Spotlight: Jai Phillips and the Ready to Rise Initiative

Jai Phillips, Youth Development Program Officer at California Community Foundation, talks about the Ready to Rise Initiative and its annual report, which reflects on the design and implementation of the public-private partnership throughout 2019.

Tell us about the Ready to Rise Initiative. What does it aim to accomplish?

After more than a year of contract negations with the County, on February 5, 2019, Probation announced the public–private partnership. Through this partnership, Probation has contracted two partners, California Community Foundation (CCF) and the Liberty Hill Foundation. Together we will advance our vision and goals to provide youth and families with supportive, asset-based, high-quality resources and opportunities towards successful pathways to adulthood.

Our goal is to build a youth development system that replaces the structures of punishment and incarceration with emerging best practices centered on healing, learning, and opportunity.

Tell us about the new report. What have been some of the key findings of the report? What has been the impact? What are some next steps?

The historical opportunity presented by the Ready to Rise public private partnership cannot be underestimated. This is a first of its kind partnership between two community foundations, the California Community Foundation and the Liberty Hill Foundation, to partner with LA County Probation and for the first time allocate county resources in a new and expedited way. Through this new funding and capacity building structure, organizations now have access to public dollars, often for the first time. We are working to ensure that what has been built and implemented over the past year is a sustained intervention that will not only lead to real impact for youth development service providers and the youth they serve, but create new best practices that can be implemented countywide.

R2R has provided opportunities for youth serving organizations countywide to uplift common challenges that have prevented their engagement with the L.A. County contracting process. This feedback process about county contracting requirements provides valuable insights about what is precluding often small yet effective community providers from accessing public funds.

The 49 organizations that make up R2R Cohorts 1 and 2 represent an expansive, diverse list of community partners across Los Angeles County. Through their collective programs and services, the 49 organizations have reached nearly 3,000 individual youth through nearly 40,000 touch points throughout Los Angeles County (pre-COVID).

To continue this level of impact; to factor in our changing reality due to COVID; and to expand our reach, CCF sees 2021-22 as an opportunity to rethink the current investment in the growing network of positive youth development service providers and to address persistent/current gaps in services.

What is your vision for boys and men of color and young people of color in California?

A robust youth development system that integrates across public agencies, non-profits, and school systems to meet the core developmental needs of young people. A system that: improves educational, economic/professional, personal wellness, or civic outcomes; reduces system involvement; and expands access to positive environments—especially for youth whose circumstances related to systemic factors such as poverty, oppression, prejudice, neighborhood violence and even abuse have made them more susceptible to system involvement.

How have Liberty Hill Foundation and California Community Foundation been involved in this work? How does it support the mission of the two foundations?

CCF’s primary role is to identify and disburse grants to community-based organizations, and to provide programming evaluation and support to strengthen youth outcomes. Liberty Hill will implement a plan for capacity building, which involves developing core organizational competencies, both as part of a cohort and through customized services for each organization. Together the two foundations will create peer-learning cohorts/networks to inform ongoing collaboration and training and provide evidence-based program refinement.

What is your call to action to your key audiences when it comes to serving the youth in their communities?

Conventional systemic responses to youth behavior has not proven effective to increase the wellbeing or the safety of youth and communities. The disproportionate arrest and incarceration of Black and Brown youth across Los Angeles County has often exacerbated their existing traumas and hardships, depriving young people of opportunities for success, while also not improving overall community safety. To realize a new ecosystem of supports, community-based programs must be properly resourced to increase their capacity to meet the needs of more young people being served outside of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

View the full report here.

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