£5m government fund for charities and groups to counter extremist ideology

first_img About Howard Lake Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world’s first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of GoodJobs.org.uk. Researching massive growth in giving. Howard Lake | 19 October 2015 | News AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to EmailEmailShare to WhatsAppWhatsAppShare to MessengerMessengerShare to MoreAddThis  60 total views,  1 views today AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to EmailEmailShare to WhatsAppWhatsAppShare to MessengerMessengerShare to MoreAddThis The Government has announced £5 million of funding this year for charities and grassroots organisations to help build a national network to challenge all forms of extremist ideology.The Prime Minister announced the funding yesterday ahead of today’s publication of the government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy. He said of the strategy:“At the core is building a national coalition of all those individuals and groups who are united in their determination to defeat extremism and build a more cohesive society. We will do everything we can to support them – through my new Community Engagement Forum and with practical support and funding to tackle these deep-rooted issues. The scale of the task is immense and that is why we need everyone to play their part.“The new funding, initially for this financial year, will be dedicated to providing direct and in-kind practical support to groups to expand the reach and scale of their work to confront extremism, and develop credible alternative narratives to the dangerous views propagated by extremists”.There was little detail about the funding and how to apply for it, but it would take the form of both direct and in-kind support. It could be used, for example, for:• social media training• technical assistance to enable a small charity to set up a website• targeting funding for specific projectsThe Muslim Council of Britain criticised the strategy, arguing that it was based on a “flawed analysis”.The National Secular Society also advised the Government to be “cautious about plans to hand-out £5 million to “moderate Muslim groups” and to a newspaper run by “moderate imams”, warning that similar schemes in the past had seen funds get into the wrong hands”. Advertisement Tagged with: faith Funding £5m government fund for charities and groups to counter extremist ideologylast_img read more

New fund to help local charities implement Carers (Scotland) Act 2016

first_img“Carers play a vital role in society and the new Act gives carers support to look after their own health and have a life alongside caring. The third sector plays a valuable role in helping carers at a local level and our funding will help charities improve their systems to help unpaid carers access their new rights.” Tagged with: Funding Scotland  143 total views,  3 views today New fund to help local charities implement Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to EmailEmailShare to WhatsAppWhatsAppShare to MessengerMessengerShare to MoreAddThis6 The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is to manage a new grants programme on behalf of the Scottish Government, to help charities implement the Carers (Scotland) Act in their local areas.Launched on 20 June, the Carers Act Transformation Support (CATS) Fund will give third sector organisations involved in the local implementation of the Act the opportunity to apply for small grants to help them do so. The Scottish Government is investing around £500,000 in 2018/2019 to help charities gear up for supporting the implementation of the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 by providing funding for transformation costs to help charities develop local capacity and systems.Transformation costs are expected to be those centring on systems such as IT, accounting, data collection, data protection and recording and associated templates, paperwork and procedures.Applications for the fund are now open, and close on 20 August. Eligibility criteria is detailed on the SCVO website.Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said:“SCVO is delighted to be managing this fund on behalf of the Scottish Government as it recognises both the vital role that Scotland’s third sector has in the implementation of the Carers (Scotland) Act, and the need to financially support organisations to do this successfully. We want to help charities across the country develop their processes and procedures to ensure they have the capacity to meet the opportunities and challenges the Act presents in their communities.  I would encourage eligible organisations involved in this work to apply.”Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: Advertisement  144 total views,  4 views today AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to EmailEmailShare to WhatsAppWhatsAppShare to MessengerMessengerShare to MoreAddThis6 Melanie May | 25 June 2018 | News About Melanie May Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via www.thepurplepim.com.last_img read more

When will China stop harassing foreign reporters?

