13, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Global Fund for Children and The Imperative are excited to announce the first US-based round of the Spark Fund, a youth-led and youth-centered initiative focused on the mental health and wellbeing of Black boys and young men in Atlanta, Georgia.

The fund will provide flexible funding to youth-led and youth-centered groups at the forefront of addressing mental health and wellbeing issues impacting Black boys and young men in Georgia. The initiative, which is supported by the Fund for Southern Communities, the Jesse Parker Williams Foundation, the Texel Foundation, and TOMS, will enable youth to unleash their creativity and innovations through advocacy, community-building, education, and more.

Black boys and young men in Georgia face many challenges that impact their mental health, including discrimination and police violence. At the same time, they have limited access to mental health support. Mental Health America ranked Georgia 48th out of 50 states in terms of access to mental health services in 2022. In the United States as a whole, roughly 80% of psychologists are white and just 5% are Black, making it a challenge for children and young people of color to find culturally relevant mental health support. These obstacles are in addition to the mental health issues children and youth worldwide face following the COVID-19 pandemic, which the World Health Organization found has put young people disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviors.

The fund will recruit a panel of local Black youth leaders in Georgia who will select 10 to 12 youth-led or youth-centered grassroots organizations in their communities, creating a cohort of organizations building healthier communities and healthier futures. Selected grantees will be awarded grants ranging from $10,000-$25,000 per year.

“This youth-led grantmaking initiative will center on the strategies and solutions Black boys and young men choose,” said GFC President and CEO John Hecklinger. “We are thrilled to partner with The Imperative to promote and support local organizations working to foster wellbeing in their communities.”

Ade Oguntoye, the Co-Founder of The Imperative said, “Centering the wellbeing of Black boys and young men is important because general solutions often leave their needs unmet. Partnering with GFC on this important work has the potential to be really transformational.”

This initiative combines the strengths of The Imperative and Global Fund for Children. The Imperative, a fund dedicated to the wealth, health, and connectedness of Black people, has supported youth-led grantmaking and research projects in urban Atlanta neighborhoods. GFC has supported healthy masculinities initiatives around the world, which create spaces for boys and young men to develop emotional literacy, strengthen intimacy and connection in their relationships, break down gender stereotypes, and embrace more equitable attitudes and behaviors. The new Spark Fund grantees will connect into this network of healthy masculinities advocates.

The new initiative is part of a broader global Spark Fund initiative, a youth-led fund – designed and decided by youth – that invests in youth-led and youth-focused groups tackling important issues such as inequality, climate change, and mental health. Global Fund for Children piloted four rounds of the fund in Latin America, Southern Africa, Europe and Eurasia, and South Asia in 2021-2022, and launched a round focused on climate action in Southeast Asia in February 2023.

The Spark Fund is a funder collaborative and is seeking additional funders to help expand this initiative to South Africa and the UK. For more information, please visit the Spark Fund webpage.