Venture Philanthropy Partners: Investing in Social Change.



VPPNews - March 2016

Wed, 2016-03-16

“VPP pushed us to analyze all aspects of our organization: governance, mission, strategy, funding streams and expenditures. We had to create the discipline to make smart and hard decisions.”

-  James Forman, Co-founder, See Forever Foundation and Chair, Maya Angelou Public Charter School

From Carol’s Desk: Partnering with Business to Better Prepare Our Youth for Career and College

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed the Suitland High School drumline performance for the launch of our new initiative, Ready for Work: Champions for Career and College Ready Graduates in Prince George’s County.
I could not help but make a connection with the way the drumline played to the way Venture Philanthropy Partners collaborates with leaders from nonprofits, business, government and philanthropy. Neither VPP nor the drum line has a lone drum major.
And that is an important distinction.
In 1968, Martin Luther King delivered a sermon to his congregation. He told them to avoid the Drum Major instinct. The Drum Major instinct is the desire to be out front, to crave distinction, to lead alone. Dr. King said,
“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.  Say that I was a drum major for peace.  I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter... But I just want to leave a committed life behind.”
Over the past 15 years, Venture Philanthropy Partners has tried to provide a steady drumbeat of investment, support and innovation. We do this work because the success and dreams of the more than one-and-a-half million children and youth of the National Capital Region matter. 
Their potential is only limited by our imagination. 

Think about your very first job. My first job was at the U.S. Department of Agriculture during my summer break between high school and college. My grandfather got me the job. At that point, I thought I was going to go into international affairs. My grandfather said, "You have all the ideas about what you want to do, but you don't know anything about work! It's time for you to get a job." So, I went to the Department of Agriculture that summer, and I was a program aide. I was really a gofer and did whatever anybody wanted me to do.

I made mistakes on the job, but people took those moments to teach me and gave me the opportunity to do more. And that summer was very successful for me. I was highlighted in the USDA news; I learned how to be eager, to volunteer and to do new things; I learned about networking, but most importantly, for me, I had a female boss. She was my first female manager role model.

Today, I realize the importance of the adults in my life who made connections, gave advice and motivated me to do my best. I was given an opportunity, and I maximized it.

But that same opportunity is not guaranteed for all of our youth in Prince George’s County. Many students are leaving high school not fully prepared for employment and college.

In 2011, an internal report said 80 percent of Prince George’s County high school graduates needed to take a developmental math course when they enrolled in community college. Let that number sink in. That’s thousands of young adults who can’t do basic math.

Read more about the Ready for Work initiative in this column from VPP President and CEO Carol Thompson Cole.

Chairman's Corner: Atlantic Philanthropy's Influence on VPP's Philanthropy

In February, VPP hosted a conversation with Chris Oechsli, President and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies and VPP’s co-founder, Mario Morino. It was a well-attended event that inspired the audience to think deeply about philanthropy and the lasting impact it can have on our communities. Here at VPP, we are still reflecting on what we learned, so we invited Mario back to answer a few follow up questions.

During the conversation you led with Chris, we could tell that Chuck Feeney, the founder of Atlantic Philanthropies, inspired your approach to philanthropic investing. How would you describe his influence on you?

For more than 30 years, Mr. Feeney has been a powerful role model for me. He’s the ultimate example of a business leader applying his wealth in a meaningful way, grounded in social justice and a deep ethical core.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that General Atlantic LLC(GA), the global growth-equity firm Mr. Feeney founded in 1980, had such a big influence on my approach to philanthropy. GA took a big leap of faith (with the benefit of hindsight, I suppose it could be called a leap of reason) in 1983 when the firm invested in my company, Morino Associates. In the years that followed, the incredible team at GA forever changed my definitions of “strategic” and “discerning.” GA’s approach of providing growth capital and strategic assistance in a culture of excellence distinguishes them among venture capital and private equity firms. Their example profoundly shaped almost every aspect of my work and is at the very core of the Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) model.

Read the full version of the Chairman's Corner.

A League of Champions: Joining Forces to Zap Barriers to College and Career for High School Students

Have you ever wondered what makes the magnetism of superhero leagues strong enough to incite moviegoers worldwide to congregate in anticipation of watching the films? For example, what drives people to show up in droves to see movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron, which grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide, making it the seventh-highest-grossing film in history?

Well, it could be the cool uniforms or the action-packed scenes…the intimidating villains or the suspenseful score. It could be because of an interesting storyline or the element of surprise…the climatic battle scenes or even genuine humor from the characters.

It could be all of those things, but two existential, societal truths are that this concept of superhero leagues is not new and the concept does not exist solely in films or fantasy.

Superhero leagues consist of individuals, each with their own distinct and extraordinary strengths and
talents, who unite for a particular purpose. They pull their resources together to take on a challenge for a larger, quite significant purpose—usually on the behalf of others.

Read the full blog post about the youthCONNECT partnership.

Susanna Martinez Discusses the Significant Impact the youthCONNECT Network had on the Latin American Youth Center’s Growth

After five years in operation, youthCONNECT’s achievements are noteworthy. In that time, six unique organizations came together, developed a commitment to collaborate to better serve youth and constructed a Common Outcomes Framework by which to do it.

Between 2010 and 2015, youthCONNECT network partners served more than 20,000 at-risk young people, ages 14 to 24, across the Region through education, healthy behaviors and career readiness programs. Thus, we met our goal for serving youth one year early.

The network has allowed each organization to serve more youth at a higher quality.

Watch this video of Susana Martinez, from LAYC, explain how the youthCONNECT’s multi-year support helped LAYC go from five Promotores to 17.  

Where Are They Now? A Conversation with James Forman

We had the opportunity to speak with James Forman, Co-founder of See Forever Foundation and Board Chair, Maya Angelou Public Charter School about the Maya Angelou Public Carter School and get his perspective on the investment with VPP.

In a nutshell, what makes Maya Angelou Public Charter School (MAPCS) unique and what do you think VPP saw in your organization early on?

The students we serve make us unique. We educate kids who have been or are in the juvenile justice system, or are otherwise struggling and living at the margins of society. Most of these youth have been failed by traditional school settings; however, MAPCS has created a rigorous and highly-structured environment.

Read the full interview with James Forman.


Links We Love

Three Education Trends to Watch in 2016, American Youth Policy Forum


Fixing Schools Outside of School, The Atlantic Monthly

Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever), Stanford Social Innovation Review


What Is the Difference Between Research and Evaluation?, FSG Management and Consulting


Social Innovation Bonds: What's Missing?, Leap of Reason


Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) makes the future brighter for youth living in the National Capital Region by tackling the largest barriers to their success and forging partnerships that bring the expertise, passion and reach necessary to achieve life-changing results. Over the past 15 years, VPP has raised $100 million to help children and youth of low-income families in the National Capital Region access quality education, health care and career training – setting them on the right path to learn, graduate, and become successful, healthy adults. This funding, coupled with our management expertise and support in strengthening staff leadership, has increased the capacity of local nonprofits to help them expand to 80 new sites and serve 50,000 young people each year.
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