first_img News News Follow the news on China to go further RSF_en ChinaAsia – Pacific Condemning abusesProtecting journalistsProtecting sources Photoreportage Organisation ChinaAsia – Pacific Condemning abusesProtecting journalistsProtecting sources Photoreportage PHOTO: NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP Receive email alerts Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its appeal to the Chinese government to stop harassing foreign reporters and their sources after the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) revealed in its annual report, published today, that harassment of its members increased yet again in 2018. Help by sharing this information center_img China’s Cyber ​​Censorship Figures News China: Political commentator sentenced to eight months in prison Based on the 109 responses that the Beijing-based FCCC received to the questionnaire it sent to its 204 members from 31 countries and territories in December, the report described the situation as “worse now than it has been in the past 20 years,” except 2011, when coverage of pro-democracy protests prompted a major government backlash.“The constant harassment is all the more shocking because China takes as much advantage as possible of the press freedom in other countries in order to spread its propaganda,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “We urge the international community to put pressure on the Chinese regime to stop harassing foreign journalists and their sources.”Nowadays the government seems to be refraining from the more overt forms of pressure on foreign journalists, such as “invitations to tea” at the ministry of state security, or attempts by Chinese diplomats to put pressure on the head offices of their media outlets abroad. Instead the authorities are using more insidious methods, including phone tapping, hacking and physical surveillance.Almost all the foreign journalists who managed to visit the western Xinjiang region, where a major crackdown on the Uyghur community is under way, reported such forms of harassment as being followed, being briefly arrested, being ordered to delete recorded material or even having their hotel reservations cancelled.The threat of being denied a visa intensified in 2018 when BuzzFeed News bureau chief Megha Rajagopalan was effectively expelled in August after being unable to renew her visa. This was the first time any foreign journalist was refused the renewal of their visa since 2016, when the French journalist Ursula Gauthier and the Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson were the victims.In what was a clear warning, visas of unusually short duration were also issued to journalists with the New York Times, BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sankei Shimbun and Voice of America.Threats to Chinese sources, especially academic ones, have become so common that foreign journalists now hesitate to contact them for fear of putting them in danger. “It’s by far the worst I’ve seen working as a journalist in China or Hong Kong since 2000,” Financial Times Beijing bureau chief Tom Mitchell said.FCCC president Hanna Sahlberg agreed. “There is a risk that even foreign media will shy away from stories that are perceived as too troublesome, or costly, to tell in China,” Sahlberg said. China ranked 176 out of 180 in the 2018 RSF World Press Freedom Index. June 2, 2021 Find out more January 29, 2019 When will China stop harassing foreign reporters? April 27, 2021 Find out more News Democracies need “reciprocity mechanism” to combat propaganda by authoritarian regimes March 12, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more

Abductors release newspaper journalist Ali Abdullah Fayad

first_imgNews RSF_en April 7, 2006 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Abductors release newspaper journalist Ali Abdullah Fayad Follow the news on Iraq Ali Abdullah Fayad is the 39th journalist to be kidnapped since the start of the war in Iraq. In addition, 86 journalists and press assistants have been killed. Receive email alerts Iraq : Wave of arrests of journalists covering protests in Iraqi Kurdistan Help by sharing this information December 16, 2020 Find out more IraqMiddle East – North Africa February 15, 2021 Find out more Organisation RSF’s 2020 Round-up: 50 journalists killed, two-thirds in countries “at peace” Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release of journalist Ali Abdullah Fayad of the privately-owned tri-weekly Al-Safeer, who was kidnapped on 21 March in Kut, southeast of Baghdad.“We are delighted and relieved that another hostage has been freed just one week after Jill Carroll’s release,” the press freedom organisation said. “But let us not forget that two other journalists, Reem Zeid and Marwan Khazaal, have been held hostage for more than two months.”Fayad’s kidnapping was claimed by a hitherto unknown group calling itself the Baath Party Brigade, which demanded a ransom for his release.————————————————————————–24.03.2006 A fourth journalist kidnapped since the start of the yearReporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of Ali Abdullah Fayad, journalist on the privately-owned tri-weekly al Safir, who was kidnapped by an unknown group in Kut, south-east of Baghdad on 21 March.”This kidnapping is part of a wave of abductions which have rapidly increased these last three months,” said Reporters Without Borders. After Jill Carroll, Rim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal, Ali Abdullah Fayad is the fourth journalist to be kidnapped in Iraq since the start of 2006.“This situation is extremely alarming: With the surge in kidnappings and murders of journalists these last few months, the country is closing in on itself more and more,” the organisation said.The kidnapping of Ali Abdallah Fayad was claimed by the Baath Party brigade, a hitherto unknown organisation. Someone claiming to speak for the organisation phoned the editor of al Safir and demanded 30 million dinars (20,000 euros) in exchange for the release of Ali Abdullah Fayad. He also called for the release of three of its members, held by the Iraqi authorities.Al Safir has lost two journalists since the start of the war in Iraq: its bureau chief in Mosul, Firas Al-Maadhidi, was gunned down by two armed men on 21 September 2005, in front of his home in the An-Nur district. One of his colleagues, Hind Ismail, was killed the previous evening. She was murdered by men wearing police uniforms in central Mosul. The newspaper closed its office in the city after these killings.Elsewhere, Muhsin Khudhair, editor of the weekly magazine Alef Ba was shot dead at the wheel of his car on 13 March in Sayadiya, west of Baghdad by unidentified gunmen. He had just attended a meeting of the Iraqi journalists’ union during which journalists had called for everyone to respect their neutrality in Iraq. IraqMiddle East – North Africa News December 28, 2020 Find out more Three jailed reporters charged with “undermining national security” News to go further Newslast_img read more

