Broken Promises Hurt CBOs

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Marcy Mistrett
Director for Training and Evaluation
National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention
Washington, D.C.

In response to the article about the National Campaign Against Youth Violence (“Nose Knows,” July/August), I have to question Youth Today’s assertion that “As collapses of national youth-related ventures go, the demise of the NCAYV is one of the more orderly and least acrimonious on record. … it expires with no debt and few enemies.”

Youth Today makes no mention of the debt that the campaign owed to local communities – to those stakeholders most responsible for combating youth violence.

I agree that the campaign had significant success under the leadership of Jeff Bleisch and Lisa Danzig with their kick-off events in Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis. They raised corporate dollars for youth violence prevention initiatives and increased local media attention around the issue.

However, over the past year NCAYV’s approach to “partnership” with local communities has left a lot to be desired. One could posit that this partnership has harmed local communities more than it has helped.

When the campaign decided to run a competitive RFP process in 2001, it solicited local communities to partner with them to prevent youth violence. The RFP promised “training and activities to develop and support youth leaders; training and coaching to strengthen relationships and partnerships with businesses; media events to promote effective violence prevention strategies; and a one-time administrative grant of $25,000” to launch a campaign against youth violence.

Nearly 100 community groups submitted proposals. In June 2001, award letters went out to the 12 communities selected to partner with the NCAYV.

By December 2001, none of the selected programs had received a dollar. Rather, they were told that funding sources had failed to come through and the campaign would work with the local communities to leverage their resources in place of the $25,000.
These resources included training opportunities and access to influential media events and professional athletes.

By June 2002, still no money had come through, and no resources had been leveraged. As of the writing of this letter, local community “partners” have still not received notice from the campaign informing them of its closing.

With the campaign’s close, local communities lost a significant opportunity for funding and national partnership. More so, they lost precious time and resources in grant applications and site visits. The truly “neglected” in this scenario are those communities inspired to tackle this complex issue.

As is too often the case, the lip service paid to an issue inside the Beltway has led to disappointment, mistrust and lack of follow-through on the community level with no accountability to undelivered promises.

As a national partner to one of the communities that was “awarded” a grant by the campaign, I witnessed our local partner scramble to re-raise $25,000 for its Youth Institute on Violence Prevention, because the youth in Spartanburg, S.C., still needed a violence prevention campaign.

Youth Today missed the boat in covering this story from the perspective of the failed dreams of a presidential initiative. The story should have been the tenacity of local programs to continue on the road to youth violence prevention in the face of such disappointment, misuse and lack of commitment and/or respect from a national initiative that was supposed to be a partner.

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