Tag: fight

ABC 7 News: Chance the Rapper, Liz Dozier Announce $2M Challenge

This video appeared on ABC 7 News on June 15, 2017. 

 The non-profit foundation “Chicago Beyond” got some star power as it launched its 2nd annual “Go Innovate” challenge.

Chance the Rapper joined “Chicago Beyond” founder Liz Dozier to announce the challenge on Facebook Live.

The goal is to find ways to disrupt the cycles that keep many Chicago children from realizing their potential.

Winners can get up to $2 million to develop their ideas.

WTTW: Former Fenger Principal Liz Dozier on ‘Chicago Beyond’ Project

This article and video appeared in WTTW on January 26, 2017. 

2017 in Chicago is off to another violent start. Public schools face a resource crunch. And an educator experienced in how those problems intertwine is trying to tackle both.

Many first came to know former Fenger Academy High School Principal Liz Dozier when she appeared on the CNN documentary series “Chicagoland.” Since leaving Chicago Public Schools in 2015, Dozier has taken a job leading the group Chicago Beyond, which works on youth safety and educational attainment, and aims to measure and expand the impact of the organizations it supports.

Chicago Beyond, which Dozier has described as akin to a philanthropic venture capital fund, last year awarded its first round of funding to three organizations as part of its “Go Innovate” challenge: The Dovetail Project, which works with young black fathers; Genesys Works, which places high school students in professional internship programs; and Storycatchers, which engages recently released juvenile offenders in the performing arts.

Chicago Beyond also has a partnership with the University of Chicago Urban Labs to measure the impact of groups it funds to hone and share best practices.

Dozier joins Chicago Tonight for a conversation about Chicago Beyond, and how it – and groups like it – can help address challenges facing the city.

Inside Philanthropy: This New Venture Philanthropy Fund Is on a Niche Mission for At-Risk Youth

This article appeared in Inside Philanthropy on September 13, 2016. 

We’ve written often about two key trends in philanthropy: The rise of intermediaries that raise money and then grant it out; and the growing popularity of a venture funding model, often with a big focus on metrics. We’ve also written about where these trends are converging, like in the work of New Profit and the NewSchools Venture Fund. 

Here, we take a look at a new, super-focused philanthropic venture fund called Chicago Beyond, which was launched by a former high school principal, Liz Dozier, this past April, with goals of supporting early-stage ideas about success in college and engaging youth in work in school.

According to the UChicago Consortium on School Research, only 18 percent of incoming public high school freshmen in Chicago will earn a four-year college bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s. Over 45,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in Chicago are out of work and not in school, which is four percent greater than the national average. Meanwhile, the city’s homicide rate has been rising, accounting for half of all deaths of African American males 15 to 24. 

These at-risk young people are the focus of Chicago Beyond beyond work, which describes its mission as investing in “innovative ideas and scalable programs to amplify impact in two areas that are flip sides of the same coin – youth safety and educational attainment.”

What does that look like in practice? Well, a trio of nonprofits in Chicago recently secured nearly $3 million in grants from the fund as part of a competitive grant challenge. More than 200 groups applied for these new innovation grants, but only three emerged as winners, landing some serious support. 

An effort called Dovetail Project received $990,000 for its support for youth fathers. This group provides a 12-week curriculum and year-long case management in regards to young fathers’ employment, GED completion, and wages. The venture also gave Changing Voices a $900,000 grant for an arts program targeted at youth recently released from correctional facilities. The money is also being put to use to study how the program affects participants’ recidivism and long-term employment. 

In regard to college matriculation and graduation, the big winner was Genesys Works Chicago, which received $790,000 to help at-risk high school seniors with internships, workforce training, college prep and ongoing college support. Chicago Beyond’s money will also be going towards research to study the program’s effectiveness.

We can’t help but notice the heavy research components in these new commitments, as Chicago Beyond is using a portion of the grant funds to study program effectiveness in addition to making the programs happen. The studies will be conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Urban Labs. Clearly, Chicago Beyond sees strong research on impact as essential for pulling in more funding. According to a press release, “Over time, Chicago Beyond aims to leverage its findings to spark further public and philanthropic investments in work that does the most good per dollar to improve the lives of Chicago’s young people.”

This is Chicago Beyond’s very first year, and it’s definitely still in the learning phase about local grant making and program evaluation. It’s important to reiterate that this is a philanthropic venture capital fund, not a traditional foundation—one that raises money from investors and then re-grants that money. It’s not yet known who is backing this pass-through funder, but the Chicago Tribune reports it already has moved $12 million to four large programs as part of another initiative called Go Together.” This next initiative is all about personalized learning, college success, high-risk students, and summer opportunities for teens.

