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The Eye of the Storm: Ten Years on the Front Lines of New Futures

New Futures was a five-year, five-city, $50 million experimental venture of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to support comprehensive approaches to the multiple problems of “at-risk” children. In 1988, the Foundation began work in Savannah, Little Rock, Dayton, Pittsburgh and Lawrence, Massachusetts. A central aspect of New Future’s theory of change was that improving the prospects of low-income children required collaboration with the public system (social service, health, education and juvenile justice agencies.) New Futures matched this approach with an ambitious goal of making clear strides in improving school achievement and youth employment rates, while also reducing teen pregnancy and school dropout rates; this was all to be within a five-year period.

Eye of the Storm

These goals would prove to be too lofty and quickly those involved in the initiative found collaboration to be “an enormous political task.” As the report describes, “New Futures projects got busy putting case managers in schools, setting up health clinics, promoting education reform, and developing school-to-work initiatives. But by getting involved with new services, however innovative, they left the public systems they were designed to change mostly intact.”

After two years of participation, “leadership divisions” led the city of Lawrence to withdraw. The next year, Pittsburgh’s entire collaborative resigned from the program, while the three other sites encountered obstacles with the public system and private partners. The bulk of this publication is an interview with Don Crary and Otis S. Johnson, Ph.D., who were the executive directors of New Futures efforts in Little Rock and Savannah, respectively. Their reflections were compiled in this report to “help inform the journeys of others who choose to take up the challenge of rebuilding urban communities.”

As the report states, “The powerful learning described by Johnson and Crary have already influenced new community programming, both within the Casey Foundation and beyond it. Most new collaborative initiatives at Casey and elsewhere now build in an extended planning period, recognizing the time consuming challenge of assembling  diverse stakeholders behind a genuine action agenda.”

Download the full report.

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Posted in Comprehensive Community Development: An Intro

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