The recent announcement of the inaugural cohort of seven Black Male Achievement Social Innovators prompted me to pause and consider how much traction the nation has gained in recent years with identifying and strengthening the field of black male achievement.
Just three years ago, during the fetal phase 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 in America–I wrote a piece that framed five key success strategies that I committed to as manager of the campaign:
- Build the brand of black male achievement
- Cultivate strategic partnerships
- Invest in leadership development and organizational sustainability
- Measure and promote what works
- Sustain the Campaign
In October 2012, the Campaign, along with a band of philanthropic partners, made significant progress on the third of these points with the launch of the Leadership & Sustainability Institute (LSI), a national membership network to ensure the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations across public, private, and the nonprofit sectors committed to improving the life outcomes of black men and boys through systemic change.
We were thrilled when seven foundations decided to dive into the deep end with us, along with LSI co-implementers PolicyLink and Root Cause, on a mission to strengthen the infrastructure of the field of black male achievement. The LSI started the Social Innovation Accelerator and now we are proud to have its new Black Male Achievement Social Innovators.
The seven Innovators were selected from a nationwide pool of over 70 applicants that are having a real impact on improving the life outcomes of black men and boys in the U.S.
These leaders and their colleagues represent the most pivotal of the success strategies listed above: measuring and promoting what works. Their collective efforts address multiple areas, including educational equity, strengthening family structures, increasing work opportunities, and promoting positive frames of black men and boys in America.
They and their organizations have all demonstrated promising outcomes in their work and will benefit from a year of intensive capacity-building support, including enhancing their use of data to measure their impact and showcasing their effectiveness to national and local funders.
Of course, we can expect to see all seven of these Innovators highlighted on bmafunders.org, a web portal that provides the philanthropic community with a comprehensive landscape of funding opportunities in the field of black male achievement.
While the LSI currently has a membership consisting of over 1,400 leaders from 1,000 organizations, the seven Innovators have the potential to catalyze much broader public and private engagement in black male achievement by sharing widely the positive results of their work.
These leaders are prime examples of the kind of people Mario Morino, founder of Venture Philanthropy Partners, describes in his book Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity: “I’m a big believer in the notion that… best practices are wonderful, but what makes things happen is people. I’d take the best talent over best practices and great plans any day of the week.”
I’ve seen most of these talented leaders in action and can confidently say that their introduction as BMA Social Innovators will help raise the leadership and performance measurement bar for the field of black male achievement.