In 2013 The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions committed to implement the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund and provide $6 million in grants in up to 20 communities with a 1:1 match in some cases from local philanthropy, including community based foundations, to build capacity within communities by providing operational grants that will allow communities to strengthen and further their efforts to reconnect youth to education and employment pathways.
As a result 5,000 students will gain access to education and 35 jobs will be created.
The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund will make two types of grants to communities to reach an initial 5,000 youth: Implementation and Development grants. A very small set of communities with an existing collaborative convened by a backbone organization with a high potential for success in significantly expanding an existing portfolio of pathways for opportunity youth, will be eligible for the Implementation Grants, receiving awards up to $500,000 over three years with a required 1:1 match. The required match will likely be secured through local philanthropy including community-based foundations. A larger set of earlier stage collaboratives will receive the Development Grants, 12-month awards of up to $100,000 with a recommended 1:1 match, to address key capacity questions in relation to meeting implementation criteria.
The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund has identified five areas of work that comprise the framework of the initiative and will be used in the selection criteria for community grantees. The five areas of work are as follows: 1) Collaborative for Impact: A clear operational structure that engages key sectors (i.e. postsecondary, workforce, K-12, youth-serving community based organizations) to drive the process of decision making to maximize the outcomes of the collaborative. 2) Building Effective Pathways: Identifying high-quality opportunity youth secondary credentialing programs that offer the potential for building out supported and transparent pathways that integrate education and work experience and result in postsecondary education/career credentials and family sustaining jobs. 3) Using Data to Guide Decisions and Assess Impact: Communities are required to scope the opportunity youth population and share data that is comprehensive enough to make an initial case for funding (i.e. applicant provides at least 3-4 data points that demonstrate that opportunity youth likely represent a considerable portion of the community's youth population). 4) Leveraging Funding to Support and Sustain Innovation: Demonstrating an understanding of the local and regional funding terrain that includes both private resources and public funding streams. 5) Developing Supportive Policies: Communities are required to demonstrate and/or share examples of prior experience identifying and attempting to address youth policy issues.
Using this framework the Aspen Forum team, along with Jobs for the Future, will assess community grantees to discern their capacity for either developing and/or deepening education and employment pathways for opportunity youth. The full process of selecting community grantees will include scoring proposals and community self-assessments (meant to capture critical data and information across the five part framework) using Implementation and Development rubrics; making preliminary selections of community grantees based on the rubric outcomes (with an eye toward a diverse portfolio that includes rural, urban and tribal communities); convening the Opportunity Leadership Council to finalize the community selections; and announcing the community grantees in July.
The Aspen Forum will continue efforts to raise $6 million from our national and regional philanthropic partners to support grant-making for the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund in preparation to announce communities in July 2013. The Aspen Forum will document and leverage a match from local philanthropy in each grantee community that generates an additional $6 million in funding support by July 2015. These local match resources will support system coordination and will be used to scale up secondary and postsecondary education and employment pathways for opportunity youth.
The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund seeks to establish a national learning agenda that supports the learning, engagement and efficacy of communities engaged in this initiative. To this end both Implementation and Development grantees are expected to participate in the learning community with virtual and in-person opportunities to share lessons and challenges. Forms of cross site learning will include: 1) Cross site learning convenings with community collaboratives and backbone/grantee organizations; 2) Strategy calls for site leads from each community; 3) Webinars; and 4) Web-based digital forum for peer learning and tool-sharing.
Using these forms of learning the Aspen team will engage with communities to bolster the information sharing, lift up best practices and scale up solutions that work to accelerate the education and employment outcomes for opportunity youth.
Over the next five years the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund will work toward the following ultimate outcomes including: 1) demonstrating lower rates of disconnection to education and employment among opportunity youth and future generations; 2) catalyzing adoption of effective approaches in education and career attainment leading to family-sustaining careers; and 3) leveraging systems and policy changes at local, state and national levels to enable increased adoption, replication and the scaling up of these approaches, including the provision of tools and strategies for communities and the field.
The timeline for launching the Fund and supporting activities, including establishing a national learning community through the cross site learning institutes:
July 1, 2013: Final selection of 2013 Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund grantees
July 10-11, 2013: Meeting of site leads
July - October 2013: Asset mapping to support communities to hone strategic plans
November 4-6 2013: First cross site learning institute in Aspen, CO
May 2014: Second cross site learning institute
Summer 2014: Development sites apply for Implementation funding
There are currently 6.7 million opportunity youth, defined as young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market, who represent enormous potential for our nation's economy, as well as a powerful case and need for the advancement of future generations of low income children and families. The successful reconnection of these young people requires community collaborations that effectively remove barriers, connect the many systems that touch their lives, and build and deepen education and employment pathways. To this end, the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund was recently formed at the Aspen Institute. The Forum is under the leadership of Melody C. Barnes, former Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Senior Advisor to President Obama. Stephen Patrick, who previously led disconnected youth work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, serves as the Forum's Executive Director.
The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund commit to disseminate $6 million in grant funding to up to 20 communities with a 1:1 match in some locations. Since announcing its plan in July 2012 to further collective impact and community collaborative strategies to increase education and employment outcomes for opportunity youth, the Forum has shaped specific plans for the grant competition, which is the focus of this Commitment to Action.
The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions is seeking corporate and philanthropic investors in the national Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. The fund will invest in cross-system efforts to improve outcomes for out of school youth and young adults in communities across the US. Investors will serve on the Leadership Council for the fund along with current investors and representatives from the Annie E Casey Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller, and regional grant-makers like the California Endowment and James Irvine, and Joyce Foundations. The Aspen Forum is especially interested in sponsorship opportunities for the third party evaluation of this national effort.
The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions will help to document and share successful examples of collective impact with the American public. The Forum will provide investors with the opportunity to meet regularly with leaders in philanthropy and in community change.