Landscape Project

Thursday, July 16, 2015

One of my Foundation goals this year is to survey the landscape of the Foundation’s 3 program areas to examine the impact of disadvantage in each program area, initiatives that attempt to ameliorate the disadvantages and the effectiveness of these initiatives. The idea is to see the Foundation’s programs within this context and better understand their suitability and effectiveness.  

This is a daunting project. Fortunately the 3 Board program consultants have taken a leadership role and, in addition to Sharon, we have the services of our Program Specialist, Tori Lackey. So our capacity to tackle this project is better than ever before.

We have been meeting on this project since March and expect to have 3 papers for the Grant Program Committee to consider in September. The subject is as broad as it is long and I expect that it will be a challenge to make the papers brief and readable and, at the same time, useful.

Consider our disability programing. It is aimed at both education and transition to the work place. We must ask ourselves how disability affects youth. How does it affect the ability of youth to obtain education? How does disability affect the ability of youth to obtain employment? Different disabilities – paraplegia, deafness and learning, to name a few- each bear differently on one’s ability to obtain education and employment. How are they different? What is common to all of them?

After we understand and articulate the challenges, we will survey the various initiatives, large and small, that have been devised to alleviate them. What works? Who are the prime movers? What can we learn from them? Why are they effective? What are the common elements to successful programs?

How do the Foundation’s programs appear in the context of the disability landscape? Are they in step with the more successful initiatives? How can they be improved? Should we take more risk? Or should we be less ambitious? Should we use our position and resources to collaborate more?

The analyses of our American Indian and Disadvantaged programing each bring a similar challenge. American Indian youth almost invariably face the disadvantage of poverty.  American Indians on Reservations also face the economic disadvantages that come with rural America. This is particularly important when we consider that the Foundation’s thrust is entrepreneurship and business education with a goal of enhancing Reservation economies. How will this analysis inform the Foundation’s strategy?

The Foundation’s Disadvantaged programing is designed to redress “economic and social” barriers to education and employment. The problem seems easy to understand and the answers intuitive. Why then is the problem so intractable? Why does it not respond to billions of dollars expended by our governments? How difficult will it be to survey and understand the thousands of programs that have been implemented to try to help youth overcome economic and social disadvantage and obtain education?

Sherry, King, David, Sharon, Tori and I look forward to the Grant Program Committee Meeting and to beginning this interesting and exciting conversation.  We hope that it will make us more knowledgeable about the various areas of programming and see it through the lens of what the Landscaping reveals.