Capacity Building and Management Studies
The Center’s capacity building and technical assistance activities include work as ‘coaches’ or facilitators to assist the growth of community-based initiatives and higher education institutions; provision of training and technical assistance to a wide variety of youth and workforce development professionals; and design of programs and systems based on best practices. A sampling of those projects is summarized below.
- The Center is working as the evaluation partner with MY TURN, a nationally-recognized youth employability development organization based in Brockton, MA. As noted above, the work with MY TURN has included an assessment of the replicability of its out-of-school youth program model as part of its planned expansion in the region, as well as an assessment of options for a large-scale program impact evaluation. Current activities include assisting MY TURN with its leadership development and staff training efforts around effective youth development programming.
- As part of its management assistance work, the Center recently completed a critical review of New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s “One City Strategy.” One City/One Community (One City) is a strategy that supports interagency collaboration, reduces conflicts across agencies, and identifies “Catch-22’s” for the City’s most at-risk families. The project, focused on the city’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, works with individuals and families involved with multiple city agencies and helps to break down interagency communication barriers with the help of commissioners and senior staff. The Center is conducting a management study of the initiative based on meetings with commissioners, advisors, and project staff as well as reviews of project materials. The report’s chief audiences will be the Mayor’s Office, participating commissioners, the One City Project (and its parent agency, Agenda for Children Tomorrow), and funders.
- Throughout 2003-2004, as a partner with the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE), the Center for Youth and Communities served as the convener and facilitator for an annual series of “Think Tanks” for academic leaders from colleges and universities in New England. The think tanks are designed to embody the ideas of collaboration, diversity, and scholarship rooted in practice, serving not only as a venue for exchanging information and resources about issues facing higher education, but also as a forum for translating theory into practice as members draw policy implications from their discussions. There were six Think Tanks serving chief academic officers, chief student affairs officers, chief financial officers, academic deans, associate academic deans, directors of multicultural affairs, and directors of community service/service-learning, each of which met regularly through the year for day-long discussions.
- Over the years the Center has also served as the intermediary for youth-focused demonstration projects. Between 1998 and 2002, the Center worked in partnership with five communities nationwide to implement the Summer Transitions initiative, an ambitious capacity building effort funded by the DeWitt-Wallace Readers' Digest Fund. Summer Transitions was designed to improve schooling and career options (with emphasis on the teaching profession) for at-risk youth by integrating the lessons learned from education reform, work force preparation, and positive community youth development, and emphasizing an asset-based approach to learning and the importance of strong youth-adult partnerships. Through the initiative, the Center worked with the participating communities to design and implement local initiatives that maximize young people's work and learning experiences during their four summers from 8th to 12th grade, and connect those experiences to the academic year and career pathways.
- Prior to the Summer Transitions project, the Center managed the Summer Beginnings program, a multi-site, national demonstration funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Summer Beginnings was established by the Center to encourage fundamental restructuring of the way communities plan, finance and deliver summer programs. The initiative involved twelve communities in a nationwide work and learning network focusing on new approaches to academic enrichment. The communities served as laboratories for innovative classroom and work-based strategies designed to help young people make a transition from school to work. Working in cooperation with practitioners from the participating communities, the Center developed and refined program guidelines, curriculum materials, and a portfolio assessment process. The Center also provided local training for teachers and staff involved in the initiative, and worked with local leaders to expand the program to additional students and year-round.
- As technical assistance providers for Youth Fair Chance communities, and subsequently, the Kulick/Youth Opportunities Area Grantees, the Center has provided a range of training and consultation assistance regarding the formation of local governing boards, creating multi-sector partnerships, instituting strategic planning, creating school-to-work systems, developing a systems approach to case management, strengthening youth programs and creating performance benchmarks. Youth Fair Chance - a USDOL-sponsored initiative – incorporated a neighborhood-based, “saturation” strategy in seventeen cities to establish comprehensive, community-based education and employment strategies for low-income youths (ages 14-29).
- During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Center served as the Department of Labor’s primary youth technical assistance and training provider through its Youth Research and Technical Assistance Project. Through that contract, the Center developed technical assistance guides on key youth and workforce development issues for Job Training Partnership Act practitioners; designed and conducted regional and national training sessions for program managers; and brought together teams of state and local youth, education, and workforce development officials to design program strategies and policies to ensure delivery of appropriate and adequate services to young people at risk of failure in school and the labor market. Training sessions and guides addressed issues that included introduction to youth and adult performance standards, youth program design, effective case management; assessment and competency-based education; and the integration of project-based learning into summer and school-year programs for youth.