A Time for Action: Eleven Leading Philanthropies Announce Steps to Expand Opportunities for Young Men of Color  

Recommendations and initial funding commitments set stage for long-term effort to ensure success in health, education and employment.

    • June 5, 2014
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Washington, D.C.—Eleven of the nation’s leading philanthropies today announced a bold plan of action to maximize the potential of the private sector to improve life outcomes for America’s boys and young men of color. The plan is bolstered by $194 million in initial investments in key initiatives, including programs to enhance school learning environments and reduce the overrepresentation of young people in the justice system. These investments build on existing efforts by foundations to expand educational opportunities, increase access to technology, and build pathways to jobs and economic opportunities in underserved communities.

The 11 foundations include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, Ford Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Kapor Center for Social Impact, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“We cannot reach our full moral and economic potential as a country if we do not change the trajectory [for our boys and young men of color],” reads the report entitled, A Time for Action: Mobilizing Philanthropic Support for Boys and Young Men of Color. “To do so, we need not change our young people so much as change the way we engage and support them.”

The plan announced today represents a first step toward building a long-term movement to give all young people a chance to succeed, and builds upon a legacy of investments and efforts by these funders to support young men of color. Since February, these foundations have been working on a parallel track with the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to identify ways that the private sector might work collectively and in concert with the public sector to achieve that vision. The foundations’ report comes one week after the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force released its own recommendations.

Audacious Goals and Bold Solutions

A Time for Action lays out a vision to increase opportunity for boys and young men of color and benefit the entire country.  While it focuses on systems, policies and practices to improve life outcomes for young men of color, the recommended actions also help to create the conditions for children and young adults to thrive, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.

The report highlights four key areas where collective action by the public and private sector will make the most significant difference:  health, education, career and justice. This includes creating school environments to help boys and young men of color learn to their full potential and stay on track to graduate, along with tools to help families promote healthy development from an early age.

 “We cannot afford to leave a generation of young people behind, especially when we know there are solutions that are within our reach and that could make a meaningful and lasting difference.  Our approach may be targeted, but our vision of opportunity will benefit all Americans,” said Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment.

Recognizing how boys and young men of color make valuable contributions to the nation’s prosperity, the plan also emphasizes the importance of advancing a more accurate and positive narrative about boys and young men of color.  It calls for ending the negative portrayals and stereotypes that blame these young men when they face limited options.

Other focus areas highlighted by the foundations include: promoting youth leadership and empowering young men to lead change in their own communities; mobilizing people, policies and institutions at the local community level to facilitate “place-based” support of young people; and expanding the use of data and research to foster innovation and spread the most effective solutions.

Initiatives and Investments

To help realize their vision and put these recommendations into action, various members of this group of foundations will be collaborating on several initiatives.  The following initial investments are expected to take place over the next three years and represent the first stage in a long-term philanthropic commitment to invest in solutions that positively change the lives of boys and young men of color:

  • Making All Communities Places of Opportunity: Over $21 million to create a pool of matching funds to help local communities reduce disparities and improve life outcomes for boys and young men of color.
  • Creating Safe, Supportive, and Engaging Learning Environments in All Schools: $55 million to accelerate efforts to reduce suspensions, expulsions, school-based arrests, and juvenile court-referrals in elementary and secondary public schools and in pre-schools.
  • Rethinking Justice for Young Adults: Over $81 million to promote reforms in the juvenile and criminal justice system to reduce the unnecessary confinement of young men of color.
  • Elevating New Narratives for Boys and Men of Color: Over $26 million to promote positive and healthy narratives that affirm the value of all young people, including young men of color.
  • Investing in Field-Building, Leadership Development and Movement-Building: Over $11 million to make the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) an independent entity that can serve as a model for how to build capacity and leadership to better support young men of color.

Looking Ahead

In the coming months, the foundations plan to share more research and recommendations for how government, corporate leaders, nonprofit groups and the philanthropic community can work together to secure a stronger, healthier future for boys and young men of color. They also will pursue additional private, local, state and federal partnerships to improve the policies and systems that can have the greatest impact in improving outcomes for our young men and their families.

 “As leaders and caring adults, we have an important role to play in cultivating the curiosity and talent of our young people and removing the obstacles that stand in their way,” said Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “By helping our young people reach their full potential, we as a nation can reach ours.”

The Open Society Foundations is pleased that Damon Hewitt, a senior advisor at the Open Society Foundations, served as the project leader of a team of staffers from all 11 foundations to develop this important report and its recommendations.

“This was a gratifying effort to see all 11 foundations come together to do something that could be transformative,” Hewitt said. “This is an important first step on a much longer journey.”

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national culture of health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

Additional Media Contact: Kelly Osmundson

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