OC board approves revenue bonds, new trustees

first_img Twitter Facebook OC board approves revenue bonds, new trustees WhatsApp WhatsApp Pinterest Facebook Twittercenter_img TAGSBoard of TrusteesOdessa College In light of two appointments to the Odessa College Board of Trustees, Ector County Republican Party Chair Tisha Crow requested that trustees be more transparent when there are openings so citizens can participate in their local government.Hortencia Del Bosque was appointed to Place 2, previously held by the late Richard Abalos, and Montie Garner was named to Place 6, held by Neil Grape.The board accepted the resignations of Grape and Chair Tommy Clark, Place 9, Tuesday night. Del Bosque and Garner were both sworn in.New Chair Gary Johnson said the board generally puts the word out and has people contact the college, so filling the positions is by word of mouth.Board member Bruce Shearer said he was appointed in 1994 and Johnson asked if he was interested. He said he thought there were other applicants and noted that those appointed run, if they want to, in the next election cycle.“I know there are people who would like to be involved,” Crow said. She asked that the college make an effort to let people know there is an opening and make it known publicly.President Gregory Williams said they would take it under advisement.Clark said they would have to run it through legal.“Certainly anything we can do to make it more well known, we want everyone to be involved,” Clark said.The board also reorganized with the chair being Gary Johnson; vice chair, Larry Johnson; secretary Trudy Lewis; and assistant secretary Dr. Tara Deaver.Trustees also approved naming agreements for the planned 83,000-square-foot, $39.7 million Wood Health Sciences Building.Groundbreaking is anticipated in September.Odessa Regional Medical Center pledged $1 million to be paid out over 10 years and Grow Odessa committed $1 million to be paid out over two years, OC Executive Director of Advancement Jacqui Gore said.The third floor will be called the Odessa Regional Medical Center Instructional Floor and cover 20,500 square feet.Carol Cates, chief nursing officer at ORMC wanted to stress how important OC is to Odessa Regional. Cates, who is an OC graduate, said the college has the finest associate degree nursing program.Wesley Burnett, director of Economic Development Corporation at the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, said Grow Odessa felt the investment was right in line with its mission to “literally grow Odessa.”“… Hopefully, this will have a huge impact on our community. … We really appreciate your partnership,” Burnett said.The board also approved a parameters resolution authorizing issuance of consolidated fund revenue bonds, appointing a representative of the district and elevating to the representative certain matters with respect to the sale of the bonds and offering documents and enacting other provisions relating to the issuance and sale of the bonds.The maximum amount would be $35 million. Gary Johnson said the bonds would be funded by revenue and but some of it would be spread out over years. The donations will reimburse the budget as they come in.“We’re borrowing the money. We will make payments through the budget process,” Gary Johnson said. Local NewsOdessa College Pinterest By Odessa American – May 26, 2021 Previous articleCouncil approves $8.3 million animal shelterNext article63rd Annual Permian Basin Juried Art Exhibition set Odessa Americanlast_img read more

Looking forward to a more strategic role

first_img Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Over the course of 2003 my columns focused on a range of issues that HRprofessionals needed to tackle so that they could provide support and continueto add value to UK businesses. These included innovation, management anddiversity issues. But what of the year ahead? Crystal ball gazing can be an unforgiving exercise, particularly when welook back on our predictions, but we can be sure of a few things. There islittle doubt that one of the most significant developments in the coming monthswill be the impact of the Accounting for People taskforce recommendations thatpeople data must be included in annual reports. Many businesses will view this requirement as yet more unwanted regulation.However, it will not be long before the recommendations take effect, with theCompany Law Review requiring the boards of larger companies to demonstrate theyunderstand the factors, such as people, that are essential to companies’performance. The inclusion of people data is likely to be compulsory by 2005,giving HR teams around 18 months to put systems in place. The recommendations are designed to ensure that human capital reporting isnot a burden for HR professionals by encouraging them to measure generic themesrather than working to specific definitions. But it will be a challenge for HR– particularly for smaller organisations with fewer resources – to set up newsystems and to work with the board to bridge the gap between the softer issueof people management and the harder issue of robust data. In 2003, we saw increased acceptance of the benefits of outsourcing and thiswill continue in 2004. I also expect the war for talent to reignite. Theeconomic downturn and the difficult job market have meant that the issue ofretention has been almost dormant. But we are now beginning to see signs of theeconomy improving. Since August 2003, Deloitte’s Report on Jobs has found a notable improvementin the job market. An inevitable consequence is that staff turnover rates willincrease rapidly and HR will be faced with two problems: how to ensure thattalent is retained and how to attract the talent coming into the jobs market? Tough economic conditions have entailed cuts in training and development forthe workforce and other elements of their reward package have also beenaffected. In 2004, HR departments must focus on developing effective retentionpolicies that attract the skills and talent vital to the success of thebusiness and create employee commitment to the company and its strategic goals.The year will no doubt bring with it a number of other challenges for HRdirectors, as all years do. However, what remains clear is that HR’s status isevolving and 2004 will provide more and greater opportunities for HR todemonstrate its strategic contribution to the business as a whole. By John Connolly, Chief executive and senior partner Deloitte Looking forward to a more strategic roleOn 13 Jan 2004 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. last_img read more

Former NFL player, wife shot dead allegedly by their 22-year-old son arrested in Mexico: Officials

first_imgAugust 25, 2019 /Sports News – National Former NFL player, wife shot dead allegedly by their 22-year-old son arrested in Mexico: Officials Written by Beau Lundcenter_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailTodd County Sheriffs Office(CANCUN, Mexico) — Authorities in Mexico have arrested the 22-year-old son of a former NFL player and his wife after they were shot and killed in their home.Barry Bennett, 63, and Carol Bennett, 63, were found dead in their rural Long Prairie, Minnesota, home on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Todd County Sheriff’s Office.Barry Bennett was found lying in the entryway of the home, shot in the head and torso, according to the probable cause statement.His wife’s body was on the kitchen floor, shot in back and torso, according to the probable cause statement.The Bennetts’ son, Dylan John Bennett, who also lived at the family home, is the suspect in the slayings, which authorities believe took place Monday, according to documents.Dylan Bennett called the Todd County Sheriff Steve Och, said he was aware he was being searched for and announced his intention to turn himself in to the FBI. Before the sheriff could relay that information though, Bennett was taken into custody at a hotel in Cancun, Mexico, just before noon local time by Mexican authorities.He will be transferred back to Minnesota by the FBI in the coming days, according to the sheriff’s office.Barry Bennett had reported to the sheriff’s office in December 2018 that Dylan Bennett, “while in a mental health treatment facility, had expressed homicidal thoughts about killing his parents,” the probable cause statement said.Barry Bennett, a defensive lineman, started with the NFL in 1978, playing for the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets before a brief time with the Minnesota Vikings, according to The Star Tribune.Authorities say Dylan Bennett first made a large cash withdrawal from his parents’ account at a Long Prairie bank on Monday, according to documents. Carol Bennett’s debit and credit cards were used in Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the probable cause statement said.“A plane ticket for Dylan Bennett was purchased and used” on Wednesday for flights from Columbus, Ohio, to Atlanta to Cancun, Mexico, the document said.Dylan Bennett met someone in the Columbus area before the flight and gave that person a handgun “to hold for him,” according to the probable cause statementBased on a review of phone records, authorities believed Dylan Bennett was in Mexico, the probable cause statement said.The Minnesota Vikings tweeted Friday: “We are saddened by the tragic loss of former Vikings player Barry Bennett and his wife, Carol. Our thoughts are with their friends and family during this difficult time.”In Long Prairie, about 130 miles northwest of Minneapolis, residents are mourning the Bennetts.The former NFL player was very involved in the Long Prairie community, Jon Kringen, superintendent of Long Prairie Grey Eagle Public Schools, told ABC News.Barry Bennett taught physical education for over 10 years and retired a few years ago, Kringen said.“He loved the kids that he had in class, and the kids really loved Barry,” Kringen said, calling him the kind of “teacher that I think every parent would want their kid to have.”“The school district is mourning,” Kringen said. “We are incredibly saddened by these tragic events.”Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

