YOUNG Involved Philadelphia was at times mistaken for a vanity project when Andrew Hohns and Troy Madres, two University of Pennsylvania graduates, started it in November 2000.

Sure, Hohns was talking about running for mayor five months into the nascent organization's life.

But, he and Madres had something bigger in mind for YIP.

"The whole point was to get people to meet the so-called movers and shakers, and then begin to influence the way they thought," explained Hohns, 33, who is working for an investment firm while seeking his doctorate from Penn.

The group's focus was policy, even as some of its members dived into politics. Hohns ran for state Rep. Babette Josephs' House seat twice, losing both times.

The group's members lobbied for late-night suburban SEPTA trains, to lure young people to Center City.

They helped land funding to turn JFK Plaza, known as LOVE Park, into a skateboarding park before then-Mayor John Street's administration balked.

They held forums to talk about the Mural Arts Program, efforts to restore the Boyd Theater on Chestnut Street, development in Chinatown and other issues.

They met monthly, gained attention from local media and then started rapidly growing in members and scope.

And then, perhaps most importantly, they let it go. Hohns and Madres stepped away from the group in 2005, letting a new crowd take over and set the agenda. The current chairwoman, Claire Robertson-Kraft, was the group's first intern back in 2002.

"She's just a dynamo," said Madres, 33, who now works as a financial consultant in Austin, Texas. "What's great is, the original founders can leave and the organization can continue to grow and expand and do things we never imagined."

Among the surprises, Madres said, is the group's ability to network with other public-minded organizations and learn how they approach events and issues.

"When we did it, we were doing everything for the first time," Madres said of the early YIP days.

Hohns looks around the city now and sees the things YIP hoped for a decade ago - neighborhoods on fringes of Center City becoming popular places for young people, city parks getting renewed attention, outdoor cafes springing up and group members taking on roles in shaping city policy.

"The organization has a life of its own," he said. "It's a ship that is sailing."