For almost two years, ACS has been working closely with grantees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise Initiative, helping coalitions that focus on improving the trajectory and opportunities for boys and young men of color to become more strategic and effective in their outreach, advocacy and communication. Each grantee has its own focus and needs, so the ACS team has helped them craft specific, targeted plans and actions to move their work forward
For example, in Chicago, ACS works with the Safe School Consortium (SSC), which focuses on policies and practices that support restorative justice to change perspectives, improve school culture, improve lives and reduce racial inequities in the schools. Restorative justice is an important solution that helps schools become safe, supportive and equitable environments that value the potential of all youth to succeed. During the past 18 months, ACS has helped SSC achieve the following:
• develop a host of collateral materials that include an introduction to SSC,
• an overview of restorative justice,
• a school curriculum for implementing restorative justice, and
• a policy document with recommendations and examples of best practice.
ACS also guided SSC in the creation of message strategies and content for its work, and is now helping SSC move through the steps necessary to host a successful press event to talk about the restorative justice curriculum and the policy document, and to continue the public conversation throughout the year.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, a network of organizations collaborated to create the Boys and Men Opportunity Success Team (BMOST) to create pathways for attainable and sustainable success for boys and men of color in Central Arkansas. Together, the collaborators work to prevent dropout, train young men for careers and connect them with caring adults. But this collaboration was challenged when it came to introducing itself and explaining its work to others — particularly when the opportunity arose to participate in the creation of a new city wide master plan for children, youth and families. With help from ACS, BMOST developed a strategy to put itself front and center among community partners, and created a set of clear and concise messages to explain the nature and importance of its collaborative work. ACS guided BMOST through the planning and strategy process and provided insights from national best practice research.
“Part of ACS’s success with Forward Promise grantees like BMOST is its sophisticated understanding of how nonprofit collaborations work,” says Mark Perry, Executive Director of New Futures for Youth, which serves as the BMOST backbone organization. “From the get-go, it was clear that ACS understood what our work was about – that we weren’t direct service providers but coalition builders and program modelers for community partners. They have a deep knowledge of the work in community, and understand the challenges of trying to work as an intermediary. They helped us think through broad strategies around implementation and nail down specifics of coordination and communication. They also helped us identify some partners with whom we can build supportive networks in other communities.”
“In terms of our communication strategy, ACS helped define who BMOST is, why it matters, what we do, and why folks should care,” says Kent Broughton a BMOST Fellow housed at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “They walked us through the creation of those key messages and how to share them effectively, especially when it was time for our public launch.”
BMOST, SSC and other Forward Promise grantee organizations are beginning to demonstrate their increased capacity for strategy and communication by growing their networks of partners and supporters, honing and using their new messages, and in turn strengthening their work with young boys and men of color. As their work moves forward (with continued support from ACS), more youth of color will no doubt realize the promise that their lives hold.