Author: Margaret Hall, National Executive Director
Fund intends to commit $3 million in Detroit over the next 5 years to attract innovative, proven high-impact approaches to address local needs
The national venture philanthropy organization, GreenLight Fund, with support from more than 20 Detroit philanthropic investors, today announced the launch of GreenLight Fund Detroit. This new fund will bring to Detroit innovative approaches aimed to improve the economic mobility, opportunities and outcomes for the city’s low-income children, youth and families.
“As Detroit continues its resurgence, we have made it our highest priority to make sure that all Detroiters have the opportunity to participate in this comeback,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “That’s exactly what the GreenLight Detroit has been created to do. With the support of its funding partners, the GreenLight Fund will bring new proven programs here to address specific needs of Detroit families and expand the support services they can take advantage of to improve their lives.”
“GreenLight brings an innovative approach to filling critical service gaps for families in need,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, a founding philanthropic investor in GreenLight Detroit. “GreenLight’s success in other communities is impressive. We’re eager to see their model drive results for children and families in Detroit.”
In addition to the Skillman Foundation, a diverse group of more than 20 Detroit philanthropic investors came together to raise a record amount for a new GreenLight Detroit site. Founding funders include The Ford Motor Company, Delphi Foundation, Inc., Lear Corporation, Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3), Bank of America, John and Susan Simon, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Renewable Energy, Detroit Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, MSX International with additional support from the Cooper Standard Foundation and local business leaders and community supporters The Brian and Connie Demkowicz Charitable Trust, Lizabeth Ardisana, Joe Mullany, Lisa Payne, Rick and Kathy Wagoner, Eric Fornell, and the Pat Greene Family Foundation.
GreenLight Detroit will work to transform the lives of low-income children, youth and families living in the city’s high-poverty areas by running an annual process that works with the community to identify critical needs; import innovative nonprofit programs that can make a significant, measurable impact on those needs; and galvanize local and national support to help these programs sustain impact and scale in Detroit. To help ensure programs reach their potential for impact as quickly as possible and progress toward sustainability, GreenLight Detroit will provide early-stage funding, help build strategic partnerships with local organizations, make introductions to key members of the community, and assist in hiring local staff leadership and building the local board.
GreenLight Detroit will be part of the national GreenLight Fund network. In its other cities, Boston, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Cincinnati, the GreenLight Fund’s portfolio organizations address a variety of high-priority needs including college access and persistence, family economic mobility, academic success, youth recidivism and youth aging out of foster care.
“Margaret Hall and I launched the GreenLight Fund in Boston more than ten years ago to give cities a systematic way to harness the most impactful social innovations from around the country,” said John Simon, chairman and co-founder of the GreenLight Fund and a managing director of the venture capital firm Sigma Prime Ventures. “This expansion into the Detroit market is an indication of how well our model is working, as we help to solve the most pressing needs of low-income residents in five major cities. Today in Boston, our portfolio organizations reach over 50,000 individuals and families annually. We imagine reaching that impact – and beyond – in Detroit.”
GreenLight’s approach yields impact on a number of pressing issues facing low-income communities by targeting social innovations where they matter most. For example, the challenges facing youth aging out of foster care surfaced in the 2008 selection cycle for GreenLight Boston. In 2005, over half of the 800 youth aging out of the foster care system were unemployed and 37% reported homelessness – and no program existed beyond residential services to support these young adults. After a year-long diligence process, the GreenLight Fund Boston imported Youth Villages LifeSet, a Memphis-based program that demonstrated measurable impact with this population. Six years later, they are serving 177 youth annually. Six months after discharge, 84% of youth were working and/or attending school, 84% were still living in a stable, home-like environment and 88% had no further trouble with the law. In Philadelphia, the GreenLight Fund identified recidivism as a key issue and imported CEO, a New York based transitional work program engaging citizens in an immediate work opportunity coupled with coaching and support to quickly transition to permanent work. Within a year, the State of PA committed $1.2M over 3 years in a scalable, performance-based contract that covers the vocational costs of the program. The service gaps identified by each GreenLight community for each annual selection cycle may vary, but the process and eye towards measurable impact remain the same.
Cindy Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions, is pleased that a coalition of Detroit leaders emerged to make this happen. “The GreenLight model is a unique approach that brings to bear local support and resources to identify and implement new ideas – with demonstrated impact – to address unmet needs here in Detroit.”
In 2015 alone, GreenLight’s 15 portfolio organizations reached 59,000 individuals in three cities with their innovative, replicable and effective programs. Programs imported to other GreenLight communities include Raising a Reader, Peer Health Exchange, uAspire, Year Up, Genesys Works, and others. By 2019, the GreenLight Fund expects to reach 100,000 low-income children, youth, and families annually through 30 high-impact organizations operating in GreenLight cities across the nation.
GreenLight Detroit will be led by a local executive director with advice and guidance from a local Selection Advisory Council of Detroit leaders from businesses, nonprofits, philanthropy and government. The search for the executive director of GreenLight Detroit is underway, and is expected to be complete in 4-6 months. Once hired, the local executive director will engage the Selection Advisory Council in the annual GreenLight process to identify issue areas, perform diligence and select an organization for support. The first selection will be made in 2017.
“While Detroit has made progress meeting its challenges, much more needs to be done in order to improve the lives of the city’s most vulnerable residents,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “The GreenLight Fund offers a proven method for assessing service gaps for low-income children and families, and identifying the most promising solutions from other cities across the nation.”
Margaret Hall, GreenLight’s co-founder and national executive director, has high hopes for the organization’s ability to plug into local efforts and make significant change for low-income residents. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to announce Detroit as our fifth GreenLight Fund site. Over the last several months, we have immersed ourselves in the Detroit community and have been inspired by the spirit of collaboration present across the nonprofit, business and public sectors. We look forward to applying the GreenLight model to create the maximum impact for low-income residents of Detroit, as we have in other GreenLight communities.”
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NOTE: The GreenLight Fund and GreenLight Detroit have no affiliation with Project GreenLight, a crime-fighting partnership between local businesses, the City of Detroit and community groups.