WHATíS UP? YOUTH INFORMATION LINE
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Whatís Up? Youth Info Line (399-9999) is a youth-run phone information service providing young people ages 7-18 with comprehensive information about free and low-cost programs, activities, education, employment and service opportunities in their neighborhoods, citywide. Itís a simple phone number even young children will not forget.
Teenagers from the Minneapolis Public Schools are hired to staff the phone lines. These Youth Information Specialists are trained to use a special database to match activities and resources with the callersí needs, including things to do that day, as well as information about on-going or future youth programs. The youth staff is critical to the success of What's Up? as young people are often more comfortable talking to other young people, and more willing to follow their advice than they are an adultís.
Whatís Up?is also valuable tool for program providers as it helps them promote their programs and serve more young people. Some providers report their programs fill-up when they get referrals from What's Up?.
2. When was the program created and why?
What's Up? was created in 1996 by the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board (YCB) as one response to the Places to Grow study, which demonstrated that half of Minneapolis' young people ages 7 to 14 were not involved in constructive youth development activities ó activities they need to develop into healthy, successful adults ó because they simply didn't know what was available.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Whatís Up? was an instant success, fielding 17,700 calls from young people, parents and youth program providers in its first year of operation. After two years of operation, Whatís Up? has received more than 45,000 calls. All calls are logged and evaluated to determine where geographically the calls originated from and what referrals are being made. This information helps inform programming decisions of both the YCB and youth-serving providers in the community.
Replication may be the surest sign of effectiveness. This year, Minneapolisí "twin" city, St. Paul, set up its own Whatís Up? database and worked out an agreement with Minneapolis to use the same phone number and graphic identity to publicize positive youth activities in that city. Whatís Up? regularly receives calls from cities throughout the U.S. interested in starting their own youth information lines.
4. How is the program financed?
Whatís Up? is financed through public and private funds and in-kind donations. Itís offices are located in a busy downtown shopping complex, donated by the landlord. Itís central location allows young people to stop by in addition to calling. In 1998, the Whatís Up? budget is approximately $130,000, which includes staffing, database management, printing, etc.
5. How is the community involved in the program?
The community has been involved as both users of Whatís Up? and also as promoters of the line. For example, schools, parks, libraries, non-profits and other community organizations all help publicize the Whatís Up? phone number. Its call-load of 45,000 calls in its first two years of operation also demonstrates community support for Whatís Up?
6. What are the major lessons learned from this program?
Through Whatís Up? weíve learned the importance of youth involvement in promoting youth activities. Weíve also come to better understand how to effectively communicate with young people to get and keep them positively engaged, off the streets and out of trouble. Finally, Whatís Up? underscores the value of partnerships. It is a simple, central tool which everyone in the community can support, whether financially or through publicity.
7. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.