Thursday, May 29, 2014

Strategic Support for Black Male Achievement

A couple of weeks ago I read this report, titled “Building a Beloved Community: Strengthening the Field of Black Male Achievement”, which was produced by The Foundation Center, with funding from the Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

As I read the report I copied some of the text and graphics into a worksheet that I used to add my own endorsement for some of the ideas, along with suggestions from my own efforts to build mentor-rich support systems for inner city youth.

I encourage you to read the full report. Then take a look at my own comments.

In the introduction section, “Emmett Carson, president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, explains why a focus on supporting black men and boys is not just a “black issue,” but one that is in the national interest: “If you want America to remain great, if you want America to remain globally competitive, if you want an America which continues to innovate and have exciting job opportunities so the next generation will be better off than the last, if that’s the America you want, we can no longer afford for people of color in general, black men and boys in particular, to have the life outcomes that they do.”

The report is divided into sections, so the information can be read in an organized fashion. Yet, all sections are interrelated.

In the section about funders, one this message stood out: "the success of the Alliance rests on “a commitment by the presidents (of foundations) to deeply engage on this issue and sustain their level of enthusiasm—and match that enthusiasm with resources, both financial and human."

In the section about non profit organizations focusing specifically on the achievement of Black men and boys, one statement said “A wide range of nonprofit organizations are working in the area of black male achievement,representing an array of issue areas and approaches."

In the section focusing on research, these statements resonated with me "there is no shortage of research on black men and boys.“ “In order for scholarly findings to impact programs and policies, it is important that this work be translated for a broader audience.”

In a section titled, LEVERAGING RESOURCES ACROSS SECTORS, this is what you'll read:

“In addition to coordinating efforts, networks and partnerships can break down silos and contribute to sustaining the work by helping to leverage resources across sectors. States Ron Walker, executive director of COSEBOC, “We need to find synergies across the playing field. If we don’t connect the dots, then it will be one more example of an opportunity missed, reinventing the wheel, or wasting time.” There are so many interesting possibilities when you elevate something to a national conversation, but then there’s got to be some resources that begin to flow at the local level to really implement some of those ideas.”

If you look at my comments, and articles I've written on this blog, I suggest that the field of organizations working on this issue, as well as those doing related work, be plotted on maps, showing where programs are located, along with what zip codes have the greatest number of youth needing extra support.

In addition, I encourage the use of concept maps, like the one below, to create an understanding of the different types of supports needed at different age levels, and in every community, to help youth develop their full potential, or to change the narrative about how Black men are perceived.

Each node on a map like this represents a practice that is working in some places but needs to be available in many places. An on-going research project would be needed to create and maintain a map like this, along with maps showing service providers in different communities.

If such maps are available on web platforms, then the strategies using social media, collaboration and collective action can enlist more people in "awareness building" and more people in "resource mobilization" so that dollars, talent, ideas and other resources become more consistently available to youth-serving organizations and intermediaries on a continuous basis. All of the organizations working to help youth move through school and into jobs and careers require the same on-going support. Building a coalition of leaders and partners who can generate this flow of resources for a decade or longer is a huge, but essential, challenge.


This was the last section of the report, and I hope most readers get this far. It's the most important. Below I've pasted part of the text from this part of the report, along with my comments. I hope it generates some discussion.

“As our report highlights, there is much work to be done. But there are also indelible signs of success. Success looks like the 100 percent college acceptance rate—for five years running—at Urban Prep Academies, a network of all-boys public schools that serves students from economically disadvantaged households. Success looks like BMe, a group of more than 7,000 black men and their friends of all races and genders who build community together and who provided services to more than 130,000 neighbors in 2013 alone. Success looks like the launch of the Institute for Black Male Achievement, which boasts more than 2,500 members contributing to black male achievement. Success looks like the Young Men’s Initiative in New York City, an unprecedented public–private partnership that works comprehensively across city agencies to reduce disparities faced by young men of color. Success looks like leading foundation presidents coming together to form an alliance, and success looks like the President of the United States stepping out to pledge support to transform the life outcomes of black and Latino young men.“

"Success looks like the President of the United States stepping out to pledge support to transform the life outcomes of black and Latino young men.”

