The Center for Youth and Communities

Current Initiatives

New Profit, Inc.

The Center for Youth and Communities is serving as a learning partner and conducting a national-scale developmental evaluation for New Profit, Inc. and partners for the Future of Work Grand Challenge launched by New Profit in 2020 and powered by XPRIZE, MIT Solve, JFF and others.

Through the challenge, New Profit will ultimately award $6 Million in prizes to accelerate “rapid re-skilling” solutions built by diverse teams focused on “future proof” jobs that will connect 25,000 displaced workers into living-wage jobs in the next 24 months. These solutions will be implemented through Workforce Development Boards to reach frontline workers and others who have been historically marginalized by racial and class disparities in communities deeply impacted by the job losses during the pandemic.

Through in-depth interviews, collaborative discussions with initiative partners and Workforce Boards, and with a focus on key strategic questions, the evaluation will focus on the elements of design and implementation that are working; consider which sub-populations are best served by the proposed interventions; identify opportunities and challenges that emerge for the workforce development field; lift up lessons learned with implications for WIOA reauthorization; consider the scalability of such public-private partnerships; and examine the generalizability of the solutions implemented.

HopeWell, Inc.

The Center is partnering with HopeWell, Inc., a 50+ year old New England-based social justice and learning organization. With a history of delivering state-funded child welfare services, services for adults with disabilities, and with a relatively new executive leadership team, Hopewell is undergoing significant organizational transformation. This evolution has included shifts in organizational structure, practices, and culture to build the foundation for a social justice and learning organization.

The Center is working with Hopewell’s leadership to ground their evolving efforts in best practice and policy with a continuing focus on Hopewell’s community-based origins. This includes systematic and inclusive approaches to inform their strategic planning and the development of a theory of change and organizational and program-level logic models. The logic models will serve as the basis for a data framework to build a system to manage to outcomes and for continuous improvement and accountability.

Our collaboration will also lead to a case study addressing best practice in leadership and management as well as HopeWell’s transformation. This effort will also produce a management, learning and organizational framework that can be used as a self-assessment and organizational advancement tool.

Heller Global Collaborative

The Heller Global Collaborative combines the capabilities of four Heller School research entities, the Centers for Youth and Communities, Global Health and Development, Conflict Resolution and Coexistence, and Global Development and Sustainability. This interdisciplinary, multinational group is dedicated to advancing scholarship, applied research, training and capacity building worldwide with the overarching theme of global wellbeing. Specifically, the four international centers work together to build the institutions needed to: prepare for the demographic challenges of the 21st century-especially related to youth livelihoods and economic opportunity in Africa where 60% of the population is under 25 and the wellbeing, livelihoods, economic opportunity and peace is threatened for millions; support resilient communities responding to the human and environmental effects of climate change and conflict; facilitate inclusive and compassionate planning for effective poverty reduction and increased education, workforce development, and health services.

National Cyber Scholarship Foundation Academy Pilot

The Center is conducting an evaluation of a pilot cybersecurity academy, a 12-week intensive online course for high school and college students, designed to provide training on the fundamental skills involved in cybersecurity and an introduction to cybersecurity-related careers.

The Academy is part of a national initiative of the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation supporting their goal to address the current cyber skills shortage by developing and championing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals through college scholarships and cybersecurity training.

FIRST Global Challenge

The Center for Youth and Communities is learning and evaluation partner for DEKA in their FIRST Global Challenge, a competition for future STEM leaders from high schools around the world, emphasizing the importance, excitement, and applicability of STEM education. The Center is working with the initiative to develop their logic model and evaluation plan.

Institutional Capacity Development Support to Ethiopian Higher Education Institutions

In 2019, the Center partnered with Save the Children to pilot a higher education change effort at six Ethiopian universities. There were two primary goals of the initiative. One was to increase the capacity of the six universities to support student employability and career development. We worked closely with each of the six institutions as they developed and institutionalized a range of services and activities, curricular and co-curricular, to enable their students to be workforce ready.

The second related goal was to support the development of partnerships between the participating universities and employers. Taken together the goals made real the role of Ethiopian universities as economic engines for the country. The ultimate goal of our work with these six universities’ was to codify a set of practices, tools, structures, and policies that enable them to lead the way for their peers and the sector. We expect the pilot to inform country wide efforts to scale up university support for students’ employability, engage greater numbers of employers to increase opportunities, and continue to collaborate with policy makers within the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MoSHE).

FIRST® (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Longitudinal Study

For nearly 20 years, the Center has served as the evaluation partner for FIRST, a national organization that promotes involvement in STEM through after-school robotics competitions. The initial Center study was a retrospective study of participants in the FIRST Robotics Competition that tracked alumni from 20 teams into college and compared them on key measures, such as college course-taking and majors, internships, and community service involvement, to a matched set of students drawn from a national US Department of Education database. Subsequent studies have focused on FIRST Robotics programs targeted to underserved communities, the FIRST LEGO®  League program (for middle school students), and the FIRST Tech Challenge®  program, a new high school initiative, with a focus on both program outcomes and implementation in in-school and after-school settings. The Center is currently in the tenth year of a multi-year quasi-experimental longitudinal study aimed at assessing long term program impacts on student involvement in STEM education and careers.

Role and Impact of Community Partners in YouthBuild AmeriCorps Programs

The Center is conducting a study of the role of community partners in approximately 60 YouthBuild AmeriCorps program around the country. The goal of the study is to document the roles that community partners play in supporting local YouthBuild AmeriCorps programs, gather best practices information about the benefits and challenges involved in developing those partnerships, and explore the relationship between community partnerships and education, civic, and employment outcomes for YouthBuild participants. The study includes surveys of local YouthBuild programs and community partners, telephone interviews and site visits with selected programs, and analysis of YouthBuild national reporting system data. Prior projects with YouthBuild USA include the evaluation of YouthBuild's Pathways to Postsecondary initiative, which developed partnerships between YouthBuild programs and community colleges to improve postsecondary access and retention for participants; an assessment of the relative impacts of YouthBuild's construction and non-construction service programs; and an analysis of the differences in outcomes between the different types of education models (diploma-granting vs. high school equivalency or both) among YouthBuild AmeriCorps programs.