No two issues affecting America’s youth today deserve more urgent action and attention than violence and educational opportunity gaps. Two movements working to address these issues are the Non-Profit organization Cure Violence and the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative created by the Obama Administration. In terms of scale, the Cure Violence Health Model is being implemented across four continents and seven countries, and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative intends to collaborate in different aspects with organizations and departments across the nation at the federal, state, and local levels. The aim of both movements its to alter the harmful and intransigent paradigms that contribute to these issues and cause them to grow through community outreach and multilateral collaboration.
The Cure Violence Health model is unique in that it approaches this issue of violence as the scientific community would attempt to understand and reverse disease epidemics. Also, its use of data collection and data monitoring around instances of violence and the situations that tend to forecast or even initiate those instances augments the model’s validity and effectiveness when implemented in new communities. The model is made up of three components: (1) to detect and interrupt potentially violent conflicts, (2) to identify and treat those at the highest risk of violent interactions, and (3) to mobilize the community to change norms. The most important aspect of the Cure Violence Health Model is the community worker, extensively trained and given the responsibility of implementing these components in any given community. These trained workers are usually already members of the community or have some direct connection to the area. They collaborate with the community leaders and residents, attempt to intervene in cycles of violence, and assess individuals and groups considered to be the highest risk, to which they then provide direct support and treatment. What are most astounding about the Cure Violence Health model are its results and that its utilization going “viral” around the globe. Independent evaluations of the program after its implementation boast a reduction in shootings of over 40% in the neighborhoods of cities notoriously known for their violent crime rates like Chicago and Baltimore.
The My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK) in its own right is unique as well because it is the first initiative of any presidential administration that is working to directly address the opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color, and to insure that all young people are provided with the resources to reach their full potential. President Obama presented the initiative this past February, in the form of a challenge to organizations and departments across the nation to “ implement a coherent cradle-to-college-and-career strategy for improving the life outcome of all young people to ensure that they can reach their full potential.” The initiative consist of six major goals: (1) ensure all children enter school cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally ready, (2) ensure all children read at grade level by the third grade, (3) ensure all youth graduate high school, (4) ensure all youth complete post-secondary education or training, (5) ensure all youth out of school are employed, and (6) ensure all youth remain safe from violent crime.
Eleven prominent U.S. foundations made commitments to invest at least $200 million to MBK and its implementation; separate from any investments they were already currently spending in related projects. In addition, the foundations committed to work over those next 90 days after the challenge was given to design a strategy and infrastructure for coordination of these investments. I personally had the honor and opportunity to be a part of creation of this holistic strategy, participating through The Working Group on Narrative Change & Strategic Communications. This working group, created by the eleven foundations, was purposed with developing a comprehensive approach to change the damaging and false narrative(s) about boys and young men of color in recognition of the heavy influence of public perception and both conscious and implicit racial bias.
After the initial 90 days passed, the MBK task force released a report containing strategies for organizations and government departments that accepted the Presidents’ challenge. Some points in the that strategy to note were making the status and progress of boys and young men of color more visible by improving data collection and transparency, as well as reducing violence and providing a second chance for youth. Methods listed for achieving the latter strategy were addressing racial and ethnic bias in the juvenile and criminal justice system, as well as encouraging law enforcement departments and neighborhoods to collaborate. Private sector organizations also made independent commitments to further the MBK goals, such as a $50 million allotment of funds to design next generation high schools better fit for youth today and mentoring programs to improve high school dropout rates.
Both the Cure Violence Health Model and MBK stress the importance of transparency in the work and data collection to track changes and progress so as to better adjust their programs depending on arising situations accordingly. Where the Cure Violence Health Model differs from MBK is in their “street outreach” approach, based on gaining the trust of individuals in a community and providing specialized support on a case-by-case basis. This approach produces extremely visible results and interrupts issues directly before or at their tipping point, extinguishing possibly violent situations before they come to fruition. Conversely, the My Brothers Keeper Initiative is an exceptionally pivotal and monumental creation of our own presidential administration, with the financial backing and support of the some of the larger non-profit organizations and federal departments that the country has to offer. The alignment of these entities and their cumulative experience in the fields of civic engagement, social justice, and education is a promising push towards equal and equitable opportunities for all youth across America. Shining the national media light on the often sidestepped subject of the widening opportunity and educational gap for boys and young men of color is also great step in the right direction for addressing this dilemma; because the first battle to be won is just having the general population know that the problem exists.
Both movements have the proper initial footing and direction to make a serious impact on their respective issues. As more data is collected and the results of their efforts continue to roll in, what the outcomes of the Cure Violence Health Model and the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative boasts will be exciting, to say the least.