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DOI

10.9707/1944-5660.1646

Key Points

From 2018 through 2020, the Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation made grants to 17 youth development organizations in Detroit that were at varying levels of readiness to advance college success outcomes with their program alumni. At the same time, it was funding three collaborating capacity-building organizations to structure and facilitate a professional learning community that would support the youth programs in improving outcomes for “striving students” — young people who are less likely to graduate college because they come from families or communities with less access to opportunity and resources. In total, 17 YDOs and four schools participated in the learning community over three years.

This article seeks to inform funders, capacity builders, and others working to increase investment and rigor in college success efforts led by community-based youth development practitioners, and to make the case for investment in upfront capacity-building and technical assistance. It discusses a framework and recommendations for how grantmakers can extend their impact by engaging capacity builders to facilitate cross-organizational collaboration and learning as they start a portfolio aimed at moving community-level outcomes.

This article also outlines the motivation for the Jacob Family Foundation to support this collaborative learning model and offers an overview of its goals, process, and key learnings. For family foundations initiating a new portfolio, it can seem daunting to invest in relationship building and technical assistance on the front end, but this learning community's outcomes indicate that planning and preparation can contribute significantly not only to developing the best programmatic approaches, but also to positive, sustainable, long-term outcomes for young people and communities.

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