Foundations Commit $194 Million to ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ Projects

Eleven foundations committed to $194 million in funding for work related to the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK), which was created by President Barack Obama to help serve young minority men in the country.

The group of grant makers includes: California Endowment, Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Kapor Center for Social Impact and the Annie E. Casey, Ford, Knight, Nathan Cummings, Robert Wood Johnson, Kellogg, and Open Society foundations.

Those grant makers, who had already pledged to support MBK, announced their own blueprint for initial investments and highlighted five specific collective commitments:
• $21 million investment for building capacity in local communities by providing technical assistance and financial support to expand and strengthen existing programs that have proven success.
• $55 million towards efforts to reduce suspensions, expulsions, school based arrests and juvenile court referrals from pre school – secondary public schools.
• $81 million towards reform of juvenile justice systems. The efforts will focus on prevention, advocacy and diversion programs.
• $26 million to fund efforts that focus on positive narratives, particularly those minimizing bias for young boys and men of color. The initiative includes a wide array of media outlets, including print, broadcast, and social media.

• $11 million to establish the Campaign for Black Male Achievement as an independent entity, ushering it out of the control of the Open Society Foundation.

The funding came on the heels of a White House report that was carried out by representatives from the federal government. The report outlines the focal points of the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. Working in conjunction with the task force, a group of leading foundations already committed to the project, responded with a pledge of $500 million from the philanthropic community.

The 61-page progress report released at the end of May from the “My Brother’s Keeper” Task Force, identifies six areas of interest, or “milestones,” for the initiative:

• Entering School Ready to Learn
• Reading at Grade Level by Third Grade
• Ready for College and/or Career After High School
• Finishing College or Training
• Successful Entry into the Workforce
• Reducing Violence and Increasing Community Alternatives to Incarceration

According to the report, research indicates that these particular milestones are predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact.

Within each of the White House’s focus areas, the task force presents specific recommendations and areas of opportunity to expand services nationally, advocating for federal and private investments. Below is a summary:

Entering School Ready To Learn
• Adoption and promotion of in home caregiver strategies to promote learning
• Expanding Early education programs
• Increase Early intervention services and access
• Eliminate Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Learning Settings

Reading At Grade Level by Third Grade
• Literacy programs for home, school and community settings
• Use evidence based literacy practices, including early literacy screenings

Graduating from high school ready for college and career
• Sustained efforts to transform the country’s worst performing schools
• Adoption and training of early warning systems that show the incremental risk factors that lead to dropping out.
• Adoption and training around alternative to detention strategies

Completing postsecondary education or training
• Expand Access to Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate
• Improve College Advising Services within schools and community organizations that provide young people with accurate and relevant information on college exploration (including culture, academics, application, debt and finances)
• States should establish systems to track FAFSA application completion , Schools should also consider incorporating the college application process into class and graduation requirements

Successfully entering the workforce
• Adopt a broader economic agenda, including job training programs, raising the minimum wage, advanced manufacturing and infrastructure building.
• Increase opportunities for young people via public and private sector to engage in on the job training, job shadowing, apprenticeships and entry level employment options. The task force recommends that the Small Business Administration and Department of Labor should facilitate these efforts.
• Increase summer job program for youth. Mayors, local business and community organizations need to come together to expand local summer opportunities for young people.

Reducing violence and providing a second chance
• Improve relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve – including ensuring procedural fairness and reducing bias among minority youth.
• Use anti violence strategies that are evidence based, focusing on positive youth development and public health.
• Encourage the use of data to address youth violence and continued study and analysis of promising practices to reduce youth violence and gang activity.
• Increase the use and availability of diversion or alternative to incarceration programs for youth
• Enhance educational and training programs for incarcerated youth
• Increased training for law enforcement and corrections officers on youth offenders and mental health

The official report, follows a summit the president held in February to address expanding opportunities for boys and young men of color. The President’s call to action, focuses on a public/private partnership to level the playing field. Key philanthropic leaders took part in the event and pledged their support, undertaking their own period of assessment to report back on initial recommendations.

The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, chaired by White House Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, was given the role of analyzing data, research and statistics, as well as listening to key leaders in the field to formulate a blueprint for the future – within 90 days of the summit.

Judith Fenlon is the Money and Business editor for The Chronicle of Social Change

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Judith Fenlon
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Money & Business Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change