BLOOM (Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men), an initiative of the California Community Foundation focused on addressing the disparities faced by young African-American men involved in the juvenile justice system, has developed a powerful community-driven model for expanding opportunities, a report from the foundation finds.
Launched in 2012, BLOOM serves young African-American men who are on probation, are school-credit deficient, or have been reported for behavioral issues or chronic absenteeism or truancy through programs developed by Brotherhood Crusade and the Social Justice Learning Institute. According to the report, Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men: Transforming the Lives of Young Black Men in South Los Angeles (21 pages, PDF), the initiative has helped more than eight hundred young African-American men form meaningful relationships with male mentors and their peers, while teaching them how to self-regulate their behavior and emotions and cultivate a sense of purpose, identity, and self-efficacy. With a commitment of $500,000 a year from CCF, BLOOM has leveraged $3.3 million in funding from other funders and secured an additional $3.2 million in pledges over the next five years.
The report also highlights lessons learned in the rollout of the program, including the need to make substantial commitments in order to achieve real change. It took CCF four years, for instance, to find partners that were well positioned to take the lead on the initiative, even as the foundation was refining its own priorities for the work. Others include the importance of empowering the community by engaging community leaders, grantees, public agencies, and school districts along with funding partners; committing to change efforts over the long term; building the capacity and infrastructure that community-based organizations need to succeed; integrating program and evaluation methods; and building trust among donors, grantees, and the community.
"Nearly every major indicator of economic, social, and physical well-being shows that black men and boys in the U.S. are systematically deprived of the support and opportunities they need to thrive, and when they fail to achieve their potential, we all suffer," CCF president and CEO Antonia Hernández writes in the report. "I believe that BLOOM can help our field move beyond traditional anti-recidivism and diversion work — work that addresses only the symptoms of the chronic underinvestment in these boys and young men — and toward holistic interventions that help young men graduate from high school, complete postsecondary programs, and prepare for the workforce."