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Root Cause and Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement Launch Leadership and Sustainability Institute

To bolster the efforts to improve the life outcomes of black males in the U.S., Root Cause and the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement are launching a Leadership and Sustainability Institute. The project will strengthen the capacity of the campaign’s grantees and other nonprofit organizations working within the field of black male achievement.

“It’s going to take decades of effort to make real headway on the many difficult issues that black men and boys in this country face,” said Shawn Dove, Director of the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement. “We’re excited to partner with Root Cause on this institute that provides individuals and organizations working on black male achievement with the tools and support they need to ensure success.”

Black men and boys face major racial disparities, unequal opportunities, and achievement gaps at nearly every stage in life including early childhood, primary and secondary school, college, and employment. For example, by 2004, 50 percent of black men in their 20s who lacked a college education were jobless, as were 72 percent of high school dropouts; 42 percent of all black boys have failed an entire grade at least once and only 18 percent of black men ages 20-21 are enrolled in college. The Bureau of Justice Statistics projected that 28 percent of black males in America will serve some time in state or federal prison.

While numerous leaders, advocates, and organizations have made major strides in improving the life outcomes and achievements of black men and boys, sustaining a strong and consistent multi-decade focus on the issue has been a great struggle. A 1995 Urban Institute study found that of the 51 programs focused on black men and boys surveyed, after 10 years a quarter no longer existed and less than a quarter still maintained programming focusing on black males.

Organizations working to improve the life outcomes of black males face more obstacles than most other nonprofits. These include:

  • Inconsistent philanthropic support.
  • Organizations often work in segregated neighborhoods and in isolation from one another, with less access to networks and resources to help increase their impact. Efforts to coordinate the field are often short term, inconsistent, and unstructured.
  • Available growth and sustainability resources often lack sufficient cultural context or knowledge of organizations working in the field. The few service providers dedicated to the field are often small, geographically scattered, and have inconsistent cash flow and  sustainability challenges.


Active in more than 70 countries, the Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.

Founded in 2004, Root Cause began as a small nonprofit consulting practice for innovative nonprofits. Since then, Root Cause has grown to become a nationally recognized organization with 30 team members, an annual budget of $3 million, and offices in Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Root Cause has developed growth and sustainability plans for more than 130 nonprofit organizations that have subsequently raised more than $50 million.

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