Tonya Allen: A new strategic vision for a changing Detroit

Dear readers,


Six months ago, the Foundation began a strategic planning process. We wanted to take advantage of what we see as a great opportunity in Detroit, a time when forces are aligning to bring renewed energy, direction and investment into revitalizing the city in a number of areas. We wanted to deeply examine the work we've done in the last six to seven years in Detroit neighborhoods and schools, to identify the lessons learned, to pinpoint our successes and opportunities, and to get honest with where we're at and where we want to go. We also wanted to reassess our financial situation - because like everyone since the recession, we are operating under a "new normal' when it comes to dollars in the bank.

It was an intense six months of reflection and work for us. We examined every corner of our work, as well as the external context of Detroit. We asked ourselves tough questions and were committed to being real with our answers. Above all, we forced ourselves to think outside of the box, to leave no possibility unexamined if we thought it might help us achieve our goal of a better Detroit for children.

The result of those months of work is now taking shape. In March, our Board of Trustees reviewed and debated the details of our new strategic framework and then enthusiastically gave it its blessing. We're now ready to share that vision with you, our grantees, supporters, fellow funders and Detroiters. Our new strategic thrust will result in significant changes in how we work on behalf of Detroit kids.

This plan centers on a new goal with a tighter focus. That's to make sure everything we do moves the needle on meaningful high school graduation rates in Detroit, so that kids are prepared for college, career and life. To get there, we are upping our investments in areas like youth development, schools and community leadership, all of which will build on the Good Neighborhoods approach. And we're adding lines of work in two areas that we think will drive our mission forward in crucial ways - safety and social innovation. Safety, because we know none of our work matters if kids don't feel safe where they live and learn. And social innovation, to bring an entrepreneur bent to our work, including more outside investors.

In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing more about our specific strategies in these areas. We're also beginning to share several staff changes, including a new head of our program unit, Kristen McDonald. You can read more about our staff changes here.

We want to thank all of our partners who were patient with us through the process. We especially want to thank those whose input helped shape it and whose work we are building on. We know so many in this city work hard to make Detroit better for kids. We're proud to be a part of that community and hope our new vision propels the collective effort forward.

Our program team is now scheduling meetings with all of our partners to discuss our new vision and where we go from here. We believe now is the time to turn up the heat on our work, to begin demanding more results. We will lead the charge on that, and we hope you'll come along with us.

-- Skillman Foundation Chief Operating Officer Tonya Allen will take over CEO duties July 1 and will be the Foundation’s sixth president beginning in January 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @allen_tonya.