With its mix of local and national foundations, members of the Executives’ Alliance know that change happens most fundamentally in the local communities where we live, work, and strive. Achieving results for boys and men of color requires a focus on individual communities in the context of a national community of practice. From this understanding, foundations participating in the EA’s Place-Based Initiatives Collective Action Table set out to create a framework for communities using a comprehensive “lifecourse” approach for improving outcomes for boys and men of color, and to develop a national community of practice of foundations and practitioners focused on this approach.
Based on successful models for community-driven policy and systems change, the Places of Opportunity strategy is designed to help address what many believe to be a significant gap in existing place-based efforts for BMOC – capacity for advancing policy and systems-change that go beyond the more common individual-level interventions.
Focused on a subset of the nearly 250 communities whose elected leaders accepted the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, Places of Opportunity provides a strategic framework to help guide foundations interested in advancing important policy issues impacting boys and men of color using strategies across the lifecourse. The framework also recognizes the importance of youth leadership and changing the false narratives about young men of color, which sometimes vary depending on population and geography.
In 2016, the EA, along with its members Casey Family Programs, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and The California Endowment, provided funding for local stakeholders to work with PolicyLink, a national resource and action institute, to assess the unique strengths and opportunities in the BMOC sector in twelve cities, using the Places of Opportunity framework as a guide. The resulting findings and recommendations have helped several EA member foundations develop a clearer understanding of the assets, gaps, and opportunities to achieve greater impact in their cities. This information left the foundations better equipped to chart a course for impact with community partners.
Clotilde Dedecker, President of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, said that PolicyLink’s domain expertise and process were “transformational” for the Buffalo network, which is closely linked to a regional racial equity roundtable. And Cory Anderson, Vice-President of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and partner in the Little Rock network, touted Places of Opportunity’s focus on intra-city connections. Said Anderson: “Knowing that other folks are struggling with some of the same issues in the same place makes this work more doable from the philanthropy side.”
Additional participating foundations include the Community Foundation of South Jersey, East Bay Community Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Lumina Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Sierra Health Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The overall framework and the results of the city assessments are being made available to interested funders as the project continues to draw interest nationwide.