Youth Innovations Test Grant

Find solutions to issues facing young people. Research important issues, explore different approaches, and test new ideas.

Term length

Minimum 1 year, Maximum 3 years

Amount awarded (per year)

Minimum N/A

Maximum $100,000

Look for better ways to support young people

Grassroots work is community-led and community-designed. Shared identities and lived experiences are essential to building relationships with those benefiting from the work and help set the stage for grassroots groups delivering impactful, local projects. The principle of delivering projects that are led by and for priority populations that will be benefiting from the projects, is a key requirement for Youth Innovations grants.

Through this grant stream, Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF) invests in projects led by youth or youth-adult partnerships to improve the social and economic well-being of youth. YOF’s work is founded in the belief that young leaders have the tools and skills to come together based on shared experiences to address the needs of youth. Young leaders are driven to find solutions that can have lasting impact and design projects that reflect how culture and traditions can enhance learning and life-long skills development to improve well-being. 

A Youth Innovations Test grant is designed to help groups: 

  • Try out a new idea that has the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of young people
  • Research, learn and understand more about a specific topic or issue
  • Bring youth together to discuss an issue and explore new approaches collectively

YOF prioritizes grassroots groups that are looking to address the experiences of Indigenous (First Nation, Metis or Inuit) and/ or Black youth who continue to face systemic barriers and oppression.

In addition to prioritizing Black and Indigenous grassroots groups and youth, YOF prioritizes investing in projects that positively impact youth with the following intersecting lived experiences or identities:  

  • Youth in conflict or at risk of being in conflict with the law   
  • Youth in care or leaving care   
  • Youth at-risk of dropping out or have dropped out   
  • Youth living with disabilities and/or special needs between the ages of 12 to 29   
  • Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) youth

Important Dates and Deadlines

Step 1: Expression of Interest (EOI)

Deadline to submit EOI April 17, 2024 at 5 PM ET
Notification of status of EOI Approximately 6 weeks after EOI deadline

Step 2: Grant application

Only applicants with a successful EOI will be invited to submit a grant application.

Organizational Mentor application period March 27, 2024 to June 19, 2024

Deadline to submit the grant application, which includes the signed Organizational Mentor-Grassroots Group Collaborative Agreement.

July 10, 2024, 5 PM ET

Notification of funding decision Approximately 8 weeks after the grant application deadline
Start date for all Grants November 1, 2024

Plan your application

Completing the Expression of Interest: Step 1 of the grant application

The purpose of the Expression of Interest is to provide OTF with the information needed to assess your proposed project. It’s the first step of a grant application. The Expression of Interest is reviewed to ensure the proposed project:

  • Responds to a systemic issue being faced by youth.
  • Aligns with one of YOF’s Priority Outcomes.
  • Includes a core group that has the community knowledge and experience to address the systemic issues and community needs identified.

Groups with Expressions of Interest that are shortlisted will be invited to complete Step 2 of the grant application.

Working with an Organizational Mentor

All applicants need to partner with an Organizational Mentor and enter into a collaborative agreement. An Organizational Mentor provides administrative support, project mentoring, and financial accountability to grant recipients and is a partner in the project. Learn more about Organizational Mentors.

Eligibility

YOF supports projects led by youth who share identities and experiences, and face the same systemic barriers as the people who will benefit from the project. This “led by and for” principle is a requirement in all funding streams.

Eligible groups

A grassroots group that is not registered as a charity or as an incorporated not-for-profit. 

  • The work of a youth-led grassroots group or youth-adult partnership is community-led and community-inspired. Grassroots group means that core group members share identities and lived experiences with the young people who will benefit.
  • If you are a grassroots group from a First Nation, you are eligible to apply. Your group cannot have more than 50% of its members as part of the band office or band council. 

An organization incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation without share capital in a Canadian jurisdiction.

