The Twin Cities Youth Media Network (TCYMN), which began in 2000, is the longest running network of youth media organizations in the country. TCYMN began meeting without funding, in 2007 gained funding, and has recently lost funding. Nevertheless, it will survive. TCYMN provides a case study for organizations and regions grappling with transitions in their funding models.

Founding members of TCYMN are media practitioners from a variety of media genres, including experimental, documentary, music, narrative and installation. The original members were Dan Bergin from Twin Cities Public Television, Kristine Sorensen from In Progress, Nancy Norwood from Perpich Arts High School, Witt Siasoco from the Walker Art Teen Program, Mike Hazard from The Center for International Education, Nicola Pine from St. Paul Neighborhood Network, John Gwinn from Phillips Community Television, and Teresa Sweetland from Intermedia Arts. Dan Bergin explains, “The more formal connecting began after the 2000 NAMAC conference in the Twin Cities. We noted how connected the youth media groups from New York, Chicago, and Seattle were and thought we should be able to organize.”

As a result, TCYMN youth media practitioners met informally, eventually pulling together a screening of youth work from across their organizations. The screening developed into an annual showcase that premieres at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis every fall or spring.

With this work came formalized meetings, an executive committee, clear policy on membership, agendas and benefits. The increased structure also created transparency and a central location for housing knowledge so it was less likely to become lost with transitions among organizations. It was now clear how others could be members and what they could expect with that membership. Furthermore, the structure created easy entry points for diverse staff from member organizations to become involved. For example, AmeriCorps members or other new practitioners could join the monthly meetings and help with TCYMN projects.

The root of TCYMN’s existence is, first, the shared belief in the power of teaching media to and with youth. We know this is done better when we connect as a field, regardless of funding. Founding TCYMN member Nicola Pine explains, “The network really is an affinity group [of] committed artists and educators who share a belief in the power of media to change young lives.”