To me, other than the college acceptance rate of Urban Prep Academies, which is the result of four years of high school support, none of these other definitions of success show the impact on young men after 5 or 10 years of continuous support. Most of these indicators of success are steps toward a goal.

If these are not sustained, the goal is not met.

In this blog article Shawn Dove, manager of the Open Society Campaign for Black Male Achievement, writes "While this report has generated a good deal of activity in just the first days of its release, the overriding message woven through it is that we must not confuse activity with progress."

The report concludes: “The collective impact of these initiatives (and so many others in the field) will get us closer to the Beloved Community Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, one which recognizes the value and humanity of every individual. This community encompasses the full and active participation of every member of a democratic society and is based upon justice, equal opportunity, and love.“

“This vision is not wishful thinking; it is attainable through the efforts of committed individuals, dedicated organizations, and partnership and collaboration. So where do we go from here? Let’s build the Beloved Community, together”

In his blog article Dove invites others to share their own ideas on How do you measure this?

My first recommendation is to create maps showing where help is needed, and what organizations already operate in those areas who are providing help. Then create maps showing who is providing funding, volunteers, tech support and other supportive assets in each area. This graphic is from the Foundation Center web site, showing that they have the capacity to map the flow of philanthropic donations.

Second, as I suggested above, create a library of information showing the types of programs that need to be available in every area with high concentrations of Black men and boys. At the same time, teach programs to use their web sites to show what service they provide, where they are, what they do, what impact they have, what help they need. A version of this "shoppers guide" could be created and used by this Alliance.

The maps are part of a process intended to make constantly improving, long term support programs available in all places where they are needed. Filling in the maps over a period of years is just one measures of success:

My work focuses on helping youth in high poverty areas move through school and into jobs and careers. Unless we build the information base we can't provide support to all of the organizations who are already working in this field. However, this is still only part of a process.

How do we measure success?

In every city and state a version of this map could be created. Links in the map should point to individuals, corporate and faith leaders, political leaders, etc. who have demonstrated their own commitment to this challenge, by putting a strategy map like this on their web site, and by documenting actions they take to build public awareness, draw people together, and draw resources directly to the youth serving organizations shown on the map of providers.

If the number of leaders, from every sector, grows from year to year, this Alliance will be on the road to success.

Here are a couple of other potential measures of success:

As a result of this Alliance, our prisons are empty. There are no high school drop outs. Every Black baby born in 2020 will be fully employed in 2050, earning a living wage, voting in every election, serving in leadership and volunteer roles helping younger boys grow up.

The "narrative" will have changed. (see page 38 of the report) Public perception surveys taken between now and 2020 and taken every five years until 2050 will show positive gains in all of the indicators that are important to achieving a just society. In addition, surveys of youth in 3rd grade, 8th grade, 12th grade show hope and optimism, at much greater rates than surveys taken in the 2014-2020 period.

In the section of the Report titled "Re-Thinking Philanthropy" the writers say

“This field has been particularly and acutely subject to waves of waning philanthropic interest.” "Patient funding over time is what’s needed.”

I started leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago in 1975, serving Cabrini Green area elementary school youth. 99% were Black boys and girls. I created Cabrini Connections in 1992 to help 7th grade youth from Cabrini-Green and other neighborhoods move through high school and toward jobs and careers. 95% of these youth were Black. I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to help constantly improving, mentor rich programs, grow in all high poverty areas of the city, including those neighborhoods with high concentrations of Black youth. I've been thinking of this problem for nearly 40 years and have created a huge research library that connects people who visit my web sites with work being done by thousands of others.

Thus, I've developed a lot of ideas that others might borrow.

Read: problem solving strategy, year-round strategy, collaboration strategy and other PDF essays in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library. I've created a map-based directory of Chicago tutoring/mentoring organizations. I've hosted a networking conference every six months since May 1994.

If my ideas or ideas from others are to be fully implemented, many new investors and benefactors will need to step forward, championing this effort in every part of the country where it is needed.

I hope to help others understand and apply these ideas. I hope others will help me continue to develop them.

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