President Obama hinted at White House initiative focused on assisting young men of color in his State of the Union, and officially introduced it as “My Brother’s Keeper” in late February. This initiative is a partnership between government, private business and the philanthropic community.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Obama for the announcement. Bloomberg started a similar program, the “Young Men’s Initiative,” in 2011. The city program commits to $127 million over three years to help black and Latino young men. Examples of city programs within the YMI scope include mentoring programs, school discipline advisory groups, internship programs and support programs for youth involved in the criminal justice system.
So, what is the substance of My Brother’s Keeper?
The fundamental difference between it and Bloomberg’s New York initiative is that New York City shared the cost of it with two private sources: Bloomberg’s own foundation, and the Open Society Institute.
It does not appear that the federal government will bring any resources to bear for My Brother’s Keeper; Obama did not announce and federal funding for it, nor did he single any out in his fiscal 2015 budget request.
His hopes for a robust initiative appear to rest entirely with the ten foundations he has asked to participate: Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact.
The project will start out with $7.5 million, $750,000 each from ten foundations, to help build the infrastructure of the initiative. It Is not clear which entity will harbor and manage that money, which will likely be spent on hiring consultants and firms to assist with My Brother’s Keeper.
The ten foundations have agreed to invest at least $200 million in new investments, collectively over the next five years to support the President’s initiative. They have begun joint working groups to comb through prior grants, and identify evidence-based practices that will be presented to the White House sometime in June, according to a representative from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Some foundations have unofficially reported on initial strategies, which expand upon the work already being done by their grantees and create new opportunities as well.
Last year, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation invested around $3.8 million through 26 grants in Mississippi to support various programs targeting young men of color. One of them, Call Me MISTER, is a leadership development program through Jackson State University aimed at preparing and placing African-American males in educational positions within elementary schools.
Kellogg has committed to increasing funding in the state of Louisiana to support similar efforts focused on young men of color, according to William Buster, Director of Mississippi and NOLA programs. The foundation also hopes to weave in opportunities for young men of color in other areas of their grant making, such as education, health and economic security.
California Endowment, which recently established an initiative focused on boys and young men of color called Sons and Brothers, has committed to investing $50 million over seven years on efforts within California. It has already begun to build the program with four grants in 2013:
- Fenton Communications, $200,000 for strategic communications
- L.A.’s Promise, $351,000 for health services improvements
- Youth Together, $5,500 for a Health and Healing program
- Movement Strategy Center, $625,000 over two years to support youth leadership for healthy communities
Outside of the foundation commitment, the Opportunity Finance Network has pledged to originate $1 billion in financing aimed at serving youth of color, with at least $300 million of that directed toward black and Latino males. OFN is a membership group of 225 community development financial institutions (CDFI),
CDFI organizations provide credit and financing to underserved communities. Thirty-five of OFN’s 225 members have signed on to take the “Youth Opportunity Pledge.”
Another aspect of the President’s initiative is the creation of a Task Force, which will be chaired by Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson. The Presidential Task Force will focus on the effect federal policies and regulations have upon boys and young men of color. It is also tasked with working with various stakeholders to compile the successes and challenges that programs serving the population have faced.
Judith Fenlon is the money and business editor for the Chronicle of Social Change