Though it’s been nine years, it seems like only yesterday that far-sighted funders, the City of Newark and the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers came together to form the Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison.
Our objective was to increase and maximize contributions philanthropy had long made in helping improve the lives of the residents and institutions in New Jersey’s largest urban center by creating a deliberate process and relationship with the Mayor and the City’s Administration.
The idea was simple but not easy — convene, connect and leverage local, regional and national philanthropic resources. Only the second formal partnership between a city and the philanthropic sector in the country, the Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison continues to stand as a nationally acclaimed model for public-private alliances, having helped broker over $50 million in private sector support of initiatives focused on improving opportunities for Newark’s children and families in the areas of education, employment, safety and health since 2007.
I’m pleased to report that the next chapter in the life of the Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison begins now with the appointment of its new leader, Kevin Callaghan.
In this role, Kevin follows Jeremy Johnson who so ably served as the Newark Philanthropic Liaison from its inception under then-Mayor Cory Booker, and through the election, transition and start of Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration up until this past March.
Kevin will leverage his experience over the last five years as the Program Officer at the Foundation for Newark’s Future, the local arm of national philanthropic funding donated to the City of Newark to improve education opportunities for youth. He also most recently served as Project Lead on the City’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Kevin brings a passion for Newark and a real understanding of the value the Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison brings to advancing the City.
There is much progress to build on.
A few examples offer insight into the success of the Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison model. During the summer of 2015, the Office was able to broker over $3.82 million in support from philanthropic sources by virtue of homing in on the five priority areas of need cited by Mayor Baraka —summer youth employment, public safety, education and literacy, the challenges of men and boys of color, and access to City services and quality of life opportunities.
By working closely with the Mayor’s Chief Policy Advisor Tai Cooper, the co-chairs of CNJG’s key funder affinity groups active in the city — Newark Funders Affinity Group, Newark Funders Subcommittee on Education, Newark Early Learning Funders Group — and other collaborative community initiatives to focus on the five areas, the Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison has been able to build a groundswell of collective impact. Here is just a sampling of these meaningful efforts:
- This summer’s Youth Employment Program is employing 2,700 teenagers who have all received increased support through improved workforce training and the guidance of program monitors who mentor and coach them throughout the summer. In addition, the program has continued to partner broadly to provide linkages and exposure to college and career with four hundred of the teens participating in the Newark City of Learning Collaborative Summer Learning Institute on the campus of Rutgers University-Newark, and 50 taking courses on the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology in 3-D printing and architecture and design.
- The Safer Newark Council was launched in May of 2015 to address public safety as a public health issue by finding and implementing cross-sector solutions to reduce violent crime by 20 percent by 2020. Other initiatives stemming from the Council’s work have resulted in the launch of a national public safety campaign to reduce violence and the spurring of grantmaker investments in neighborhood-based Newark Community Street Teams that are assisting approximately 100 at-risk individuals to stabilize their lives and turn away from a life of crime through mentoring, life skills and case management.
- Multiple ongoing efforts aimed at improving education opportunities and outcomes for Newark’s children and youth achieved milestones:
- My Very Own Library Program, now an initiative of the United Way of Essex and West Hudson and a partner of Newark’s Office of Comprehensive Community Education’s Read and Believe campaign, was able to distribute books to every Newark Public School student in grades K-8 prior to the summer of 2015, up from 50 percent of students in past years.
- The Newark City of Learning Collaborative was launched this past January with a vision to support, build, and strengthen postsecondary initiatives in the City of Newark and a goal to increase the percentage of residents with postsecondary degrees, certificates, and quality credentials from the current 17 to 25 percent by 2025.
- The Newark Early Learning Funders Group, an affinity group of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers collectively committed to invest over $1.5 million in high-quality early childhood education for the children of Newark and the state of New Jersey. The Group was acknowledged as part of the White House’s Invest in Us initiative, which challenges private and public partners to “build a better nation by expanding high-quality early childhood education programs for children birth to five.
- Newark launched its participation in the White House-led campaign My Brother’s Keeper, an effort to empower boys and men of color by strengthening the systems that ensure their success. This past February, Newark’s involvement in the program gained national exposure at the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge National Convening when former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder lauded Newark Central High School teen Taj Atkinson for his leadership.
There is much more to report about the activities of the Office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison in our 2015 Report to the Field. Suffice it to say that under the auspices of this innovative partnership, the strategy of driving collective impact throughout Newark for the benefit of all of its citizens and institutions will continue to thrive under the leadership of the Office’s new Liaison and with the robust engagement of so many supportive stakeholders.
I’m excited to see what comes next.
Nina Stack is President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 130 funding organizations working in and for New Jersey.
The Council is the center for philanthropy in the state, serving the leading independent, corporate, family and community foundations as well as public grantmakers of our state. CNJG supports its members by strengthening their capacity to address New Jersey and society’s most difficult problems.