Open Society Foundations to Join with 10 Philanthropies to Support Young Men of Color

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today joined leading philanthropies to build upon our own longstanding work to identify and address barriers to opportunity for boys and men of color.

The 11 philanthropies’ work will complement the Obama Administration's recently announced My Brother’s Keeper initiative. This new alignment of a broad range of stakeholders will identify promising policy and programmatic approaches, support innovators and activists, and help to change the damaging narratives that unfairly cast these young men in a negative light. All told, the alignment has enormous potential to help young boys and men of color.

“OSF is excited to take the next steps in its long-standing efforts to address the barriers that prevent boys and men of color from reaching their full potential,” Ken Zimmerman, the Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, said. “The alignments of the significant philanthropic commitments, in conjunction with the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, plus many other philanthropic and corporate contributions, make this a transformative moment in what is needed to improve the life prospects of boys and men of color.”

The Open Society Foundations’ long-standing commitment to help young boys and men of color achieve their goals and dreams despite significant socioeconomic hurdles has been reflected in Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA). Launched in 2008, CBMA has focused on long-term investment in improving the life outcomes of black boys and men including through mentoring, expansion of educational opportunities, and development of common-sense school discipline policies to educate and support children rather than punish them. The campaign also launched the Institute for Black Male Achievement, which is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of leaders and organizations committed to this important work.

CBMA’s work complemented OSF’s substantial investments in reforming the criminal justice system, and promoting full civic, economic, and political participation for communities of color and immigrants in the United States.

Collaborative approaches also have real traction in improving the life outcomes of boys and men of color. The New York City Young Men’s Initiative, a $127-million, three-year partnership between New York City, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Open Society Foundations, uses a range of programs and approaches to eliminate systemic barriers faced by young black and Latino men and boys. The broadened philanthropic engagement, reflected in the establishment of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color—OSF is a founding member—has identified other promising approaches, which will form the basis of some of the efforts going forward.

As part of today’s announcement with 10 leading philanthropies, the Open Society Foundations will take a few immediate steps. These will be supplemented as specific initiatives are further defined by the philanthropic collaborative. They include:

  • OSF will contribute more than $30 million in the coming years related to specific elements of the philanthropic plan to support promising efforts in targeted geographic regions (rural and metropolitan) to address disparities affecting boys and men of color and furthering reforms in the criminal justice system.OSF is excited to announce a commitment of $10 million toward enabling the Campaign for Black Male Achievement to spin-off as an independent organization. In partnership with The California Endowment, the Skillman Foundation, Ford Foundation, Casey Family Programs, and other foundations who will supplement this initial investment, the spin-off will allow CBMA to expand its ability to strengthen the leaders and organizations who are improving outcomes for black men and boys in the country. The board of directors will be headed by Tonya Allen, CEO of the Skillman Foundation. Other board members will include Geoff Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone; Wendell Pritchett, the incoming dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School; and William Bell, CEO of Casey Programs. Shawn Dove and Rashid Shabazz will continue to lead CBMA.
  • The Open Society Foundations will commit $14 million over the next four years to bolster efforts by our grantees and other partners to push reforms in the area of school discipline so that disciplinary issues do not result in young children being pushed into the criminal justice system.
  • One of the key threads underlining the foundations’ work in support of My Brother’s Keeper is changing the damaging narrative that boys and men of color are viewed as men—too often falling victim to a false narrative of criminality and failure—and, therefore, not permitted the luxury of a childhood.

This is only the beginning of the work we plan to do in this area. Open Society will work closely with our fellow philanthropies and collaborate with city, state, and the federal governments, the non-profit and faith-based community, the corporate sector, and all others committed and willing to address and remedy disparities and unfairness facing boys and men of color.

The eleven foundations include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, Ford Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Kapor Center for Social Impact, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.