  • This includes a Chartered Community Council, operating under the Métis Nation of Ontario, or Inuit communities that are registered as not-for-profit corporations without share capital in Canada.   
  • The organization is required to have independently managed revenues of $50,000 or less in either of the last two years. 
  • Board members and day-to-day management must also meet youth-led group and youth adult-partnership definitions. 

Note 

  • Groups can only apply for one Youth Opportunities Fund grant at a time.   
  • If your group has an active Youth Opportunities Fund grant, you can only apply for funding if you are in the last year of your active grant.  


Group requirements

Groups need to meet the following requirements to be eligible for funding.

1. Reflect communities served

  • Core group members (including board members, where applicable) reflect the identities and experiences of the youth they are working with and for.
  • The proposed project will benefit young people between 12-25, and/or 12-29 for youth living with special needs and/or disabilities, mental health needs and/or addictions.
  • YOF prioritizes projects led by and for Indigenous (First Nation, Métis, Inuit) and Black youth

2. Core group

  • The group has at least three core group members. 
  • More than 50% of core group members need to be at arm’s length relationship to each other. An ‘arm's length’ relationship means board members and group members are not married or related to each other, do not work as business partners or are otherwise in a relationship where interests may be compromised.
  • Youth must make up more than 50% of the core group. 
  • The group is based in Ontario and the work will benefit youth in Ontario.
  • The group exists independently of a larger organization (other not-for-profit), charitable organization or municipality, university, school, religious institution and/or hospital. 
  • The group agrees to work with an Organizational Mentor and has autonomy to choose their Organizational Mentor, design the project, identify group members, and plan for the future.

3.    Leadership structure 

There are three types of eligible leadership structures:

A youth-led group 

  • Has all individuals aged 29 or under at the governance and/ decision-making level
  • Has youth, 12 to 29 years old, managing the project (from planning to implementation and evaluation)

A youth-adult partnership 

This is a group that has young people as its primary audience and where youth and adults share power. This looks like:

  • Shared responsibility for decision-making about the project and the group 
  • Shared responsibility for planning and delivery of activities and the budget
  • Shared responsibility for planning for the future of the project and the group 

An adult-initiated youth partnership

This group has adults, 30 years of age and over, who have brought youth together to build out an idea and have a significant role in decision-making about the project and group. Over time, adults will:

  • Have a reduced role in the partnership and will ensure the leadership of youth to drive the work.
  • Create space for youth to take on more responsibility in planning, delivering of activities and establishing plans for the future of the project and group.
  • Note: This type of leadership is only applicable in Test grants. 

Note: Adult groups with all or most members up to the age of 35 can apply if they are looking to advance the following YOF Priority Outcome: Supporting youth in and/or leaving care and/or involved in the justice system to navigate and access resources for wellbeing. 


Ineligible groups

The following are not eligible to apply: 

  • Registered charities
  • Religious entities established for the observation of religious beliefs, including, but not limited to, churches, temples, mosques and synagogues.
  • Municipalities
  • Groups composed of all team members ages 30 years or older (all-adult teams).
  • Groups or projects that are part of an existing organization (not-for-profit or for profit organizations)
  • Groups specifically designed to serve young people through committees or clubs of institutions, including municipalities, universities, schools, and hospitals
  • For-profit organizations and businesses  
  • Individuals
     

Project eligibility

Your project may be eligible if it meets the assessment criteria. Ensure that your project:

  • Strongly aligns with your chosen YOF Priority Outcome
  • Complies with OTF policies
    • Our policy requirements define eligibility for OTF funding and outline exclusions. 
    • Funds are granted to eligible applicants delivering eligible project activities that directly align with YOF Priority Outcomes.
  • Benefits young people ages 12-25, and/or 12-29 for youth living with special needs and/or disabilities, mental health needs and/or addictions.

Application process

The application process involves various steps for groups and Organizational Mentors.

Prepare your application

  • Review the application deadlines.   
  • Plan ahead and use the application resources available to support you.  
  • Contact us at 1 800 263-2887 or yof@otf.ca for support. 

