In January 2014, Brooklyn Community Foundation launched Brooklyn Insights to develop a new approach for our grantmaking and leadership programs, directed by the input and ideas of Brooklyn’s communities, and aimed at sparking lasting social change.
In nearly every Brooklyn Insights conversation, we heard about the dramatic pace of real estate development and gentrification around the borough, resulting in greater fragmentation and inequality within and across neighborhoods—a particularly acute concern in the lives of young people in poverty, who are viewed as both the greatest asset and vulnerability for the future of their communities.
We have an opportunity to be a transformative force for a more just and fair Brooklyn by focusing our efforts where we can meaningfully impact outcomes: investing in the next generation, strengthening neighborhood cohesion, boosting and coordinating the work of successful local nonprofits, and connecting people from across communities and organizations to maximize Brooklyn’s diversity, capital and expertise.
Brooklyn Community Foundation believes that empowering Brooklyn’s next generation is the key to achieving greater equity of opportunity and outcomes in low-income communities. Through the Invest in Youth initiative, we will initially focus on three “anchors of change”—areas of measurable impact, indicated by findings from Brooklyn Insights: youth development and leadership, juvenile justice, and immigrant youth and their families.
Rather than close the “achievement gap,” we seeks to close the “opportunity gap,” recognizing that it has been a failure of systems—not individuals—that has led to the challenges faced by Brooklyn youth living in low-income communities, particularly young people of color. At its heart, Invest in Youth will focus not only on the needs of youth and their families but also on the power they can bring to creating and sustaining positive change for themselves, their families and their community. A majority of our competitive grantmaking, new initiatives, and advocacy will focus in this area.
Brooklyn Community Foundation will continue to support the rich diversity of nonprofits that are distinctively improving life in Brooklyn. Through both our initiatives and guidance to donors, it is critical that we remain consistently knowledgeable about and connected to the excellent work happening across all sectors in all parts of the borough.
With a focus on identifying effective models and promising new ideas, each year we will make operating grants to a cross-section of groups and leaders identified by their peers as being exemplary in the quality and impact of their programs, and in their unique contributions to the character and people of Brooklyn.
Neighborhoods are a core part of the Brooklyn identity; social cohesion and strength is a priority for residents. To launch our commitment to supporting outstanding work happening in neighborhoods by and for local residents and leaders, we will begin in Crown Heights, our new home.
Crown Heights is ground zero for rapid gentrification, where data also indicates some of the lowest outcomes for young people in Brooklyn. Initiating this work in one neighborhood will help us learn how to work respectfully and effectively with local leaders and young people to affect positive change on a local level. Finally, acknowledging the strength of local leadership and work informed by those who know best—residents—the Focus on Neighborhoods will be an area of emphasis throughout all programs.
An idea taken directly from one of our roundtables in Brooklyn Insights and repeated in various forms throughout the process, Brooklyn Community Foundation will launch the Brooklyn Accelerator to increase expertise for the Foundation, nonprofits, local leaders, and donors through a variety of platforms that mobilize people, capital, and expertise.
The Brooklyn Accelerator will be a vital hub for information, idea exchange, and gathering of philanthropic resources. Among its many roles, the Brooklyn Accelerator will connect donors and potential board members to local nonprofits; sponsor capacity-building efforts and technical assistance services; provide training on equity, cultural competence and anti-racism; and—using our new office space in Crown Heights—incubate and support promising local leaders and organizations.
Brooklyn Community Foundation recognizes that institutional and structural barriers have long prevented equitable opportunities and outcomes for people of color in Brooklyn. In response, we will establish a Racial Justice Committee to educate ourselves on the underlying causes of racial disparities and to develop an action plan for our role in advancing racial equity and justice.
While we are only beginning this work and do not yet have a full understanding of how best to measure success, we aim to generate meaningful change around high school graduation rates, youth arrests and school suspensions, community and civic engagement, youth employment, and access to legal and language services among other issues for immigrant communities. In designing our evaluation plan, we will not only refer to these indicators, but also examine our own effectiveness as a funder through feedback from our partners.
Our tools will include research and data to inform our own work and the work of others in this field; grantmaking to propel the work of organizations and leaders aligned with our goals; advocacy to change harmful policies; leadership initiatives to advance effective models and test smart ideas in keeping with our desired outcomes; and donor partnerships to build financial resources necessary to effect and sustain change.
to the 942 residents, experts, educators, students, artists, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, and community advocates who participated in Brooklyn Insights: