Community Innovation Grant FINAL Report Community Innovation

Community Innovation Grant
FINAL Report
Project Footsteps, Inc.
Grant Term:
11/1/2013 - 12/31/2014
What specific aspects, components or activities related to your work over the entire grant term were most instrumental to
making progress? Why was each important?
The youth engaging the program was crucial. The mission of our program was to inspire, empower and prepare the
residents of the participating homeless shelters to have more capacity and involvement in leading the organizations. Without
the youth accepting this challenge and being willing to step outside of their comfort zones, this work would have not been
The openness and transparency of the 4 agencies who partnered with us to host the promise youth in action programs. They
were able to defy the odds and prioritize this. Without their support it would have been impossible to implement this mission.
Though this process was not as easy as we may have assumed, being able to spend time nurturing and furthering
relationships made this possible. Developing trust, communication, and a common sense of urgency helped.
Allison Wesley, who was the homeless young adult who pioneered Promise has been the most crucial element of this all.
Her instincts, know-how and over all determination made this work possible. She kept us on track and focused. When things
got hard she reminded us all of why we do this and the importance in finding unique ways to liberate homeless youth.
What key lessons did you learn about doing your work during this year? Were any the result of something you might
characterize as failure?
It was much harder that we thought getting agencies to be open to this. We met with over 15 agencies right away, and we
felt sense of discouragement because this was simply not a priority to them. If it didn’t have anything to do with crisis
management, then they were really closed off. So much of our time spent was helping them undo how they have been
trained and seasoned to work with this population of youth.
Community Innovation Grant FINAL Report
We are operating this program at 4 homeless shelters as we speak, which are just a fraction of the total amount of agencies
in the TC area. However, these folks are trendsetters and we hope they can inspire other agencies to add this value to their
Hope street
Hope street CVI
Lincoln Place
Lindquist apartments
Part of our challenge now is continuing to get the support to continue those programs because we don’t want to stop simply
because the grant period is over. Of course, we had our mishap in the re-applying process. However, we are going to reapply in fall for the innovation funding. Until then, we have to continue to operate these programs because youth are
engaged and this is bigger than funding, this is an opportunity to create a whole new pavement when it comes to
empowering this population and bringing more innovation and experience to creating solutions. So we’re going to stick with
Our project work has focused
We did this prior to
this grant reporting
We did this during
this grant reporting
We plan to do this in
the future
Identifying a community need
Engaging stakeholders to
increase collective
understanding of the issue
Generating possible solutions to
the issue or problem
Testing or beginning to
implement possible solutions to
the issue or problem
We do not plan on
doing this
Community Innovation Grant FINAL Report
Looking at the community innovation process diagram on the last page of this report, and how it might relate to the
work you completed through your grant, is there any aspect of the model or any other way of thinking about community
innovation that was instrumental to the success of your work?
The most important piece of this work is that it was innovated by a homeless young person. That in itself redefines tradition in the
nonprofit sector. Very rarely are the beneficiaries of a program or service involved in creating said program or service. This is so
often talked about in our community but very rarely done. Innovation is about doing it in a way that is different from how it’s been
done. This work is the redefinition of innovation. If we would have taken a different approach, we would have not gotten
What progress, if any, have you made toward achieving an innovation—a breakthrough in addressing a community
need that is more effective, equitable or sustainable than existing approaches—and why do you think you are closer
now, or further away, than when you started the grant?
The most important piece of this is that we have been able to get agencies and their respective leadership engaged in this when
we thought it would be impossible. The pick up line was, “HI, we would like to empower the youth here to hold this place more
accountable and allow them to participate in leading this effort and ensuring that we are solution oriented, not just crisis
management?” Essentially their ability to undo what they have been taught or seasoned to learn was huge. This is innovation.
Promise as a program is innovation in itself. We have been thrilled with the results and even more excited about continuing this
as we have over 50 youth engaged. There is so much more to come from this and so much more to do.
What are the next steps or plans, if any, for continuing this project?
We plan to continue to develop and further the Youth In Action councils we have been able to develop at the 4 agencies. This is
priority and pretty much all that we are going to focus on. The real hurdle is that we don’t have funding to continue this so
managerially this is going to be a feat to continue but we must. The youth engaged understand our situation and are willing to
help fundraise to keep each of their councils running.
We are going to begin approach other foundations with our success story in hopes of getting their support.
If you could go back to the start of your grant period and give yourself one piece of advice or learning, what would it
be? Why would this have been important to know?
Not everyone is going to be open to this!
We thought that folks would be open to this idea. We met more closed doors than we thought possible. So that would be the
advice, we forgot one thing in being change agents: this stuff takes time and persistence mixed with a little bit of craziness!
Community Innovation Grant FINAL Report
What else would you like to share with us?
Through the Youth in Action process we began hearing very similar things from young people, the limitations they have to
opportunity considering the systemic barriers they face as it pertains to taking steps forward in society. They talked about having
the right connections in the community.
This triggered Project Footsteps program team to create a movement/initiative called “Uptown Inspired” which is dedicated to
ensuring that youth we meet through Promise can garner the right connections in the community to purse their goals, dreams
and pursuit to happiness.
Uptown Inspired is a simple campaign; we have been working over time to collect Time, Treasure or Talent commitments from
individuals, businesses, foundations, etc… who want to help young people make steps forward.
For example, we set up a partnership with Reuse Cycle- a business in Uptown that has committed to providing bikes to youth
who would be willing to come in and build their own bike at Reuse Cycle. This is one of many examples where a business has
stepped forward to help in a meaningful way that is within their limits.
Our goal is to develop this “database” of individuals, agencies, business and foundations that youth from Promise programs have
access to. This is oblong way of accomplishing our goal of rebranding the concept “homeless youth” from “expenses and
liabilities” to “assets, dreamers and receivables”.
Once the councils have successfully completed their leadership development process, they will be empowered to make
connections to funders and trend-setting agencies by inviting them to their agency to hear their plans, their stories and their goals
in community.
Community Innovation Grant FINAL Report