Foundations and nonprofits are generating innovative solutions to improve life outcomes and decrease disparities for Black men and boys. The case studies presented here highlight strategies, successes, and lessons learned.
The Heinz Endowments: An Approach Rooted in Community
Since 2007, The Heinz Endowments has invested in programs to improve opportunities and outcomes for Black males in the Pittsburgh region through its African American Men and Boys Initiative. This effort is guided by a task force under the leadership of Carmen A. Anderson, senior program officer in the Children, Youth & Families Program. Additionally, the team is comprised of staff from the Arts & Culture, Education, Environment, and Community & Economic Development programs and the Foundation’s Communications Department. The initiative’s priorities are economic opportunity; education; identity, gender, and character development; and communications. It began with strong community input and continues to maintain close ties with residents through a community-based advisory board—made up of a wide range of stakeholders—which works with the task force to set priorities and review proposals. As a regional grantmaker, the Endowments funds and evaluates interventions in the Pittsburgh area that, if effective, can be scaled and replicated nationally.
Strengths and Successes
- To ensure the initiative’s sustainability and maximize its impact, it is staffed by a cross-programmatic team within the Endowments, with representatives from every program area.
- An advisory board was created as a primary mechanism to maintain ongoing community participation at each stage of the development and implementation of the strategy.
- The approach is asset-based, using aspects of culture and community strengths to make gains.
- The work is aligned with and grounded in successful local, state, and national initiatives as a means to provide multiple resources and supports for the constituency.
- The Endowments commissioned two studies examining how Pittsburgh newspapers and television newscasts covered Black males. The findings were published in a well-received report, Portrayal and Perception: Two Audits of News Media Reporting on African American Men and Boys.
- In addition, the Endowments funded four documentaries highlighting the positive work of individuals and organizations in the Pittsburgh region. The series was broadcast on local public television. Additional communications grants target increasing the capacity of youth to tell their own stories.
- The Endowments has funded innovative rites of passage and leadership programs, education models, and approaches to teach youth financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
- Smaller, grassroots organizations require significant capacity-building support and technical assistance to ensure success.
- Developing an agenda to address structural racism as a root cause of inequity while also embracing the broader community is complex and requires a thoughtful approach.
- Change takes significant time and concentrated effort on multiple fronts.