APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
New Options is pursuing an influence strategy that seeks to bring to market innovative tools and approaches that fundamentally shift how the individuals and systems surrounding disconnected young adults--including community based organizations, employers, policymakers and even the young adults themselves--operate so that they are putting resources to the best use and having the greatest impact. New Options is not focused on housing these tools and approaches within particular organizations. On the contrary, anchor organizations anchor each work Zone and provide a foundation for developing and testing, but they are ultimately seeking to create solutions that respond to market demands. If the tools and approaches deliver impact and results, they will be adopted by others and pulled into the marketplace at a greater scale than would ever be possible within the context of a single organization.
Specifically, across its five zones, New Options is:
-Connecting youth, community-based organizations, and employers in a single online platform designed to create a community of support and facilitate skill development, job matching, and ongoing career progression.
-Developing an online job board that facilitates skill-based job searching and hiring utilizing WorkKeys scores.
-Working through alternative schools to create an employability program that integrates workplace skills training into curricula, offers observed assessment of young adults to verify their employment readiness and provides ongoing skill development and earn and learn opportunities through an online platform.
-Building a broad-based media campaign and social networking movement to shift perceptions of disconnected young adults and to influence the policy decisions that affect them.
-Magnifying the overall impact of the project and our ability to influence key audiences by leading employer engagement and policy efforts, knowledge transfer and research and overseeing project-wide and Zone specific evaluation.
Key principles guiding New Options include:
-Market pull, rather than foundation push, is a driving force. The work of the New Options Project will succeed or fail based on its ability to demonstrate success and create demand for its work products, tools, and approaches.
-Innovation is an actor in achieving outcomes, rather than the single path to success. It is key to have a hypothesis that grounds the use of innovation and from which new tools and approaches emerge, as needed, to prove (or disprove) assumptions.
-A distributed structure supports market rollout. Each Zone has a dedicated project manager housed at the organization or company anchoring a particular body of work.
-Knowledge transfer across Zones is required so that learning in cross-pollinated and leads to new understandings throughout the New Options Project. External stakeholders-and the general public-must be engaged, as well, in order to shift perceptions about this population of young adults.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Over the course of the first three-year phase of the New Options Project, each of the 5 zones are charged with bringing new innovations to market, gaining traction in their target markets and creating and implementing sustainability plans for their particular innovations so that their work continues beyond the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's investment.
The Baltimore/DC Zone is bringing together youth, community based organizations, and employers, to create an online community that provides both support and accountability for youth and skills verification of job candidates for employers. This online community will be deployed to early adopters in the fall of 2011, with ongoing evaluation and refinement through 2013.
The New Mexico Zone is developing an online job portal that allows youth to apply for jobs using WorkKeys skill scores in Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information (and other areas when testing data is available), and employers to hire based on these demonstrated capabilities. A cohort of summer positions will be filled using this credentialing system during the summer of 2011, with broader roll-out and adoption planned for fall 2011 through 2013.
The Chicago Zone is providing a combination of 21st Century work-readiness development and assessment to high school dropouts who are reentering the school system through alternative schools. The Employability Assessment (an open-sourced assessment tool developed by the Chicago Zone's anchor organization - The Chicago Workforce Investment Council) will be validated during summer 2011, with curriculum development running parallel. School partners will come on board beginning with the 2011-12 school year for a 2+ year rollout of the Employability Assessment, curriculum and earn and learn programs.
The Movement Building Zone is working to give collective voice to disconnected youth to change their self-perception, as well as perceptions of them among employers and policy makers. Research, design, and planning will take place through 2011, with implementation beginning in 2012.
The National Initiatives Zone is providing thought leadership, policy advocacy, communications, knowledge transfer, and evaluation to support the project overall.
Additional information at http://newoptionsproject.org.