Q&A: Chloe Noble from Operation Shine America on Grassroots Groups Collaborating With State and National Organizations

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Photograph of rations from Operation Shine America's walk across the United States

Last month, the two-year old, Salt Lake City, Utah-based organization Operation Shine America, hosted a nationwide effort to highlight the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Events were held in cities and towns across the country, thanks both to the grassroots network the group has built and its partnerships with larger state or national organizations. We spoke with Chloe Noble, the young founding director of Operation Shine America, to learn more about the strategies her organization has used to create effective collaborations with organizations such as the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, a national gay-rights group for youth; NoH8, a California project to humanize LGBT people through photographs; and the Utah Pride Center, a social services and advocacy group in Salt Lake City.

NCFY: How was Operation Shine America able to gain endorsements from so many major organizations without being a well-known or established organization?

Chloe Noble: OSA built strong relationships with national organizations during our first project in 2009, which was a walk across America for homeless youth. We have been working with these amazing organizations since then. Also, many of our organizers helped organize the National Equality March in 2009. I was the main organizer for the NEM Youth Events and was also one of the main speakers. So my team and I have been working with these organizations for almost 3 years.

NCFY: What strategies do you use to maintain collaborations with the organizations you are affiliated with?

Noble: OSA has noticed that most of the homeless youth organizations we work with lack the resources, funding, and legislation they need to help resolve youth homelessness. Advocates literally work relentlessly with sometimes no support from their community. We are building a national Homeless Youth Continuum that connects these organizations with one another and the public. The homeless youth continuum will highlight all of the effective strategies organizations are using nationwide. In this way, we can continue to support one another, build a lasting foundation for our fragmented communities, and empower others to use practices that are being proven successful. The continuum is also an online resource connecting homeless youth nationwide to services available in whatever city or town they are in.

NCFY: What have been the biggest challenges in establishing and maintaining the endorsements you have garnered?

Noble: The biggest challenge is the workload that we have right now; we have a team of youth from all over the nation working on this year's campaign. Some of these youth are seasoned activists and some are new to the cause. We are a true example of grassroots community activism. The weakness in that is sometimes we do not have the funding or support to participate with our larger counterparts in certain projects or events.

NCFY: What is the incentive to the endorser?

Noble: We have a few incentives; one is that our work is youth-created, youth-led, and youth-driven. Once our youth are finished with our annual campaign they often choose to volunteer their time with the national organizations that have helped us. The connections we foster locally help to bridge the gap that some national organizations feel when working on a larger scale. We are connected to the people on the ground and to the advocates on the frontlines. Because of this, many of the national endorsers we have will email us asking our input on certain local issues.

For more information about starting a grassroots programs and establishing endorsements and collaborations please view NCFY’s Guide to Starting a Youth Program.

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