America's Promise -The Alliance For Youth
Social Innovation Fund 2012
America's Promise Alliance was founded with a simple guiding principle: we all share an obligation to our nation's children to ensure they have the resources they need to succeed. We call these the Five Promises: Caring Adults, Safe Places, Healthy start, Effective education; Opportunities to help others. Over the past few years, and with our 400 national partners, we are building momentum to stem the longstanding high school dropout crisis. Through 105 Dropout Prevention Summits we engaged over 30,000 mayors, governors, business leaders, child advocates, school administrators, students and parents. These Summits jumpstarted major cross-sector initiatives to address this critical need, and this work continues today through collaborative action in communities throughout the country. In March 2010 we embarked on the Alliance's most ambitious effort to date -- the Grad Nation Campaign -- aimed at dramatically increasing rates of high school and post-secondary completion. The 2020 goals are: a 90 percent national graduation rate, with no high school less than 80 percent; and regaining America's position as first in the world in college completion. If we focus on mobilizing communities to bring the needed supports to students who will attend the lowest performing high schools, then we can help end the dropout crisis and transform the lives of the most vulnerable children. A critical component of our Grad Nation strategy is providing grants and technical assistance to communities throughout the country. In the last five years alone, we have dedicated more than $26 million in support of communities, including $7 million in cash awards. We have also demonstrated our capacity to 'scale' open competitions, using our communications networks to reach beyond existing relationships to engage large numbers of potential grantees. About the Proposed Social Impact Fund Grant APA proposes a Social Innovation Fund grant to help increase high school graduation and college completion rates in the areas where the need is greatest. Although our Grad Nation campaign is national in scope, we will focus our SIF efforts on communities within thirteen identified states that have the most children and youth in low performing high schools and the furthest to go toward improving academic achievement: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington. (Building a Grad Nation, APA 2012) SIF will strengthen existing collaborative efforts by funding the backbone organization of the collaboration, while also supporting the development of a sound data infrastructure and recursive learning loops. We will select and fund a five community collaborations within these states, ensuring that each has the structures and processes in place to develop strong youth systems that will positively impact their most vulnerable youth. We will provide technical assistance, to help assess the needs and strengths of the communities, encourage a positive youth development framework, develop a theory of change , and implement the theory of change in a principled way. We will coordinate and facilitate a learning community among the five efforts, and offer tailored assistance to 25 communities within the states that house the original group. Communities will be chosen based on the status of their existing Impact Models and their readiness to move to the next stage of development. We must also choose the specific sub-grantee organization that has the desire, clout and ability. We will issue an RFP to determine which are ready to make significant strides forward. After an internal review, we will engage an expert panel to evaluate the applications. For the Social Impact Fund, we propose three layers for a research and evaluation strategy: 1) support communities in their choice of a third-party evaluator; 2) implement a learning project across communities; and 3) and assess our total theory of change, from funding communities to individual-level impact. Annual convenings and the America's Promise Knowledge Center will provide opportunities for reflection across communities. America's Promise has secured a 100 percent match for year one of this project. Through our new Alma J. Powell Fund for Community Action, we will secure future match commitments and assist sub-grantees in securing their required match.