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6 posts categorized "IssueLab"

What Do We Know About…Disconnected Youth?

December 07, 2016

Over six million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are not in school or working. Often known as disconnected or opportunity youth, they are among the upwards of fourteen million young adults who are only marginally or periodically in school or working. At the same time, several million young people have had almost no labor market or educational experience in the past year.

Youth and young adults represent the future of our country — our economy, our communities, our democracy — and it is in our best interest to help ensure that they’re engaged with and connected to school and jobs.

Special collection_disconnected youth

To that end, the Annie E. Casey Foundation asked Foundation Center to create a special collection on IssueLab about the group of young people known as disconnected youth. This new online resource houses nearly one hundred and forty recent reports, case studies, fact sheets, and evaluations focused on the challenges confronting youth today, as well as lessons and insights from the field.

The Casey Foundation's interest in these issues began in 2012, when we published Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, signaling our recognition of the crisis facing young people and the need to create stronger pathways to education and jobs. Our commitment mirrored a national reawakening to the needs and aspirations of youth, including the White House Council for Community Solutions, the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, and the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative to improve opportunities for boys and young men of color.

Casey acted on this expanded commitment to opportunity youth by launching two new initiatives — Generation Work and Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential — and by strengthening our longstanding Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. All three focus on enabling more youth and young adults to succeed in school, secure good jobs and a steady paycheck, and become financially stable. More recently, we have invested in increasing access to summer learning and employment opportunities for young people in our hometown of Baltimore, as well as in research and evaluation aimed at identifying the most effective programs and strategies. In addition, we've supported the youth-focused efforts of our national policy and civic partners.

What has become clear over the past five years is that advocates for opportunity youth need to build on existing evidence, program models, and policies, even as we wrestle with new questions related to young people with firsthand experience of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, not to mention trauma; young parents; the role of social and family ties in the lives of disconnected youth; youth leadership; and the dramatically different outcomes we see among youth by race and ethnicity.

In this spirit of gathering lessons and asking new questions, we hope this collection on IssueLab will help promote the dissemination of promising practices in the field of opportunity youth and, eventually, grow to include more technical evaluation studies that build our overall evidence base.

Youth are our future. And we in the philanthropic, public, private, and nonprofit sectors must help them realize their aspirations by building multiple, effective pathways that enable them to succeed in school and in the labor market.

But this will only happen if we share and synthesize our knowledge in real time to create better investment strategies and choices.

Given its overall interest in building capacity and strengthening the field, philanthropy is well positioned to gather practice and research literature about programs and policies that support opportunity youth. Doing so will help ensure that nonprofits and other stakeholders have access to accurate, up-to-date information about what works for whom and what targets should guide future investment — while paving the way for the application of that knowledge on a broader scale benefiting many more young people.

People-BGiloth-headshotThe Casey Foundation is committed to continuing its youth initiatives and sharing lessons about promising strategies that promote tangible results and progress. We invite others to join us in this endeavor and look forward to contributions from our peers and partners in this work.

Bob Giloth is vice president of the Center for Economic Opportunity at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Foundation Strategy...the Enemy of Collaboration?

February 19, 2015

Chrysalis_imageIn today's world, it is almost obligatory for any self-respecting foundation to describe its work as "strategic." At the same time, a growing number of foundations are coming to the realization that, if they hope to scale their work and achieve lasting impact, they need to collaborate with each other and across sectors. I fear, however, that the way many foundations approach strategy is erecting barriers rather than building bridges to collaboration. This post is my attempt to explain why that is and to offer some practical solutions to the problem.

My thoughts on this matter were sparked by remarks originally made by Larry Kramer, president of the Hewlett Foundation, and elaborated on by Heather Grady in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. For the record, I believe that foundation strategy is a critical element in achieving impact, but like so many things it is best practiced in moderation.

The fetishism of strategy

It used to be that people made a point of saying they practiced philanthropy rather than charity. That distinction gradually fell by the wayside as younger generations of philanthropists began to introduce ideas and practices from the business world related to impact and metrics, liberally peppering their discourse with phrases like "social return on investment." In their eyes, the way many practiced philanthropy was not much of an improvement over charity, which they saw as dealing largely with symptoms and driven by donors and staff who valued heart over head and had no clear way to articulate hoped-for outcomes — let alone measure them. The more the term philanthropy became devalued, the more it came to be modified by adjectives of choice. Suddenly, if your philanthropy wasn't tactical, effective, catalytic, high-impact, or, at a minimum, strategic, it wouldn't be taken seriously.

Many foundations, particularly the larger staffed ones, responded to this change by immersing themselves in protracted strategic review processes, frequently under the guidance of prestigious consulting firms. Often triggered by a change in foundation leadership, these exercises tend to follow a pattern, one aspect of which is well-known to nonprofits frustrated by the all-too-familiar refrain of program officers who cite "our deep internal review process" as the reason that "no new requests for funding can be entertained at this time" and who encourage you to get back in touch "when our new priorities have been defined."

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A Case Study in 'Sustainable' Knowledge Management

November 11, 2014

About a year ago, the Oceans and Fisheries team at the Rockefeller Foundation embarked on a new initiative focused on the challenges faced by small-scale fisheries worldwide and on improving the health and well-being of the people who are dependent on these threatened environments. Like any program officer worth his or her salt, the team started its decision-making and strategy-setting process with a couple of fundamental questions: 1) What do we already know about work being done in this field? and 2) How successful has that work been?

