Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards
College and Career Pathways, K-12 Education

Preparing for Work Beyond the Good Neighborhoods Initiative

In 2006, the Skillman Foundation launched the Good Neighborhoods Initiative, a 10-year $100-million commitment to six neighborhoods in Detroit. The initiative was significant. It marked a new way of working for the Foundation, both in the duration and size of the financial investment as well as the approach and philosophy of a grantmaking organization.

Having a long-term neighborhood focus was timely. The Foundation was able to concentrate funding in the communities that needed it most during some of the city’s most turbulent times. Over the past decade, Detroiters have weathered an economic recession, foreclosure crises, municipal bankruptcy, and heightened chaos in the school landscape. Working alongside community organizations and residents, we were able to stabilize or improve the life circumstances for 61,000 children.

The underlying plan for the neighborhoods work was simple: identify the leading community members and organizations in each neighborhood and work closely with them to build a lasting movement for children. We strove to make investments that would strengthen the base of the work being done, helping community organizations and leaders build capacity so that their work – and its impact – could be sustained over time beyond the Foundation’s 10-year strategy.

Our Work Ahead

This year, we began a strategic planning process that will take us forward into our next iteration as a Foundation. We’re reflecting on the rich lessons we’ve learned in the past decade from our neighborhood work, and are considering local, state and national trends impacting families.

The core question we have posed is:

How do we influence Detroit’s recovery so that it will benefit and be inclusive of Detroit children?

Gleaning insights from an array of folks, from our young neighbors to national thought leaders, we have heard:

  • Generally speaking, Detroit youth don’t feel connected to opportunity. Their access to opportunities of all kinds (civic, recreational, educational and professional) must be increased.
  • Detroit youth don’t feel they have a voice. Engaging and empowering youth in more meaningful ways is critical.
  • Greater collaboration is necessary to increase impact – including with nontraditional partners outside of the nonprofit sector.
  • A holistic view is needed to as we collectively address issues in our community (multi-generational, whole child).

While we work to define our next strategy, we’re reflecting deeply on the city’s recovery and our changing context. Some of the key things we are thinking about are:

  • How to support Detroit’s recovery in a way that directly benefits our kids and expands their opportunities. We also want to ensure that youth can contribute to and lead Detroit’s comeback.
  • How to further equip the community for civic leadership so that the knowledge and perspectives of Detroit residents and youth are included in conversations at the city, state and national level.
  • How we might incorporate multi-generational approaches to our work in more meaningful ways going forward.

Engage With Us

As we continue our year of reflection, we will continue to provide updates through our Rose for Detroit blog and Foundation newsletter.

I encourage you to share your thoughts about how to positively impact the lives of Detroit kids by sharing them on twitter, facebook or Instagram, using #KidsMatterHere. Or, use the comment section here. We’d love to hear from you!

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