USA: ALCSG Assists Distressed Iranian Mariners

first_img View post tag: News by topic USA: ALCSG Assists Distressed Iranian Mariners View post tag: Mariners View post tag: Navy View post tag: ALCSG View post tag: Assists View post tag: Distressed Back to overview,Home naval-today USA: ALCSG Assists Distressed Iranian Mariners center_img Share this article February 1, 2012 Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ALCSG) assets responded to a distressed Iranian fishing dhow in the Arabian Gulf, Jan. 31.At 12:37 p.m. local time, an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, assigned to the Golden Falcons of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 and embarked on aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), spotted the disabled Iranian fishing dhow M/V Sohaila with nine crew members aboard.Sohaila’s master issued a distress call reporting that his crew was in good condition, but the dhow’s engine had overheated, preventing it from operating at sea.Guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), operating nearby, responded, offering assistance to the Iranian fishermen who were waving a cloth as a signal for help.The dhow’s master permitted the destroyer’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team to board allowing the team better determine the nature and extent of the boat’s engine problems.John Paul Jones engineers repaired the fan belt in the dhow’s engine and assessed it had a foul propeller.Navy divers assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 1131, embarked aboard aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), were flown using one of Abraham Lincoln’s helicopters to John Paul Jones and then, sent by rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to the dhow.“We have the capability and training to handle these jobs when they come up and we’re just happy to assist whenever we get the call,” said Explosive Ordnance Disposal Senior Chief Michael J. Negri. “The best part of the day was when they finally started up their engines and were able to get underway again.”After ensuring the dhow was operational, and the crew was safe with sufficient amounts of food, water and fuel to continue its transit, the VBSS and EODMU teams departed the scene and returned to their ships.Rear Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander, ALCSG, said the U.S. Navy has a longstanding tradition of coming to the aid of mariners in distress and conducting search and rescue operations at sea. “This is one of the reasons our Navy exists,” Shoemaker said. “We preserve freedom of navigation and the unimpeded flow of commerce on the high seas. But anytime we come across a vessel in need of engineering or medical assistance, our Sailors are ready to assist with their expertise – in this case engineers and divers.”ALCSG, comprised of Abraham Lincoln, Carrier Air Wing 2, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), and guided-missile destroyers, USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Sterett (DDG 104), are supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.[mappress]Naval Today Staff , February 01, 2012; Image: navy View post tag: Iranian View post tag: usa View post tag: Navallast_img read more

Greggs opens brand new distribution centre

first_imgHigh street bakery chain Greggs has worked with project management firm Clegg Food Projects to open up a 4,645sq m distribution centre in Enfield, North London.The site was previously refurbished by another owner, but Cleggs Food Project, which provides consultancy, design, engineering and construction for the food industry, has worked extensively with Greggs to complete an extension and redesign of the distribution warehouse.Greggs said the new centre would “improve efficiency and increase capacity for delivery of bakery products as well as shop consumables such as coffee cups and paper bags to Greggs’ stores in the south”.John Moxon, business development director at Clegg Food Projects, said that it had been a significant project for both companies and hoped that its relationship with the bakery chain would continue.“We’ve been working with Greggs for more than 15 years and have delivered projects across the UK from Glasgow down to the south east,” he said.“The distribution centre at Enfield has been developed from an existing distribution facility that has been extended, altered and refurbished to meet Greggs’ needs and marks our 19th project with the food-on-the-go retailer.”This month, Greggs gave away its latest Christmas release – the Festive Bake – free of charge in stores across the nation.last_img read more

