This June will mark the five-year anniversary of the creation of the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement, launched in 2008 to address the economic, political, social, and educational exclusion of black men and boys from American society. When I consider the upcoming five-year milestone I can’t help but think that the Campaign was originally slated to be just a three-year “initiative.” But thanks to the determined and focused work of our partners in philanthropy, government, the not-for-profit community, and the private sector, our board lifted the Campaign’s term limit and provided CBMA staff with much-needed breathing room, increased funding, and an opportunity to exhibit bold leadership on behalf of the emerging field of black male achievement.
During the past five years, the work of the Campaign, along with the efforts of an evolving pool of philanthropic partners and leaders from the policy advocacy, practitioner, and research sectors, has expanded upon the earlier work of funders like the Ford Foundation and the 21st Century Foundation to tackle a seemingly intractable problem. It has been fueled by a broad and diverse sector of organizations that combine a direct services and policy change approach.
From the time we launched the CBMA, my daily mantra has been “sustain the campaign,” with the belief that the philanthropic sector could not remedy a generational problem facing black men and boys with a short-term, grant-cycle mindset.
In partnership with the Foundation Center, we have launched the web portal BMAfunders.org to facilitate engagement, collaboration, and strategic decision making among funders, nonprofits, and policymakers working to promote positive outcomes for black men and boys in America. It could very well be the pivotal investment that enables this work to gain the sustained philanthropic commitment necessary to overcome the structural and systemic barriers that prevent too many black men and boys from realizing their full potential.
The portal will be the go-to source for data and information related to black male achievement, serving as a resource not only to funders, including affinity groups like the Association of Black Foundation Executives and Grantmakers For Children Youth & Families, but also to nonprofits, policymakers, business leaders, and anyone else interested in the field.
Some of the features of the portal include: an interactive mapping tool with funding data, a timeline of philanthropic milestones in the field, a toolkit for assessing project outcomes, a comprehensive collection of research reports, descriptive case studies of work on the ground, and multi-media content. Currently on the site are highlights of the recent Black Male Re-Imagined II, a collaborative effort by the Ford, Knight, and Open Society Foundations to examine strategies for shifting perceptions of black men and boys in America.
BMAfunders.org builds on the groundbreaking 2012 report Where Do We Go From Here? Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys, which examines foundation funding flows in support of black men and boys and highlights innovative philanthropic initiatives. The report highlights the deepening funding commitments of foundations like Knight, Skillman, Robert Wood Johnson, Mitchell Kapor, and The California and Heinz Endowments in the field of black male achievement. The portal also complements the field-building and infrastructure-strengthening effortsof the Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement.
The portal magnifies the words of Open Society Foundations founder George Soros, who in the afterword of Where Do We Go From Here? states how he hopes the report (and the ensuing launch of BMAFunders.org) “will motivate other philanthropists and foundations to invest in efforts to improve achievement by African American boys and men… this is a generational problem. It demands a long-term commitment.”