Ready by 21 and the Southeast Challenge

All young people need to be prepared to succeed in college, work and life. But in our country, only four out of ten are ready for a productive adulthood, and two in ten are in serious trouble. With effective local leaders and public structures like schools, community centers and libraries working together, communities can prepare a competitive workforce, strengthen social networks, support families and help all young people realize their potential. Using innovative strategic planning tools designed to maximize resources and developed by national experts, Ready by 21 mobilizes communities including state and local leaders to improve the odds for youth.

How Does it Work?

Ready by 21 is a strategy that helps communities improve the odds that all youth will be ready for work, college and life. It taps the expertise and dedication of leaders within communities, meeting them where they are and helping them chart a course for better outcomes for young people. Using innovative strategic planning tools developed by National Partners, Ready by 21 coaches, supports and mobilizes communities to amplify their efforts to prepare youth for success.

About the Ready by 21 National Partnership

An unprecedented coalition of organizations representing government, education, nonprofit, business, research and philanthropy sectors, the National Partnership is a “dream team” of the country’s most effective agencies. It works with trailblazing leaders who are shaping youth and community development policies and best practices. Its’ combined reach is over 650,000 state and local leaders who impact the lives of more than 1 million children and youth.

About the Southeast Challenge

The Southeast Challenge is a regional initiative of the Ready by 21 Partnership which is working with Southeast cities and states to develop core leadership capacity in four areas: developing broader partnerships, bigger goals, better data and decision-making and bolder strategies.

At the core of the Ready by 21 Strategy are 14 sets of standards that define excellence in four key areas that are critical to leaders’ capacity to improve child and youth outcomes: 1) building broader partnerships, 2) setting bigger goals, 3) using better data for better decision-making, and 4) implementing bolder strategies to improve the quality, consistency and reach of the formal and informal supports children and youth need.

These standards are designed to inform the concrete work leaders are currently doing or planning to do in their communities, tasks that range from developing a top-level leadership group to mapping the program landscape and creating a youth program quality improvement plan, to collecting data about child and youth well-being.

Each of the cities participating in the Southeast Challenge will conduct a Leadership Capacity Audit against these standards. Each audit will be tailored to meet leaders in these cities where they are, and will be conducted in the context of their current activity. The Capacity Audit gives communities the opportunity to step back, look at all of these pieces, affirm their importance with stakeholders, identify ones they are currently working on or have been charged to start working on, identify limitations that could be undermining their capacity to progress, and ask questions about the tools and technical assistance available from the Ready by 21 Partnership.

In addition to ongoing coaching and technical assistance from the Partnership, leaders from these cities will participate in peer discussions regarding ideas/strategies for getting farther, faster, and share progress reports within their communities, their states and Ready by 21 Leadership networks. All cities will receive support to conduct capacity audits and be eligible for matching funds and will receive services subsidies.

The Ready by 21 National Partnership invited Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Richmond, Va.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati, Ohio, to be members of the Southeast Challenge. The individual commitments these communities have made to date on behalf of children and youth suggested they were well poised for cross-system improvement and already have many of the pieces in place for fully actualizing such a system.

The National Partnership initially looked at the largest 65 metropolitan areas in the Southeast. Through collective intelligence of the Partnership, we narrowed that list to a field of 15. From that group, the above cities were selected based on interest in the Ready by 21 approach and their readiness as a group of leaders to work collaboratively to continue their efforts to improve the odds for youth to be ready for college, work and life.

Publishing Date: 
April 27, 2010