The United Teen Equality Center in Lowell, Massachusetts

Some of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) most interesting grantees and programs have come from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnerships program or, as it was called in the past, the Local Initiative Funding Partners program. Through this program, local foundations identify innovative health or health care programs that touch the lives of individuals in the community and nominate them for joint funding with RWJF. This mechanism has allowed the Foundation to support a diverse group of programs, such as those that provide substance abuse treatment for Lakota Sioux living in South Dakota, prenatal care for pregnant homeless women in San Francisco, basic dental services for Alaskans living in remote areas, and vaccinations for older Americans going to vote.

Through the Local Funding Partnerships program, the Foundation has supported programs to stop gang violence in inner cities. In this chapter of the Anthology, Diehl examines another approach to stemming gang violence, this one taken by the United Teen Equality Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. The program uses streetworkers, some of whom were former gang members themselves, to stop outbreaks of gang violence and help gang members get an education, locate employment training opportunities, and find jobs.

As is the case with many of the programs supported by Local Funding Partnerships, this program was the brainchild of a farsighted individual who had a vision of how life in the community could be made better, pursued the vision, and was able to attract foundation support to develop and nurture the vision. The chapter offers a case study of an innovative program and also portrays the people who make this program a reality.