So stay tuned, because Chicago Beyond is just getting started. We expect to see announcement about the next investment cycle in early 2017. 

Chicago Tribune: Chicago Beyond Announces Winners of First Innovation Investments

This article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on August 23, 2016. 

Chicago Beyond, a philanthropic venture launched this spring by former Fenger High School principal Liz Dozier, announced Tuesday that it will invest $2.7 million to enhance and study the impact of three local programs that work with young fathers, formerly incarcerated youth and high school seniors at risk of falling off the college track.

The three programs — The Dovetail Project, Storycatchers Theatre and Genesys Works — were selected from 202 applicants to Chicago Beyond’s inaugural Go Innovate challenge, which sought early stage ideas in two areas: re-engaging “disconnected” youth in work or school and supporting college enrollment and graduation.

A key part of the investments is a research partnership with the University of Chicago Urban Labs, which will evaluate the impact of the programs on participants’ labor market or educational outcomes in order to understand what actually works.

“We believe this has the potential for national impact,” Dozier said. “These learnings are applicable across the board.”

Chicago Beyond launched in the midst of a violent year in the city with the twin goals of improving youth education and safety. It is targeting its investments at the 45,000 16- to 24-year-olds in Chicago who are neither in school nor working, plus the vast contingent of public school students who don’t graduate from a four-year college.

Dozier makes it a point to call the funding “investments,” not grants, because “we really see ourselves walking alongside these organizations” to uncover what makes a measurable difference in young people’s futures so that public and philanthropic dollars can be directed at the most effective programs.

Chicago Beyond, which Dozier describes as a philanthropic venture capital fund rather than a traditional foundation, pulled together selection committees comprised of varied stakeholders — including police officers, teachers, business leaders and students — to choose the winners.

“It truly is a partnership,” said Meade Palidofsky, founder of Storycatchers Theatre.

Storycatchers, founded 32 years ago, puts on musicals written, produced and performed by incarcerated youth, with the mission of getting them and their audiences to examine their life choices.

Chicago Beyond is investing $900,000 in Storycatchers’ post-release Changing Voices program, launched in 2014, which is an employment program for 16- to 24-year-olds who have been recently released from juvenile detention centers and prisons.

Participants are paid $10.50 an hour to work 30 hours a week performing musicals in front of small audiences, usually middle and high school students, plus they receive life and jobs skills training. Each participant writes his or her own play, which are combined into one musical drawing on elements from each.

While the organization has seen kids change over time, from angry and explosive to becoming community leaders, “we have never had the opportunity to do research before,” said Palidofsky, who hopes to expand it to a statewide program.

Chicago Beyond’s investment will allow Storycatchers to add two more touring performance troupes while Urban Labs tests the impact of the program on long-term employment and recidivism, comparing the participants with a control group that expressed interest in the program but did not get enrolled.

“When you think about violence and crime in our city, Storycatchers serves an incredibly vulnerable population,” said Dozier, who has been on the front lines of the violence. She became principal at Fenger shortly before the mob beating death of 16-year-old student Derrion Albert and later featured prominently in the CNN series “Chicagoland.” This year she lost another one of her former students, Lee McCullum III, who also was featured in the CNN program, to gang violence.

A notable factor of Chicago Beyond’s investments are that the programs target niche audiences, highlighting that at-risk young people have varied needs. The Dovetail Project, founded in 2009, serves young dads. It puts African-American fathers aged 17 to 24 through a 12-week program that includes training in financial literacy, job skills and “felony street law,” which includes how to avoid getting incarcerated by interacting smartly with police and complying with child support laws. The program ends with parenting skills, which includes discussions about “manhood and fatherhood,” which aren’t always modeled properly.

“It’s about being a man first and foremost and taking care of your responsibilities,” said founder Sheldon Smith.

Ninety percent of the 230 young men Dovetail has served since its launch grew up with fathers who were in and out of their lives, and 80 percent were not employed, said Smith, whose own father was intermittently in his own life; same with his dad’s dad.

Chicago Beyond is investing $990,000 in Dovetail to serve 220 men over two years while Urban Labs studies the program’s effect on long-term unemployment, wages and GED completion.

“If you can impact these fathers economically you don’t just change the trajectory of their lives, but you’re also changing the trajectory of their children’s lives,” Dozier said.

