The Robert Bowne Foundation: Consistency and Clarity of Vision

Jennifer Stanley, President, Robert Bowne Foundation Board:

[First Executive Director] Dianne [Kangisser] really got the whole picture.  …  We didn’t have enough money to fund everybody that needs help.  … [She asked instead]: How do we elevate this as a field?   

The mission of the Robert Bowne Foundation (RBF) is stated in clear, direct, and succinct terms:

The Robert Bowne Foundation supports the development of quality programs that offer literacy education to the children and youth of New York City in the out-of-school hours, especially for those living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Such efforts are grounded in the belief that “all young people are entitled to quality programs that support their development — intellectual, artistic, physical, emotional, and spiritual — to its fullest potential.”

Moreover, it is in looking at the Foundation’s use of the term “literacy” that the full richness and envisioned impact of its mission gather energy, purpose, and scope:

We define literacy as engagement in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in order to better understand oneself, others, and the world.  Literacy takes many forms as it develops according to principles we believe to be fundamental:

► Literacy happens in community.

► Literacy develops through active engagement.

► Literacy is a means to self-determination.

► Literacy is a fundamental part of being human in 21st century America.

RBF has helped conceptualize, foster, and support the establishment of OST education as a field in its own right, distinct from K-12 education. Since the 1980s — grounded in such commitment — with efforts ranging from the national to individual levels, the RBF has worked to:

► Reinforce and extend the efforts and strengths of its OST grantees.

► Support the development of new approaches and tools for OST efforts.

► Gain national recognition for the OST field as a critical, distinct, and professional arena of youth support and development.

This has meant providing direct support for practitioners to engage actively in a variety of ways.  Over its history, the RBF has:

► Helped bolster the ability of community-based, OST programs to provide quality literacy education, offering both professional development for program staffs as well as technical assistance support of operational/management aspects of programs.

► Supported practitioners to take leadership roles in the field of OST education.

► Sought to professionalize the OST field by creating and/or supporting:  research grants and fellowships; national publications; advocacy efforts; as well as the development, implementation, and promotion of a common, systematic approach to program evaluation.

Such aims both helped spark and infused a range of RBF venues and activities, including:

► Creation of and direct Foundation staff involvement in diverse professional development opportunities for grantee program staff members as well as individualized technical assistance for programs — all with an eye to furthering the development both of RBF-funded programs as well as individual staff members — and more generally, to enriching the entire OST field.

► Support for advocacy efforts that promote the value of OST education and enable staff members of grantee programs to speak directly as spokespeople and advocates for OST programs.

► Creation and administration of the national Edmund A. Stanley, Jr., Research Grants, awarded annually to scholars and institutions for research on OST issues and practices.

► Founding and supporting the publication of Afterschool Matters, a national journal highlighting OST through articles by practitioners in the field as well as by scholars and researchers.

► Support for and participation in the creation and implementation of a rigorous evaluation methodology for assessing the impact of OST program participation, with the aim of establishing a widely-recognized and -accepted means of gauging the efficacy of OST practices and their results.


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