Friday, December 05, 2008
I received two studies this week which I hope readers will take time to look at during the coming month, so that in 2009 you can share these with your network, and expand the number of people who work to implement the recommendations.
The first was titled Strengthening Out-Of-School Time NonProfits: The Role of Foundations in Building Organizational Capacity. This study, by Heather B. Weiss and Priscilla M. D. Little of the Harvard Family Research Project, describe seven organizational challenges of the Out-Of-School Time (OST) non profit sector.
(a) effective leadership,
(b) mission-driven/results-oriented approach,
(c) ability to benchmark and use information for adaptation,
(d)development of an effective workforce, creating and maintaining internal and external networks,
(e) integrating policy and advocacy with direct service, and
(d) developing and implementing a sound sustainability plan.
While these are great topics for non-profit managers to focus on, this paper was aimed at the role of foundations (donors) in building organizational capacity. Thus, there are key questions for foundation leaders, such as
(a) Will the grants made by non profits give them the organizational supports needed to achieve their program goals?
(b) What internal capacity do foundations need to build to create organizational strength at the non profit level?
(c) Is a grant portfolio too heavy on program innovation at the expense of organization building?
(d) Are grant makers close enough to the non profits they fund?
While this paper gives us lots of knowledge for building stronger organizations the second paper helps us focus our thinking on ways to have stronger organizations in all of the places where they are needed.
This is titled, The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America.
“The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty: Case Studies from Communities Across the United States” explores how pockets of extreme poverty emerge and persist in communities. Concentrated poverty is found to occur in a variety of social and economic contexts that imply the need for tailored strategies to ensure a better future for these communities and their residents. Common features are identified for the 16 communities that were studied. This report was created by The nation’s Federal Reserve Banks, in conjunction with the Board of Governors and the Brookings Institution.
While concentrations of poor people living in poor neighborhoods have been observed in large Northeastern and Midwestern cities, concentrated poverty also exists in smaller cities, immigrant gateways, suburban municipalities, and rural communities. The need for a deeper understanding of the relationship between poverty, people, and place led the Federal Reserve to join with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program to create this report. It contains case studies, undertaken by the Federal Reserve’s Community Affairs Offices, of 16 high-poverty communities across the United States.
The report is available online at http://www.frbsf.org/cpreport/.
As you read these reports, I urge you to keep this chart in mind. It shows three time frames when we can connect with kids, which are the school day, right after school from around 3pm to 6pm, and right after the work day ends, from after 5pm to 8pm. It also shows that the time line from first grade to a career has some people who PUSH kids to do their best, which includes non profit organizations, parents, teachers, etc.
What the research on poverty shows is that in some places, kids are not being pushed by enough people who can influence aspirations for diverse jobs and careers, or who can help connect kids to these opportunities as they grow up. Peer and community models influence different, sometimes more negative choices, as kids get older, which leads to the high drop out rate for high schools in areas of high poverty.
The report by the Harvard Family Research Project focused on community foundations, and other private philanthropy. The T/MC chart focuses on the business community who we feel needs to be more strategic in using their resources (people, ideas, technology, facilities, jobs, dollars) to PULL kids from first grade to a career. This is the "pipeline" that I hear so many talking about, but so few people actually supporting.
Our final graphic is a map of Chicago.
This highlights the high poverty areas of Chicago, and locations of poorly performing schools. These are places where strong OST programs, including volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are needed. It's great that the Federal Reserve Banks supported the poverty study. We hope that means they will build strategies that mobilize and distribute needed resources in all of the places shown on the map as needing strong non profits, in partnership with community foundations, public funding and the kindness of many strangers.
I encourage you to view the other map articles in this blog to see more examples of how maps can be used to support business, church, university and hospital involvement in different neighborhoods of Chicago. This strategy could be applied in any city, perhaps with leadership from the Federal Reserve Banks themselves!
The OST report had an emphasis on benchmarking and networking. I consider every organization listed in the T/MC database and Links Library to be part of our network and each time we post a message we are inviting members of our network to connect with us in on-line discussions, as well as face to face meetings, so we build stronger relationships and a greater personal and organizational knowledge that leads to stronger non profits helping youth through school and into jobs and careers in all of the places around the country where such programs are needed.
As people read this, I hope you take a personal role in strengthening non profit tutor/mentor programs, by sending a donation to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, or to one of the other organizations listed in the Chicago Program Links.