The City of Pittsburgh has embraced President Obama's call to action for My Brother's Keeper. Mayor Gainey is implementing a cross-sector alliance with firm commitments to join the administration's effort in creating a more equitable and inclusive Pittsburgh. Together, through partnership and collaboration, we can build unity and improve our beautiful city where all our residents—especially boys and young men of color— safe and free from violence, feel welcomed, see themselves in a positive manner, and have equitable access to opportunities that allow them to thrive in Pittsburgh.
After reviewing demographic, social, economic, and crime data as well as numerous community and academic reports, our advisory committee members and staff have been able to diligently plan and strategize to reignite and move forward the work around MBK by structuring our community network to meet the needs of every black man and boy.
The MBK Playbook
The My Brother's Keeper initiative seeks to address the unique challenges faced by individuals within our high- and extreme-need communities by providing a platform for mentorship, educational resources, employment opportunities, and community engagement through their six key milestone goals:
Mayor Gainey and his administration are dedicated to improving the current condition within all six milestone goals through partnership and collaboration to provide wrap-around services and resources for our black men and boys within the City of Pittsburgh. Together we can foster a sense of belonging and support to empower individuals to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.
In 2016, MBK Pittsburgh-Allegheny County began setting the foundation for the initiative by identifying a steward, developing evaluation tools for programming and activities, and seeking input from the boys and young men of color MBK aims to serve. These measures allowed for more intentional MBK programming in 2017 that worked toward planning for and making progress on the goals outlined in the Playbook, specifically Goal 5: All of our youth who have graduated from college or a training program are employed.
In spring 2017, the UrbanKind Institute report then informed the development of a community of practice called the MBK Digital Literacy Collaborative (DLC). The DLC connected with youth-serving organizations that can reach youth (particularly young men of color aged 16-24) in out-of-school-time settings to organizations with demonstrated deep experience in mentorship, youth leadership, and/or digital literacy best practices. Through a series of 3 professional developmental and technical assistance sessions during summer 2017, the partners worked to develop case studies of high-quality program examples and refine plans for 2017-18 programming.
Additional funding was then given to pilot projects in fall 2017 that emerged from the DLC, working to integrate 21st century skills into established out-of-school programs. A public progress update November 2017 infored the community about updates from each of the DLC partners and shared summaries of the case study findings developed through the DLC process.
On behalf of the local MBK Committee, Homewood Children's Village and The Sprout Fund facilitated a community-based planning process to determine the future of the MBK initiative in the region during fall/winter 2017. A listening tour was conducted and 3 community feedback sessions were held throughout Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to solicit feedback from community stakeholders as well as boys and young men of color. Additionally, a survey was used to confirm the findings from the feedback sessions and solicit input from the broader community to further prioritize future activities that MBK will lead.
In 2018, MBK PAC identified the POISE Foundation as the fiscal sponsor for the initiative and submitted a funding request to support the MBK Action Plan for 2 years. This action plan— built by the community-based planning process— highlighted the following matters as being of utmost importance:
To execute against these priorities, the following foundational annual priorities rose to the top:
MBK PAC will build a structure for MBK in the region that enables partner organizations to do what they do best, while collaborating across critical topic areas and sharing resources effectively.
MBK PAC will establish a guiding vision and set a strategy to achieve that vision. Through the 2017 MBK planning process, we created opportunities for partner organizations, community stakeholders, and youth to have a meaningful role in the development of a strategic vision and setting shared long-term goals. To maintain that vision and continuously strategize about more effective ways to achieve our shared goals, MBK PAC will host regular check-ins with partner organizations to better understand their needs and interests and seek feedback about MBK PAC’s progress.
Individual partner organizations have to focus on their unique missions, whether that’s running an afterschool program, educating students in school, offering community health services, or growing a successful business. Intermediary organizations — those that provide support (financial or otherwise) to front-line organizations — are well positioned to coordinate activities and delivering other support services.
Coordination with other organizations not yet formally involved in MBK PAC will also be critical to the long-term health of the initiative. External partners will become increasingly important as our work grows in scale and complexity. MBK PAC will connect peer organizations offering complementary programming to help spur on collaboration and pathways among programs serving boys and young men of color.
Lastly, the MBK leadership team will engage in advocacy work and coordinate responses to policies that support boys and young men of color. This will assure that MBK PAC’s priorities are made known to local and state legislators. Moreover, this dimension of the work will allow the MBK PAC team to speak on behalf of the entire network, with one voice.
MBK PAC will amplify the voices of partner organizations and the youth they serve by documenting success, sharing stories, and contributing to the national MBK conversation.
We will create a strong, recognizable brand/identity for MBK PAC that boys and young men of color embrace and partner organizations can share to advocate for MBK in the community. We will deploy tactics that raise greater awareness among local audiences and stakeholders that promote MBK-affiliated organizations as go-to resources for boys and young men of color and clearly communicate MBK’s purpose and local process to community members, especially program providers.
We will establish a social media presence that speaks on behalf of MBK stakeholders and use shared hashtags so that network members can contribute to the conversation. In addition, when possible, we will use traditional forms of advertising and marketing and media partnerships to communicate about the resources and opportunities available to boys and young men of color.
We will create a digital directory that collects the basic information and contact details for the people, programs, and organizations that make up MBK PAC. We will also collect and share valuable resources, and we will keep partner organizations informed of upcoming events and opportunities via a calendar.
Finally, we will capture and share stories with the broader community that highlight the accomplishments of boys and young men of color in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Photography, web videos, and written blog posts are often the best way to tell the story of impact of MBK PAC that goes beyond the data we collect. In the future, a shared library of multimedia assets will be invaluable in building a comprehensive public relations strategy and pitching stories to attract national media attention.
In sum, MBK PAC will rely on regular, effective communications to keep all partner organizations and local stakeholders fully informed and engaged. Establishing regular, robust communications methods enhances the ability of partner organizations to engage and collaborate with one another and national peers.
MBK PAC will keep partner organizations engaged by providing them with ongoing opportunities to grow professionally and participate in the creation of a local community of practice.
MBK PAC seeks to achieve something that none of its member organizations can achieve alone. To be successful, MBK PAC must work in the spaces between organizations—the interstitial pockets of opportunity. This can only be achieved by recruiting and activating a network of organizations committed to support MBK Goal Area outcomes. Regularly convening the network will help create the conditions for collaboration.
Building an enduring collaborative initiative requires us to continue to bring people together and regularly convene relevant organizations at shared tables. MBK PAC will maintain robust and focused community conversations about the issues and opportunities facing boys and young men of color through a variety of activities— from face-to-face in-person meetings to virtual exchanges taking place online. These discussions will range in terms of size, duration, and formality throughout the year.
As MBK PAC grows, we’ll need to build widespread public awareness of how it positively affects boys and young men of color. On an annual basis, MBK PAC will gather partner organizations to celebrate their individual and collective achievements, reflect on all that has been accomplished over the year, hear from youth directly served by partners, and energize all MBK PAC stakeholders for the work that is still ahead.
The My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Pittsburgh Digital Literacy Collaborative (DLC) is focused on enhancing organizational capacity to integrate 21st century skills into established out-of-schooltime programs for a primary audience of youth, particularly young men of color ages 16-24 in the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
With support from The Sprout Fund, each of the 5 Digital Literacy Collaborative resource organizations developed a case study about an existing program they offer that provides youth with the opportunity to acquire technological, social, and academic skills that will enhance their quality of life and ability to secure future employment. Resource organizations were encouraged to select a program that incorporates peer-supported mentorship and/or workforce development, and excellence in digital literacy training.
Read the report outlining case study topics, components and collaborations.