New Policy Brief and Update on Forward Promise

A new policy brief from RWJF and CLASP looks at the most pressing issues facing boys and young men of color in the areas of education, health, and employment.

    • February 28, 2013

February 28, 2013

How time flies when you’re reviewing proposals, not to mention researching and refining program strategy! I am hitting “pause” to share a few updates, including where things stand with our recent Call for Proposals.


First off, I’m pleased to share a new policy brief from RWJF and CLASP. “Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity” is an overview of findings from a scan we conducted to surface the most pressing issues facing boys and young men of color in the areas of education, health, and employment. The challenges, recommendations, and ideas for action outlined in this brief provided a framework for potential opportunities where RWJF could best influence outcomes for boys and young men of color, and also helped guide our recent Call for Proposals.


Why a policy brief? In the last several years, there has been greater focus on understanding the challenges facing males of color and identifying potential solutions. While we know more about effective programmatic solutions, we still have much to learn about the systemic barriers that impede the success of males of color.

Effecting policy changes in these areas we hope will produce sustainable gains for boys and young men of color.

And this is the first of four briefs. The next three briefs will drill down into the issues—school discipline, dropout prevention, mental health-based interventions, and career training programs—and will explore how our collective investment in these areas can have the greatest impact. We hope you can use the briefs to inform and advance your work with young men of color and identify key entry points for making a difference.


Next up: the Call for Proposals. Of the 1200+ brief proposals we received, we have invited 52 organizations to submit full proposals and we will fund up to 10 of these programs. Right now we’re preparing for site visits, which will all be done virtually. Final grants will be announced this summer.


When I refer to “we,” by the way, it’s more than just our program team and supporting firms. Forward Promise is now benefitting from the knowledge and insights of 10 advisory committee members:

  • Fernando Chang-Muy, JD, professor, Penn Law
  • Jorge Ruiz de Velasco, director of education, Earl Warren Inst. on Law and Social Policy
  • Khalil Fuller, founder, NBA Math Hoops
  • Howard Stevenson, MA. PhD, director, PLAYY Program University of Pennsylvania
  • Dr. John Jackson, president, Schott Foundation
  • Mala Thakur, MA, director, National Youth Employment Coalition
  • Kathy Ko, president & CEO, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
  • Lynn Todman, PhD, MCP, director, Institute of Social Exclusion, Adler School of Psychology (and former RWJF grantee)
  • Michael Roberts, president & CEO, First Nations Development Institute
  • Edgar Villanueva, director of Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations


(Full bios and photos available here.)


The advisory committee has definitely been my dream team; a valuable resource helping me and RWJF understand what’s going on in the field, how to tackle some of the challenges we’re taking on through Forward Promise, and—beyond grant review—helping us think strategically about how to continue working in this area.


Lastly, I’m gearing up for a couple key events.

  • Black Male: Re-imagined II conference on March 5-6 will kick off a national campaign to shape authentic perceptions of black men and boys (sponsored by American Values Institute, Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundations, and the Ford Foundation)
  • RWJF’s next Gathering of Leaders will be held June 19-20, 2013 in partnership with other foundations; I’ll share details as they’re available!


If I don’t see you at these events in person then I hope you’ll join the Twitter chatter using hashtag #ForwardPromise, and feel free to connect with me (@mzsimmons) and Vulnerable Populations (@RWJF_VP).


I’m encouraged there’s so much momentum continuing to build around this issue even in the New Year—and I’m sure you are, too. We’ve got good work to do, together.

Maisha Simmons, program officer


Update: Consider applying or nominating someone for The Leadership & Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement's 2013-14 Black Male Achievement Social Innovation Accelorator! "A Black Male Achievement Social Innovator is a leader who has shown tangible results in improving the life outcomes of black men and boys and who has the passion and potential to increase his/her national leadership and impact." Deadline for applications: April 5, 2013.