LEARNING WHAT WORKS AND SPREADING THE KNOWLEDGE
“We felt like we were in a unique moment to make a difference,” Kavitha Mediratta said about the months after President Obama’s call to improve educational, judicial, and economic outcomes for boys and young men of color. As the Chief Strategy Advisor for Equity Initiatives and Human Capital Development at the Atlantic Philanthropies, Mediratta joined philanthropic and government colleagues to discuss how to help policymakers and activists respond to the President’s challenge. “The field of racial equity activism is deeply fractured and lacks a mechanism to systematically develop, evaluate, and disseminate effective interventions that reduce disparity,” said Mediratta. “As a result, policymakers have nowhere to turn for good information.”
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As the need for coordinated knowledge and strategy became clear, members of the Executives’ Alliance took a hands-on approach to create Research. Integration. Strategies. Evaluation. (RISE) for Boys and Men of Color, an initiative led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in conjunction with Equal Measure, a national evaluation and philanthropic services firm. RISE facilitates the expansion of knowledge on interventions that strategically improve the lives, experiences, and outcomes for Black, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American boys and men. Its work spans five fields: education, health, human development and social policy, juvenile and criminal justice, and workforce development. In addition to Atlantic, other RISE funders include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Marguerite Casey Foundation.
In its first year, RISE identified more than 100 scholars and researchers who specialize in issues facing boys and men of color. RISE also brought together stakeholders to articulate and distill a set of ten principles to redefine what constitutes “evidence”, which is too often defined narrowly to exclude promising practices and policy solutions. RISE now convenes the identified experts and consolidates knowledge gleaned from their work. These are the early steps that, as Mediratta said, “accelerate the stream of disparity reduction strategies that can return better results for public dollars.”
- We must be able to measure and demonstrate impact in order to know that we are achieving results for boys and men of color and their communities.
- Investing to build connections between the research community and practitioners about what works in the BMOC sector will help to improve practice and impact.
- All research is not equal. The field needs research that embodies principles of inclusion and intersectionality. Research should be culturally-responsive and include evaluation rubrics and methodology that measure policy and systems change as much as individual-level interventions.