2. Create an OTF account   

OTF requires all grant applications to be submitted through its Granting Portal.  

  • Returning users: Sign-in to the Granting Portal when the application becomes available. 
  • New users: To access available grant applications, create an OTF account. 
    • You will need to enter the name of your group’s primary contact and their email address.  
    • An email will be sent to the primary contact to complete setting up their account. 

3. Submit the Expression of Interest 

  • Once the application portal opens, you can complete and submit the Expression of Interest by the deadline date.  
  • Late submissions of the Expression of Interest will not be accepted.  

4. Review and assessment of Expression of Interest 

  • Staff review your group’s eligibility, your readiness to do this work, the potential impact of your project, and how well you understand the needs, interests, and experiences of the beneficiaries you want to work with.  
  • As part of the assessment process, we review the online presence of all applicants to ensure they deliver direct programs and services to Ontarians and that they are not engaged in ineligible activities. This includes:  
    • The majority of group activities are for the purpose of bringing about change in law or government policy, including public policy dialogue and development. 
    • Political activities supporting or opposing any political party, elected representative, or candidate for public office. 
    • For more information about eligible and ineligible activities, review OTF’s Eligibility Policy

5. Notification of shortlisted Expressions of Interest  

  • We notify all applicants of the status of their Expression of Interest approximately 6 weeks after the deadline. 
  • Applicants with a shortlisted Expression of Interest will be invited to submit a grant application with an Organizational Mentor. Applicants are asked to start researching for potential Organizational Mentors at this stage. 

6. Connect with Organizational Mentors  

  • Applicants are required to confirm their Organizational Mentor at the grant application stage. We encourage you to start this relationship early.  
  • We will verify the eligibility of your Organizational Mentor. For more information about how we assess eligibility, review OTF’s Policies and Organizational Mentor requirements.  
  • If your selected Organizational Mentor is not eligible, we will ask them to notify your group and project leaders. The YOF team will provide support to find a new potential Organizational Mentor. 
  • Organizational Mentors need to have an OTF account to access the Organizational Mentor application through OTF’s Granting Portal.  
  • Discover the application process and eligibility requirements for Organizational Mentors.  


For shortlisted groups only 

7. Submit the grant application  

  • Groups are required to participate in a mandatory webinar to learn about the grant application and next steps. 
  • Your group needs to work with your Organizational Mentor to review the draft grant application, finalize your Organizational Mentor-Grassroots Groups Collaborative Agreement, and submit a complete grant application.  
  • You will need to upload your signed agreement with your grant application.  

8. Recommendation and selection 

  • OTF’s Board of Directors approves grant recommendations put forward by YOF’s Grant Review Committee.   

9. Notification 

  • Your group will be notified of the status of your grant application approximately 8 weeks after the deadline.  

10. Confirmation and Orientation  

  • Successful groups take part in a mandatory orientation session and trainings.  
  • Your Organizational Mentor is sent an email with the OTF Grant Contract. 
  • Your Organizational Mentor is responsible for signing and upholding the Grant Contract with OTF. 

11. After approval 

  • Start date: The start date is no earlier than November 1, 2024   
  • Reporting & monitoring: In addition to scheduled check-ins, grantees track activities, spending, and learning to complete the annual progress report and a final report. 
  • Capacity building: This is an opportunity for learning and development to enhance group skills as you deliver your project. Capacity building work will help you connect and network with other grantees by participating in YOF-led events and making the most of capacity building funds available in your project budget.  
  • Evaluation: Grantees are asked to measure their progress towards their selected Priority Outcome. Support is provided to grantees to complete the evaluation activities.   
  • Grant Completion: After a group’s Final Report is approved by OTF, the grant hold-back funds, which is the final payment for the project, are released and the grant is closed.  
  • Grantee Compliance Audit:  
    • A random sample of grants are subject to a Grantee Compliance Audit.  
    • Grants can be audited for compliance at any point within the grant’s life, or after the grant has been closed. 