A summer of service to cities

first_img PlayPlayPauseSeek0% buffered00:00Current time00:00Toggle MuteVolumeToggle CaptionsToggle Fullscreen As people continue to leave rural areas and move to cities, how well those urban communities are managed and deliver services to their residents becomes increasingly important. By 2050, analysts believe that 75 percent of the world’s population will live in cities.But too often, the mayors overseeing those cities face a relentless slate of daily responsibilities and crises, as well as the pressures of public expectations, but often lack the tools, resources, or institutional capabilities to make real progress.To change that dynamic, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation of businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, M.B.A. ’66, provided a $32 million gift to Harvard to support the first executive education and professional development program for mayors, called the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.A collaboration among Bloomberg Philanthropies, Harvard Business School (HBS), and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), the initiative is a comprehensive, year-long program for city mayors that offers training and support to hone leadership and management skills, share experiences, and collaborate with other mayors to find innovative, data-driven solutions to vexing challenges. On campus, the program is housed at HKS’ Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.Because senior administrators, such as chiefs of staff, budget directors, and department heads are so critical to implementing a mayor’s agenda and leading organizational change, the participating mayors also choose two top aides for a parallel program.Throughout the year, participating mayors receive an array of supports, including 360-degree assessments with executive coaching, advising by former mayors, and faculty-led examinations of such topics as using data and evidence, public narrative, and cross-sector collaboration and innovation.Graduate students play an important role in helping mayors apply the learning and implement change on the ground. More than 60 students have worked with HBS and HKS faculty and staff on research scans, content development projects, field courses, and summer fellowships in mayors’ offices. As they help the cities analyze budgets, implement management tools, and develop innovative approaches to pressing problems, they gain invaluable experience in government.Using a curriculum developed and taught by faculty from HBS and HKS, the initiative’s works to strengthen leadership and organizational capabilities in cities by supporting current city leaders and inspiring students, future city leaders, through education, research, and daily practice.Harvard faculty from HBS and HKS, as well as the Graduate School of Education (HGSE), the T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), the Graduate School of Design (GSD), and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) are collaborating on research to advance the art and science of city leadership. The initiative is also developing teaching cases using experiences, insights, and data gleaned from the mayoral cohorts. Program materials such as case studies, videos, and assessment tools will be made available to the public free of charge.The initiative’s goal isn’t simply to create a positive, enriching experience for mayors and senior city leaders, but to see a meaningful change in practice, increased progress, and improved everyday lives for residents.“It’s great if a mayor loves this program and gives it a 5 on a 5-point scale, but we want to know if that learning then really translates into changes in leadership approach and changes in organizational capability,” said Jorrit de Jong, the initiative’s faculty director and a lecturer at HKS.The inaugural cohort, which included mayors and aides from 29 U.S. and 11 international cities, will reconvene virtually for a concluding session in October to discuss the experience.Mayors and aides from 40 cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia kicked off the program’s second year in late July. The initiative intends to enroll leaders from 240 cities worldwide during the four-year effort. As people increasingly embrace urban life, it’s ever clearer that crowded, complex cities simply must work. Politics and provincialism can’t get in the way of performance.Now, with the federal government locked in partisan disagreement over how much of a role, if any, it should play in people’s lives, the breakthroughs on many of the most acute civic problems are coming from America’s city halls.Mayors and other top city officials are the busy urban mechanics charged with ensuring their communities not only function but thrive. Consumed with their daily responsibilities, they have neither time nor teaching to evolve from managers into civic trailblazers. To change that, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is working to boost the effectiveness of today’s local leaders while also building a pipeline to train the next generation.To further that goal, 16 Harvard students embedded themselves for 10 weeks this summer in mayors’ offices around the country in a new fellows program targeting persistent local problems. These efforts ranged from helping officials in Laredo, Texas, understand why a third of households remain in poverty for generations, to developing a comprehensive plan in Charleston, S.C., to confront the shortage of affordable housing, to assisting low-income parents of children up to age 3 in Baton Rouge, La., to ensure they are ready for kindergarten.The Gazette traveled to those three heartland cities to learn about the fellows’ projects, to see how they were making a difference, and to chronicle how being immersed in cities, working side-by-side with officials and