by Leon T. Andrews Jr. and Andrew O. Moore
Cross-system teams from six cities convened in Hartford, Conn., in mid-April to deepen city strategies to reengage disconnected youth - 16-24 year-olds who are out of school and out of work, including many who are "aging out" of public care systems. NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families organized the meeting as part of its Municipal Leadership for Disconnected Youth initiative, which is made possible by the support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Teams from Dubuque, Iowa; Rochester, N.Y.; Tucson, Ariz.; Washington, D.C.; and co-hosts Hartford and Manchester, Conn., participated in the convening, along with representatives from New York City, Philadelphia and Providence, R.I.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra set the tone for the meeting with a compelling welcome message describing the continuum of services and supports that Hartford is building for its children and youth, and the readiness of the city to focus more intently on older youth.
Focus areas for the meeting included improving the use and sharing of data, developing strong convening structures - including "backbone" intermediaries or lead agencies - and applying techniques such as youth master planning and results-based accountability to the development of citywide disconnected youth strategies.
The emphasis on cross-city learning prompted Hartford City Councilmember Jim Boucher to say, "It is helpful to know that we are not in this alone."
Advancing Data Sharing
Using and sharing data to identify baseline conditions, set goals, determine policy and strategy, evaluate program effectiveness and improve case management arose as priorities for the attending cities.
With these issues in mind, representatives from the City of Hartford, Hartford Public Schools and Capital Workforce Partners described two local approaches.
The city's recently published landscape report served as an example of marshaling data to describe the local situation for young people in Hartford. An introduction to the local data system known as Hartford Connects provided a tangible example of sharing information across agencies and systems, as well as how data informs local policy.
Effective Partnership Structures
How intermediaries or lead agencies can support and sustain cross-system collaboration also surfaced as a key topic for participating cities.
Guest facilitators Lili Allen of Jobs for the Future and Rachel Antrobus, transitional age youth director for the City and County of San Francisco, briefed participants on the essential roles of "backbone" agencies.
Teams conducted self-assessments of local structures for convening and collaboration and identified next steps to strengthen those structures.
Local experience infused the meeting in two additional ways. Participants visited Hartford's Opportunity High School, developed and run as a partnership among the schools, city and the nonprofit agency Our Piece of the Pie for students who are overage and undercredited and thus in danger of not finishing high school.
City teams also learned how the Town of Manchester has used the results-based accountability approach to build upon a youth master plan and develop a common mission, goals and indicators for "turning the curve" for disconnected youth.
Manchester Mayor Louis Spadaccini capped the meeting with a talk that noted how the town had reorganized its structure for improved results.
City teams spent the last part of the meeting discussing specific actions each will take to develop data and convening structures that contribute to local, cross-system strategies to reengage disconnected youth.