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.

Eli J. & Phyllis N. Segal Citizen Leadership Program

The mission of the Eli J. & Phyllis N. Segal Citizen Leadership Program is to foster the next generation of citizen leaders. Established in 2007 to honor and extend the work of the late Eli Segal ’64, his wife Phyllis, and their commitment to supporting the growth and impact of emerging leaders, the Program is based at the Center for Youth and Communities, where it benefits from the research staff and faculty’s expertise in leadership development, service learning, evaluation, and capacity building. Our citizen leadership core competencies lie at the heart of what we do. To help our lifelong Fellows live out and strengthen these competencies, our Program includes: a cohort-based citizen leadership curriculum, mission-driven internships, tailored mentoring, a range of ongoing professional development opportunities, and an emphasis on engaging with and giving back to the Network over a lifetime.

The Program is a constantly expanding, intergenerational constellation of citizen leaders working across all sectors, who give each other lifelong support as they devise solutions to society’s most intractable problems. Fellows are selected to join the nationally-recognized Program via their status as undergraduate students at Brandeis, graduate students in the Heller School’s Master in Public Policy Program, or national service alumni, via our partner organizations. With the help of over 600 partners, 126 Segal Fellows are making an impact in 24 states and 3 countries. Learn more about our inspiring Fellows and Program offerings, and join our efforts.

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 the past 16 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 seventh 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.

EcoRise Evaluation Assistance

EcoRise is a school-based program focusing on preparing and inspiring youth to address real-world environmental challenges in their schools and communities, by teaching sustainability, design innovation, and social entrepreneurship. The Center is working with EcoRise to develop evaluation tools and procedures to best assess both the program’s implementation across its sites nation-wide and its existing K-12 curriculum offerings; in addition to its impacts on teachers, students, schools and communities. With EcoRise staff and leadership, the Center will develop a logic model for the core EcoRise programs and to design student and educators surveys that can be administered annually. This information will help EcoRise document the impacts of the program on students of diverse backgrounds; better understand the benefits and challenges for teachers accessing program curriculum; and assess the effectiveness of the professional development provided by EcoRise to educators. The Center is also assisting EcoRise in developing a longer-term evaluation strategy that will help the program gather and use evaluation data in support of its programs.

Evaluation Support for Boston Symphony Orchestra

Since 2017, the Center for Youth and Communities has provided evaluation support for the Education and Community Engagement Department at the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Projects include evaluation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Residence (BSOIR) Initiative, a community engagement initiative by the BSO designed to build long-term partnerships with selected communities through collaborative planning and delivery of music and arts-related programming in those communities; and evaluation of the BSO Days in the Arts (DARTS) program, a week-long residential summer arts initiative for Massachusetts middle school-aged students. The BSOIR evaluation included development of a program logic model for the initiative with BSO staff and community stakeholders, participation/observation of community meetings and events, and in-depth interviews with staff and community participants to provide formative feedback on the initiative. The BSO DARTS evaluation included program observations, a retrospective survey of more than 4,000 program alumni and staff, and interviews/focus groups with DARTS alumni and parents of DARTS participants.