Choose your project type

Test grants aim to drive positive change in your community. Three types of projects qualify for a Test grant. All project types must align with one of the Youth Innovations Priority Outcomes. Choose the type that most closely aligns with your project.

This type of project focuses on trying out a new idea that has the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of young people. For example:

  • Start a new project that supports youth to learn a new skill
  • Adapt and pilot an idea that has been tested in other parts of the province to meet the needs of your community
  • Create a space that honours youth wellbeing and creativity
  • Connect youth to knowledge of land, culture and language
  • Support youth to navigate systems (such as education, health, child welfare, justice)

Choose this project type if your group wants to learn and understand more about a specific topic or issue. For example:

  • Develop participatory research about an experience youth face
  • Explore something new in your community that can be enhanced through technology
  • Discover how something new may impact youth in your community

Consider how your group will conduct the research, how much time this work will take, and how your group will share what you learn, for example through a research paper, report, website, or presentation.

This is an opportunity to bring youth together to discuss an issue and explore new approaches collectively with youth and community. For example:

  • Understand an issue and its impact on your community
  • Discover who is already working on an issue, who is joining the conversation, and who might be left out
  • Develop some common goals or strategies to respond to the issue 
  • Come up with next steps as a collective 

Choose your Priority Outcome

Youth Innovations Priority Outcomes reflect the changes YOF is investing in. All approved projects must advance one of these outcomes through project activities. While many of the outcomes focus on key priority populations or experiences, we will prioritize Indigenous and Black youth as part of our commitments to addressing systemic barriers to economic and social wellbeing. The one Priority Outcome your group chooses identifies the impact your project will have. 

When choosing your Priority Outcome, think about:

  • Why your group is doing this project. 
  • What difference your group hopes to make through this work
  • What change and impact your group plans to have on youth who engage in this project  

As your group completes the first step of the application, you should align your answers to the Priority Outcome your project will achieve.

  • Empowering girls and young women to lead, including women’s economic empowerment initiatives 
  • Supporting Indigenous, Black, and/or newcomer youth to enter the labour market and transition to sustainable career pathways 
  • Supporting youth in and/or leaving care and/or involved in the justice system to navigate and access resources for wellbeing
    • Note: For this outcome, core group members can be up to 35 years of age.
  • Addressing racism and its impacts on youth in urban, rural and/or Northern communities 
  • Creating safe spaces for Indigenous and/or Black youth to build strong community and cultural connections

Choose your Primary Beneficiaries

As your group completes your application, align your Test project with the primary beneficiaries named in the YOF Priority Outcome you have selected. We recognize that your beneficiaries may hold other identities and experiences that are critical to the design and delivery of your project. 

In your application, identify the primary beneficiaries of your project and their intersecting identities and lived experiences. Your core group members should share the identities and lived experiences of your beneficiaries.

  • Indigenous youth (First Nation, Métis, or Inuit)
    • When selecting Indigenous (First Nations, Métis or Inuit), beneficiaries can be from urban, rural and on reserve communities.
  • Black youth   
  • Racialized youth   
  • Newcomer youth   
  • Francophone youth   
  • Girls and young women
  • Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) youth
  • Youth living with disabilities and/or special needs between the ages of 12 to 29   
  • Youth living with mental health needs and/or addictions between the ages of 12 to 29
  • Youth living in rural, remote and/or Northern communities   
  • Youth in conflict or at risk of being in conflict with the law   
  • Youth in care or leaving care   
  • Youth at-risk of dropping out or have dropped out   
  • Youth in low-income situations or from low-income families   
  • Youth who are homeless or at risk of being homeless
  • Youth who are not engaged and/or at risk of not being engaged with education, employment, and training programs

