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Venture Philanthropy Partners Helps DC-Area Youth Transition to Successful Adulthood

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Logo of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), a philanthropic investment organization and Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grantee, is helping low-income youth and young adults ages 14 to 24 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area gain the life and job skills they need to transition to thriving adulthood.

Funded by the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) since 2010, VPP’s youthCONNECT initiative is a network of six nonprofit organizations aiming to directly improve education, employment and healthy behavior outcomes for vulnerable young people in the National Capital Region:

By bringing the efforts of multiple organizations to bear on a single population, youthCONNECT is able to support young people with tailored and complementary resources that can improve their life opportunities. For example, the Latin American Youth Center reconnects youth with multiple risk factors to education and employment opportunities in culturally competent ways. The Center’s charter school serves as one location where other youthCONNECT providers work with students directly and provide additional services.

youthCONNECT is inspired by the collective impact model, according to VPP Partner Michelle Gilliard. Collective impact is an emerging approach to solving complex social problems by getting organizations from multiple sectors to work together and share resources focused on a common agenda. VPP serves as the “hub” or “backbone organization” for the initiative, coordinating the funding of the SIF and VPP’s investors and supporting the work of its subgrantees, or “network partners.”

“Serving as the backbone organization changed our relationships with our investment partners,” Gilliard said. “It also required us to play a more proactive role with our network partners, bringing them together in new ways, coordinating their services, building their data-collection capacities, and supporting their learning.”

A key to making this collective impact approach work was the creation of the Common Outcomes Framework for all stakeholders. Each youthCONNECT network partner integrated the Framework into its performance management system to track results.

“Shared measurement brings everyone together,” Gilliard explains. “Everyone bought into a common logic model that would transition young people into adulthood.”

Through the youthCONNECT collaboration, Gilliard notes, network partners built relationships that knit together a stronger safety net for vulnerable youth.

“The six network partners have developed deep and trusting relationships with their network partners,” observed Gilliard. “They know each other’s programs well. They work together. This has led to catching kids who might have slipped through the cracks. Their collective effort is achieving valuable impact greater than any single organization could.”

VPP and youthCONNECT are entering their fifth and final year of SIF funding. The initiative has served 17,500 youth to date, and VPP’s Gilliard expects to comfortably reach the goal of 20,000 youth served by the end of the SIF grant. VPP also expects the youthCONNECT partnership to continue to grow, and is exploring long-term strategies for replicating the model.

More information about VPP’s SIF project can be found on the SIF website.

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