staff, influenced their sense of what government can accomplish. The Gazette also spoke with mayors and city leaders about the impact of the fellows’ work.Here’s how the program is playing out on the ground.Mapping patterns of poverty in Laredo, TexasSantiago Mota,Listening to the heated talk about trade and immigration from afar, it’s not surprising that many Americans think relations between the United States and Mexico are fraught, a one-way street where one side “unfairly” takes advantage of the other. But once on the ground in the border city of Laredo, it’s clear the reality is far more complicated.For starters, the border is busy and still surprisingly porous in both directions. All day, every day, upwards of 14,000 trucks and 15 lengthy trains loaded with goods pass through Laredo, crisscrossing bridges that span the Rio Grande River. More than $214 billion worth of trade moves through Laredo each year, city officials say.With U.S. companies operating on both sides of the border, workers traverse it like they’re going across town. Many Mexicans from Nuevo Laredo, Laredo’s sister city across the river, head into downtown Laredo to shop, even in 105-degree heat, while many Americans seek out medical services in Nuevo Laredo that are in short supply locally. Almost everyone seems to have family and friends who live just over the border.,“The city of Laredo is known as the No. 1 land port” in the nation, said Mayor Pete Saenz. “Transportation, logistics, international trade is huge here. That’s what has put us on the map. But what has also put us on the map is the fact that we’re still poor.”“Since 1995 with the introduction of NAFTA [the North American Free-Trade Agreement], Laredo’s economic growth has really exploded,” said Horacio De Leon Jr., the city manager. “The unemployment rate over the last three years has dropped, and it’s historically low. But we find that most of the jobs are low-paying jobs. Our average median income, compared to the rest of the state, is low.”Indeed, despite a robust economy and a local unemployment rate under 4 percent, 32 percent of households in Laredo, a predominantly Latino city of 270,000, live in poverty. “And it’s been like that ever since I can remember,” added Saenz, a Laredo native. “We’ve got to look at that and see why.” “We knew the data was there, [but] we’ve never had a platform or a project to really come in and dig deep as to what poverty really looks like in our own city.” — Blasita Lopez, Laredo’s executive director of tourism, marketing and communications Though its technical meaning refers to increased property values, gentrification often has racial and socioeconomic factors intertwined, with the benefits and opportunities rarely distributed in ways that favor those who have less.There are some pluses. In Charleston, longtime African-American residents are finally seeing derelict buildings restored, vacant lots developed, much-needed services like banks and grocery stores return, and crime rates plummet. But revitalization even at best is often a double-edged sword.“In some neighborhoods, you want to see investment and you want to see new development, and many people in the neighborhood would like to see … improvement to their neighborhood. Nobody’s going to say ‘No, don’t make my neighborhood better.’ But residents don’t want that to happen without them, and they don’t want to be forced out by price increases. It is about choice, the choice either to stay or leave. And a lot of times, what we’re seeing in many cities is that people don’t get that choice — they’re just priced out,” said Hicks, who last year was co-president of the GSD African-American Student Union and represented GSD on Harvard’s Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging.“There are underlying racial tensions at play here that are deeply rooted in the city’s history,” she said. “So when people use the term gentrification, it has an even more visceral meaning, as it is about a feeling of erasure. There is an extreme connotation of ‘you’re actively erasing African Americans from the peninsula.’ ”,The city has taken steps in the last decade to catch up with changing market forces. But housing advocates and officials say they’re not sufficient to counter the prevailing trends. In addition to financing affordable rental and ownership housing, the city has several programs to help residents afford costly but necessary repairs to comply with strict historic building standards so they can stay in their homes and not have to move because of leaky roofs or broken windows.But a voluntary program to entice developers to build affordable units by letting them increase project density, if they make a percentage of units affordable or pay a fee toward the city’s affordability programs, has made little dent in the housing shortage. Most developers opt to pay a onetime fee, between $3 and $4 per square foot, rather than set aside 20 percent of units as affordable for 25 years. So far, only one developer has agreed to build affordable units.“The fee structure is too low, so, for a developer, it’s much easier to give a onetime fee than to actually build the units,” said Hicks.Despite having what on paper looks like the upper hand on developers in such a heated market, the city has little leverage to demand more from developers. The state has opposed inclusionary zoning legislation, a tool that other cities use to link approval of market-rate units to the creation of affordable ones.“You can’t compel them. You have to cajole them and hope that it will work,” said Florence Peters, an officer in the Department of Housing and Community Development.During her fellowship, Hicks was busy pulling together research, meeting with city officials, real estate developers, housing advocates, and other stakeholders to gather ideas and evaluate how best to address overlapping and sometimes competing interests, and to create a detailed map of Charleston similar to what New Orleans did after Hurricane Katrina. The map uses vacancy rates and other socioeconomic metrics to look at each neighborhood and see spatially where there might be opportunities for affordable development and where targeted city services and attention would help.