"Finding ways to better describe, measure and replicate community engagement" by Paula Ellis on Knight Blog
Aspen, Colo. -- (July 2, 2012) – The Aspen Institute launched a new, national initiative to amplify and spread an effective strategy for tackling social and economic challenges in local communities.
The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions will spotlight communities that are successfully engaging every day citizens, practitioners and leaders in making significant headway on local issues, and share their knowledge, resources and tools nationwide; it will also build an incentive fund to galvanize similar work in more communities. Melody C. Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will chair the Aspen Forum.
“The time is now to bring together leaders and advocates across party lines and all sectors – business, education, non-profit, philanthropy, and government — to move the needle on the challenges facing our communities. Cities and towns around the country are deploying this collaborative strategy successfully, and we’re going to ensure others can do the same,” said Barnes.
The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, as part of the Aspen Forum, will support community projects that help the 6.7 million disconnected Americans ages 16 to 24 make connections to education and employment. Last year, the US lost billions of dollars – including $252 billion dollars in lost earnings and other costs to society according to research conducted by Queens College, City University of New York and Teachers College, Columbia University.
“The Aspen Institute is excited about the launch of the Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. As communities collaborate for our most vulnerable youth, the educational and professional trajectory of many young people will be forever changed and the impact on the economy will be long-lasting,” said Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson.
The Aspen Forum and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund are supported by contributions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Today, the Aspen Institute announced additional support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, as well as Nancy and Miles Rubin.
“Bloomberg Philanthropies’ government innovation efforts spread effective strategies among cities,” said New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg. “This initiative can help mayors better harness talent, resources, and energy from throughout their communities to solve pressing challenges – and I’m excited to support the effort.”
"Knight is a national foundation with deep local roots. We are excited about taking the best-of-breed ideas identified by the Forum, matching them with the communities that can do the most with them, and sharing what we learn about community engagement across the country," said Paula Ellis, vice president for strategic initiatives for Knight Foundation.
"The Annie E. Casey Foundation is dedicated to helping vulnerable youth achieve their full potential, allowing them to build better futures for themselves and their families," said Bob Giloth, vice president of the Foundation's Center for Community and Economic Opportunity. "The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions represents a unique opportunity to connect young people throughout the country with the education and skills necessary to become economically successful adults by fostering public- and private-sector innovations specifically geared toward them."
The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund will provide grants of up to $500,000 to ten or more collaboratives. Local communities will be required to match fund resources, ensuring up to $1 million to help achieve better outcomes for disconnected youth. The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund advisory board and program staff will share the fund selection process with the public and prospective grantees in the fall.
Simultaneously, the Aspen Forum will convene roundtable discussions around the country with mayors, community leaders, philanthropies and businesses to explore successful, needle-moving strategies. A media campaign will help publicize what works, filling an information void: a recent study of more than 100 community movements found that all struggled with how to engage residents in devising solutions alongside leaders. In addition to highlighting best practices, the Aspen Forum will encourage communities to explore new approaches to engaging residents.
The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund builds on the work and recommendations of the White House Council for Community Solutions. The Council was established in 2010 by President Obama and chaired by Patricia Stonesifer, Chair of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and former Founding CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young leader fellowships around the globe; policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based on Washington, DC; Aspen Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information please visit www.aspeninstitute.org.
Monique Miles, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions Consultant, The Aspen Institute, 202-736-2296½monique.firstname.lastname@example.org
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.