Rockfound_fisheries_report_coverBut what Rockefeller did to answer these questions wasn't so typical. With the encouragement of its own evaluation and learning team, along with the technical and methodological support of Foundation Center's IssueLab service and the issue expertise of IMM Ltd., the foundation supported a synthesis review of already existing evaluative evidence that drew on findings from both the academic and "gray" literature — the literally hundreds of evaluations and case studies that had already been done on the topic — to identify and describe twenty key factors believed to influence success in small-scale coastal fisheries management. Throughout the review, the researchers regularly engaged in conversations with Rockefeller's program team, helping to inform the team's developing strategy with existing evidence from the field. The intensive, rapid knowledge gathering effort resulted in a formal report.

After the report was completed, the team could have called it a day...but it didn't. One of the key reasons Rockefeller decided to work with us on this project was IssueLab's focus on capturing and sharing knowledge outcomes as a public good rather than a private organizational asset. Instead of just commissioning a literature review for use by a single organization, the foundation was interested in creating an openly licensed and public resource that anyone could use. The result is a special collection of the hard-to-find literature identified through the review, as well as an interactive visualization of the key lessons summarized in the report itself.

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Sharing Knowledge, Finding Solutions

May 12, 2014

As Atlantic Philanthropies makes its final philanthropic investments, it is asking some important questions, including: "How can we all build on the advances and lessons learned from our thirty-plus years of grantmaking?" and "How can we make sure that valuable knowledge on issues that matter to us is not simply lost when we close our doors?"

The Foundation Center has partnered with Atlantic to help answer these questions, starting with an issue that crosses every physical, political, and social boundary in the world: improving access to palliative care.

The result of our partnership is IssueLab's newly launched "Improving Access to Palliative Care," a special collection of more than eighty documents that provides valuable insight into why millions of people cannot access the care they need. Gathered from nonprofits and foundations around the world, the documents in the collection are easily explored through an interface that lays out the key barriers to access and some of the recommended solutions.

Palliative_care_revised2

As we began work on the collection, I asked Gail Birkbeck, strategic learning and evaluation executive at Atlantic, why the foundation chose access to palliative care as an important topic to address in this way. "Since 2004, Atlantic has invested $58.5 million in palliative care covering a broad spectrum of activities, from building hospice facilities to funding professional staff associations and research institutes," said Birkbeck. "It's apparent from our work that, in general, how you die is a function of where you live. Especially in developing countries, there is limited access to palliative care."

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Data, Research, and Knowledge Tools — Where and When You Need Them

November 12, 2013

(Lisa Philp serves as vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center.)

Cover_media_impactEarlier today the Foundation Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Media Impact Funders, an affinity group of grantmakers, released a new report titled Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States (20 pages, PDF).

Headlines from the Research

As the most comprehensive and detailed picture of U.S. media-related funding by foundations to date, the research offers a number of new insights:

  • Media-related funding is substantial in size and scope -- 1,012 foundations made 12,040 media-related grants totaling $1.86 billion from 2009-11. If treated as a single category, media-related grantmaking would have ranked seventh in terms of domestic grantmaking in 2011, placing it just behind environment and ahead of science and technology, religion, and the social sciences.
  • Foundations increasingly are focused on media funding -- Media-related grantmaking grew at a faster rate than overall domestic grantmaking from 2009-11 (21 percent increase vs. 5.8 percent, respectively).
  • Funders are reacting to the changing landscape of media in the digital age -- New media investments (Web-based and mobile) outpaced those in traditional media (print, television, and radio) by a factor of four (116.5 percent increase vs. 29.4 percent, respectively).

These findings and many others will be discussed at a Media Impact Focus event on Wednesday, November 13, by a panel of media funders, filmmakers, journalists, and practitioners; analyzed in the coming weeks in blogs, columns, and op-ed pieces written by our project advisors and funders; and updated over time to track the story of how media grantmaking is evolving.

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Here Today, Not Gone Tomorrow

January 18, 2013

(Lisa Brooks is a co-founder of IssueLab and director of knowledge management systems at the Foundation Center. In her last post, she wrote about the importance of archiving old research.)

Sorry_closedAbout a month ago, IssueLab received an e-mail from a man in Jackson, Michigan, who runs an organization focused on mentoring high-risk youth. He found a report on the IssueLab site he wanted to share at a meeting he was about to host, and he wanted to know how he could obtain twenty-five hard copies. The report, The Promise and Challenge of Mentoring High-Risk Youth: Findings From the National Faith-Based Initiative, was published in 2004 by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV). The fact that the report was published nine years ago by P/PV made his e-mail especially interesting.

As many of you know, P/PV, after thirty-five years in operation, closed its doors in the summer of 2012. About six months later, the Public Education Network (PEN), which had been doing good work for twenty-years, closed its doors. One of the last tasks both organizations completed was to partner with IssueLab to preserve their respective publications. So while neither organization is around today, anyone can browse P/PV's research reports, case studies, and evaluations or PEN's white papers, case studies, testimonies, opinion polls, and survey results through the special P/PV and PEN collections on the IssueLab site. And that's a good thing, because as our friend from Michigan can attest, these publications continue to provide data, insights, and case studies that can inform the efforts of those working in the fields of education and children, youth and families.

What would have happened to P/PV or PEN's publications had they decided not to turn over stewardship of their published collections to IssueLab?

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