“My Brother’s Keeper” is a new public/private initiative to build ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color across America. President Barack Obama made the announcement on Thursday, Feb. 27, at the White House.
There, seated on the front row of a very distinguished audience in the East Room, was Dr. Douglas Wood ’90 representing the Ford Foundation and its president, Darren Walker.
Since 2011, Wood has been a Ford Foundation program officer, working in New York City. His grant-making focuses on helping student’s transition from high school to college and improving the college completion rates of underserved students.
In addition to a doctoral degree from Harvard, Wood brought to his Ford Foundation position broad experience as a teacher and administrator for students in grades PK-12, as well as higher education policy and administration. He says there’s also a lifelong commitment to serving others that was inspired by Dr. Talmage Skinner ’56 and other members of the Wofford family: “Take what you have learned out into your community and make it a better place.”
Over the next five years of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, the Ford Foundation and nine other global foundations will invest $250 million on top of the $100 million already invested in research and proven programs around the country that help young men of color at critical moments in their development. Corporations will also be involved.
In addition, Obama has signed a presidential memorandum that established the “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force,” which is charged with determining “what we can do right now to improve the odds for boys and young men of color, and make sure our agencies are working more effectively with each other, with those businesses, with those philanthropies, and with local communities to implement proven solutions.”
Specifically, the task force will work across executive departments and agencies to:
- Assess the impact of Federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones.
- Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, State, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.
- Create an Administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.
- Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms.
- Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color.
- Recommend to the President means of ensuring sustained efforts within the Federal Government and continued partnership with the private sector and philanthropic community as set forth in the Presidential Memorandum.
Wood hopes to continue to be a player in this effort. “The Ford Foundation’s staff and board are made up of thoughtful, dedicated people who want to make the world better,” Wood says. “Our way of doing that is through strategic investment, such as helping promising young college graduates lighten their college loan debt. We believe in supporting people to take responsibility for themselves, their families and their communities.”
For Wood, the White House event was especially memorable for an opportunity to have a few personal words with President Obama during a meeting of senior foundation executives and corporate leaders in the State Dining Room. “Not bad for a kid from Chesnee, S.C.,” Wood says. “Of course, none of this would be possible without my Wofford education.”