26 foundations commit to forming a national philanthropic alliance to evaluate promising approaches, advocate for effective public policy and systems change, and invest young men of color as assets for America’s future.
“Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity” highlights key challenges, recommendations, and ideas for action to improve health, education, and employment outcomes for young men of color.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a new Call for Proposals for Forward Promise, a $9.5 million initiative that focuses on innovative, community-based projects working to strengthen health, education, and employment outcomes for middle school- and high school-aged boys and young men of color.
In June 2012, RWJF convened more than 100 leaders working to address the unique set of challenges facing young men of color in America. Our goal was to start a conversation about how we can better support one another in our work, coordinate to make the biggest impact in the lives of young men of color, and take this work to scale and make it sustainable.
In late 2011, RWJF issued the Forward Promise Call for Ideas to gather information about innovative program models that would help young men of color succeed in life, school and work. This was an experiment for us: an attempt to learn from those already working in this area to ensure our resulting funding strategy has the impact we hope it will.
Welcome and Overview
Forward Promise, a new $9.5 million initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is focused on promoting opportunities for the health and success of middle school- and high-school-aged boys and young men of color. Last year, the Foundation sought out the best ideas to help these young men succeed in life, school, and work, recognizing the limited positive options they have across most of these areas. In August 2012, RWJF issued a Call for Proposals for innovative, community-based projects working to strengthen health, education, and employment outcomes for boys and young men of color.
The path to adulthood can be especially difficult for many middle- and high-school- aged young men of color. They are more likely to grow up in poverty, live in unsafe neighborhoods and go to under-resourced schools—all of which has a lifetime of impact on their health and well-being. What is at stake for America is the possibility of losing an entire generation of productive men who will fall short of their potential, live less healthy lives and fail to build and strengthen their communities.
The Unique Position of Boys and Young Men
All young people require support on the road to becoming healthy and productive adults, and a young man’s path to growing up is likely to involve experimentation and risk-taking as they shape their masculinity and exert independence. The data shows that for young men of color those actions, which for other young men would be treated as youthful mistakes, are judged far more severely and often result in lasting punishment. Helping young men navigate their teenage years successfully is key to helping them reach their full potential.
Reaching young men without targeted programs or initiatives can prove difficult. Girls and young women benefit when boys and young men are put on a path of health and success and become thriving members of their communities.
Forward Promise does not subscribe to the traditional model of focusing on risk factors, rather, we are focused on opportunity factors—factors and influences that play a critical role in helping young men grow up healthy, get a good education and find meaningful employment.
Our approach to this process has been informed by research and the more than 300 submissions that we received from the Call for Ideas we hosted in 2011. Starting with this Call for Ideas, Forward Promise works to identify promising programs, policies and approaches to evaluate what works, and spread successful models to communities that need them.
Here’s what we value:
- Collaboration: We believe achieving substantial improvements in the health and success of young men of color requires strategies that promote their development on multiple fronts simultaneously. We recognize that where young men of color live, learn and work affects their success.
- Diversity: Forward Promise is committed to diversity; geographic, racial and community-based. We recognize that boys and young men of color across the country—Black Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American; urban or rural—face challenges. Solutions must take into account the unique set of circumstances faced by each community and group.
- Innovation: Forward Promise is interested in identifying new opportunities for success, with a core strategy of strengthening promising programs and bringing successful models to scale.
Coming Soon: Call for Proposals Grants Awarded
RWJF issued a Forward Promise Call for Proposals in 2012, which ended on October 10, 2012. We will award up to 10 Forward Promise Innovation Grants of up to $500,000 each for projects with preliminary evidence of impact in the following areas:
- Alternative approaches to harsh school discipline that do not push students out of school;
- Solutions that focus on dropout prevention and increasing middle school retention and high school graduation rates;
- Mental health interventions that tailor approaches to boys and young men who have experienced and/or been exposed to violence and trauma; or
- Career training programs that blend workforce and education emphases to ensure that students are college- and career-ready.
Stay up to date on the Forward Promise Forum.
February 28, 2013 - New policy brief and update on Forward Promise
October 24, 2012 - More than 1,000 proposals received & review is underway!
October 3, 2012 - Update: CFP deadline, new partners, and reflection
August 20, 2012 - The Call for Proposals is Here!
In the News
Youth Transition Funders Group, : "25 Minutes with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Maisha Simmons"
Ebony.com, Nov 5, 2012: "Supporting the 'Promise' of Young Men of Color"
Health Affairs GrantWatch Blog, Oct 2012: "Update On Funding To Improve Minority Health And Reduce Health Disparities"
NewPublicHealth Blog, Aug 20 2012: "Maisha Simmons Q&A: New Opportunities for Young Men of Color Through Collaboration"
Washington Post, July 30 2012: "Time for more focus on young men of color"
Information about shaping health for young men of color from RWJF and other sources.
- RWJF Publications and Research - What Shapes Health
- RWJF Vulnerable Populations journal article - "Where Health Disparities Begin"
- RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America - Race
- CLASP report - 2025 Vision for Black Men and Boys
- Open Society Institute's program information - Black Male Achievement
Connect with program officer Maisha simmons
- The Washington Post, "The Central Park Five: Exploring race, rape and redemption"
- HealthFinder.gov, "'Zero-tolerance' policies don't have the desired effect, American Academy of Pediatrics says"
- ScienceDaily, "More Education, Socioeconomic Benefits Equals Longer Life"
- Futurity, "Is Zero-Tolerance Good for Schools?"
- The Louisiana Weekly, "Foundations help to reshape plight and images of Black males"