Eligible and ineligible project expenses

  • Staffing (with considerations for Mandatory Employee Required Costs (MERC) of 20%) 
    • As you consider the roles and responsibilities of staff, ensure you include livable wages to support your program delivery.
  • Transportation 
  • Honorarium (participants, volunteers) 
  • Support Services (translation, interpretation, child-minding) 
  • Project supplies and materials 
  • Project equipment (rental or purchase) 
  • Food 
  • Communications (website, promotions)
  • Fees (for services delivered by experts, facilitators) 
  • Contingency (maximum of 10% per year) 

 
Mandatory expenses that need to be included in every grant application:

  • Administrative Support Costs (OM): 15% of total budget  
  • Capacity Building: Minimum of $2,000 per year to a maximum of $4,000 per year
     
  • Capital infrastructure expenses (renovations to space) 
  • Expenses related to political or religious activities 
  • General or ongoing operating expenses (unrelated to the project) 
  • Personal one-on-one professional services (including expenses related to direct therapy, counselling/ legal and/or accounting advice)
  • Expenses related to paying for participant groceries, household supplies, or equipment
  • Bursaries, scholarships, sponsorships or individual requests (including regranting funds to other projects or people)
  • Fundraising campaigns  

Review all ineligible activities.
 

Expression of Interest assessment

Your Expression of Interest is assessed based on three areas of the application: Group Eligibility, People, and Strategy.

The Project Plan and Budget will not be assessed with the Expression of Interest. However, if your Expression of Interest is shortlisted, it will be reviewed by a Program Manager at the grant application stage. A Program Manager will contact you to share feedback on the Project Plan and Budget prior to the grant application deadline.

If your Expression of Interest is shortlisted, you’ll be invited to submit a grant application with an Organizational Mentor.


Group Eligibility

The eligibility of the group is reviewed and assessed as either eligible or not eligible. If the group does not meet requirements, their Expression of Interest will not proceed for a full review.  Assessment criteria includes:

  • Core group members (including board members, where applicable) reflect the identities and experiences of the youth they are working with and for.
  • The group operates as either youth-led group, youth-adult partnership or adult-led youth partnership.
  • The application is complete and contains clear and detailed responses. 
  • Young people, ages 12-25, and/or those living with disabilities, special needs, mental health needs and addictions (ages 12-29) are the clear and direct beneficiaries of the project. 
  • The group exists independently of a larger organization (other not-for-profit), charitable organization or municipality, university, school, and/or hospital.
  • The group is based in Ontario and the work will benefit youth in Ontario.
  • The group has at least three core group members.
  • More than 50% of core group members are at arm’s length relationship to each other. An ‘arm's length’ relationship means board members and group members are not married or related to each other, do not work as business partners or are otherwise in a relationship where interests may be compromised.
  • Youth must make up 50% or more of the core group. 
  • The group is not a registered charity.
  • The Board of Directors table is complete and board members reflect the identities and experiences of the youth being served. (for registered not-for-profits only).
  • The project complies with OTF Policies
  • The group is in compliance with advocacy requirements of OTF’s Eligibility Policy
  • The group is either an unincorporated group or an incorporated not-for-profit corporation, with independently managed revenues of $50,000 or less in either of the last two years.


People

Assessment weight: 40%

Strong Youth Leadership 

  • The group demonstrates that collectively they have the right mix of knowledge, skills, and experience to deliver this project.
  • The group has connections to the issues and knowledge of the community they are looking to serve.


Strategy

Assessment weight: 60%

Setting the Context (Issue & idea)

  • The group has fully and clearly described the idea they want to test or pilot the research they will conduct, or the strategy work they will lead.
  • The need, issue or opportunity connects to systemic barriers that YOF youth face.  
  • The idea is an effective response to the need, issue or opportunity the group is addressing.  
  • The idea responds well to the context and experiences of the young people that they are engaging through this project.

Potential for Impact (Idea & impact) 

  • YOF youth are clear and direct beneficiaries of the project.
  • The changes the group hopes to make can be achieved through their project idea. 
  • The changes or impacts the group hopes to make align with their chosen YOF Priority Outcome.
     
A small group of young girls pose outdoors

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