Photo credit: Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY).

We’re excited to announce today that 15 youth-serving organizations have been selected to be part of the California PropelNext program.

PropelNext helps organizations strengthen their programming and enhance their ability to collect, use, and apply data for ongoing improvement and learning–with the ultimate goal of making a greater impact on the lives of California youth.

The program was first launched by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) in 2012, supporting 15 youth organizations across 10 states. For the past year and a half, we have been partnering with EMCF, along with the Packard, Sobrato, and Weingart foundations, to bring PropelNext to California. (Learn more about the partnership).

PropelNext couples unrestricted funding with an investment in expert coaching, group learning sessions, and a peer learning community over the course of three years. Nine of the 15 organizations selected for the California program are in the Bay Area, and the Hewlett Foundation will be providing three-year, $400,000 general operating support grants to seven of them–Alternatives in Action, Beyond Emancipation, Community Youth Center of San Francisco, East Oakland Youth Development Center, Huckleberry Youth Programs, LYRIC, and Social Advocates for Youth.

We are honored to partner with these nonprofits, which work with a range of youth–from homeless or foster youth to youth out of school or out of work. They provide these youth with critical services such as housing, after school programs, and important leadership development opportunities.

As the Hewlett Foundation does not have–and does not plan to have–a local youth-serving program, you may be wondering, why are you funding this work? The answer is really threefold:

First and foremost, it’s an exciting opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Bay Area youth. The Bay Area is our home–it’s where William and Flora Hewlett met, where HP got started, where our staff live and work every day, and where all of our programs work, to one degree or another. Supporting organizations that do important work with Bay Area youth is something we are excited to do and consistent with who we are.

Second, it’s an opportunity to leverage the expertise, experience, and resources of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. EMCF is a foundation that focuses solely on youth and we think they are remarkably skilled at finding high-potential youth development organizations, and then working directly with those organizations to improve and enlarge their impact. Not only can we lean on their expertise and experience, but for every dollar that we provide in grants to these nonprofits, they provide an equal amount of support in coaching, technical assistance, and other services. Partnering with EMCF allows us to do so much more than we could otherwise.

Lastly, this initiative allows us to learn–both for ourselves and to share with the field, a key priority for the Hewlett Foundation. Strengthening an organization’s capacity to collect and use data for improvement is not an easy task. There are as many approaches to capacity-building as there are to identifying organizations to fund or to conducting due diligence. Partnering with EMCF allows us to learn firsthand from their unique approach and to share these lessons with our colleagues both within our foundation and with the philanthropic sector.

While there were many good reasons for embarking on this three-year initiative, we also wanted to go in with eyes wide open. We didn’t want to duplicate any similar initiatives in the Bay Area and we weren’t sure if there was a need for this type of support. With that in mind, last year we worked with Valerie Threlfall, an independent consultant and former vice president of the YouthTruth Initiative at the Center for Effective Philanthropy, to conduct a landscape of youth-serving nonprofits and funders, hoping to better understand what was needed and what already existed. The report assured us that this type of capacity-building program would be welcome in the Bay Area. We also talked with two PropelNext grantees from the first cohort who are located in the Bay Area–Fresh Lifelines for Youth and New Door Ventures–to make sure they found the PropelNext program valuable.

With all that backdrop in mind, we are thrilled today to announce these grants. This is a three-year experiment for us, and we are excited to embark on a learning journey along with these organizations working to help California youth build better lives. We hope you join us in congratulating the grantees.