The third innovation investment is going to Genesys Works, which gets high school students into corporate internships as a way to lift their sights and drive them into college. The program, which has been in Chicago since 2011, is part of a national organization, headquartered in Houston, that operates in five cities.

The local program puts Chicago Public Schools students through an intensive workforce training program the summer before their senior year of high school, in which they learn technical skills in accounting or information technology as well as basic job skills such as how to send a professional email.

The students then do a yearlong paid internship, for which they are paid minimum wage, in the IT or accounting departments at Chicago companies.

The program targets “the quiet middle” — students who are neither overachievers nor low performers, who are on track to graduate from high school but at risk of not enrolling in college, said Laura Lukens, local director of development and communications at Genesys Works. The greatest challenge, she said, are the low expectations that these students have for themselves because they don’t often have professional role models.

Ninety-six percent of its students enroll in college and 81 percent remain enrolled, though it is too early to know how many graduate, Lukens said. The program sticks with the students once they have entered college to help them adjust to dorm life, get internships or transfer from two-year to four-year schools.

Chicago Beyond is putting $790,000 toward Genesys Works to serve 205 students, while Urban Lab tests the effect of the program on college matriculation, graduation rates and future workforce participation. Lukens said the plan is to look at salary data to see if the students secure jobs in the economic mainstream.

“If the results show that we’re making an impact, it creates an incredible opportunity for us to expand not only in Chicago but nationally,” Lukens said. Chicago Beyond plans to announce another innovation challenge early next year. It won’t disclose how much money is in its fund or identify the private investors providing it, but it already has moved $12 million to four large programs as part of another initiative called Go Together.

Dozier’s efforts come as others also are fixing attention on the city’s long-standing problems of youth violence, unemployment and educational shortfalls.

While many nonprofits and foundations exist to tackle the problems, “there is a lot of siloing happening” that often keeps them from finding solutions together, Dozier said.

“When we think about how massive this problem is, we have to look at breaking down those silos,” she said. “How are we partnering with people and valuing the voice of people who are really doing the work.”

Chicago Tribune: Chicago Beyond launches with a $2 million challenge

"Our kids, their potential is boundless." - Liz Dozier

This article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on April 5, 2016
by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz 

Chicago Beyond, a new foundation targeting the twin goals of youth safety and educational attainment, launched Tuesday with an innovation challenge for nonprofits that will award winners up to $2 million each and measure their impact along the way.

Liz Dozier, who served as principal at Fenger High School in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood for six years before stepping down last summer, is managing director of Chicago Beyond, which has partnered with University of Chicago Urban Labs to evaluate the impact of its investments to better understand what works.

“This partnership aims to function in a way that not only moves the needle in Chicago, but well beyond our city limits,” Timothy Knowles, director of the Urban Labs and chairman of the Urban Education Institute, said in a statement.

As Chicago braces for a tough summer after a violent start to the year, how young people will be spending their time is top of mind.

Calling education and violence “flip sides of the same coin,” Dozier said the foundation does not intend to “reinvent the wheel” but rather support ideas and existing programs with the best potential to expand.

“Our kids, their potential is boundless,” said Dozier, who was at the helm of Fenger when it was thrust into the spotlight, first after the fatal beating of student Derrion Albert in 2009 and later when she featured prominently in the CNN documentary series “Chicagoland.”

“It’s not that they lack potential, it’s that they lack opportunities and access,” said Dozier, who said she left Fenger because she “wanted to have a larger impact.”

Chicago Beyond initially will focus on two investment initiatives.

One is the GO Innovate challenge, which will award up to $2 million to each winner to test innovative and scalable programming in two areas: getting high school students on a path to two- and four-year colleges; and re-engaging so-called “opportunity youth” — 16- to 24-year-olds neither in school nor working — through paid employment, workforce skill development or education. Applications opened Tuesday at http://www.chicagobeyond.org.

The other initiative is GO Together, which focuses on expanding existing programs so they can serve more people. The foundation is already moving $12 million to three programs: OneGoal, which provides students with college support; SAGA Innovations, which offers math tutoring; and After School Matters, which provides after-school and summer programming. It also will fund Youth Advocate Programs, which provides high-risk youth and their families with intensive support, though the funding amount hasn’t been finalized, Dozier said.

Dozier declined to disclose the amount of Chicago Beyond’s investment funds but said it is supported by a consortium of private investors, each with a unique connection to Chicago.