“What I recognized early on is that I’ve dived in on this massive project, and that’s exciting. I love that everybody in the city has supported me in this really ambitious move, because it’s a bit insane, but I love that they were kind of onboard with the crazy,” said Hicks with a laugh.Given the plan’s vast scope and complexity, Hicks will continue working on it  through the fall semester, consulting with Charleston officials from Cambridge until it’s complete. “I’ve just begun. I’ve just opened this chapter for the city, and we have this new initiative,” she said.No matter how helpful Hicks’ five-year plan may prove, though, it won’t make much difference if no one in Charleston can see it through, so ensuring that happens will be the “biggest challenge,” said Josh Martin, special assistant to the mayor and Hicks’ project supervisor. The city is close to finalizing funding for a dedicated staff position in the upcoming budget.“It’s a project that requires one person to be spending every single day on,” said Hicks. “I think, with a lot of strategic plans, what happens is a department will take it on, they’ll make it, and it goes on a shelf. There’s no one tasked, there’s no champion who’s constantly thinking [about it] and holding people accountable, making sure things are implemented. That’s the only way it’s going to get done.”Boosting children in Baton Rouge, La.Steven Olender,Just an hour’s drive northwest of New Orleans, Baton Rouge shares with that city a Creole and Cajun cultural heritage and a prime perch along the ruddy Mississippi River. As a busy working port and state capital, Baton Rouge enjoys little of the Crescent City’s cachet with tourists and conventioneers, yet the city suffers many of the same entrenched economic, social, and educational difficulties as its better-known cousin.Baton Rouge is a study in contrasts, where the embrace of history and tradition bumps up against emerging signs of fresh energy and yearning for change. A downtown revitalization effort has yielded the Shaw Center for the Arts, a sleek museum, performing arts and theater complex, and a library under construction near city hall. Yet just blocks away are occupied homes with boarded-up or broken windows, sagging roofs, and rusted-out vehicles in the yards. There are tidy new bicycle and jogging paths illuminated by ornate lamps along the Mississippi, part of a move to restore public access to the waterfront. Yet the view is not of lazy sailboats but of rusty barges loaded with trash and of sputtering smokestacks at the petrochemical refineries that form the economy’s backbone.,Historically, Louisiana has a poor track record in K-12 education. The state ranks at or close to the bottom in national benchmark testing, with 4th graders ranked 43rd in reading and 45th in math and 8th graders 48th in reading and 50th in math, according to a National Assessment of Educational Progress report. The state has made some strides in recent years to strengthen its early childhood education policies and quality standards, such as ensuring that teachers have the requisite training and professional development and that curricula is comprehensive, aligned, supported, and culturally sensitive.Still, 46 percent of the state’s children entering kindergarten do not have the cognitive, social, emotional, or behavioral skills, nor the executive functioning deemed necessary to transition to school successfully. In Baton Rouge, 56 percent of kindergarteners were rated not “school ready” during the last academic year.To help change that, the city last fall launched an effort to help young children get on track, based on principles and strategies from “Cradle to Kindergarten,” a 2017 book by social scientists who argue it’s critically important for children in low-income households to get the same intellectual stimulation and learning opportunities during their early years as middle- and upper-income children receive if there’s any hope of closing the achievement gap at the heart of inequality.The incomes of a third of Baton Rouge residents fell below the federal poverty level in 2016, and nearly 41 percent of children live in families below the poverty line. Unlike most educational programs, which don’t begin until kids are in classroom settings, “Cradle to K” encourages parents to prepare their young children for school by stimulating and teaching them based on principles of early childhood development. PlayPlayPauseSeek0% buffered00:00Current time00:00Toggle MuteVolumeToggle CaptionsToggle Fullscreen “Every person who you talk with and everything that the city does comes with all of these expectations that people have of a city and what people think a city can do versus what a city actually can do. That can be very limiting for cities because people expect you should do a lot more,” he said.Even though city governments have power, their officials have to think carefully about what’s possible, as well as the rippling consequences of every decision before taking action, which can leave citizens frustrated at what seems like the incremental pace of change.“There are so many moving pieces, and yet it seems like everything should be simple,” said Olender. “Working in nonprofits, all that you are focusing on is the mission of your nonprofit, and people don’t expect you to be responsible for everything else.”In the months ahead, city officials will expand Cradle to K to more partner organizations and more neighborhoods, using Olender’s reporting and recommendations to develop a communication framework so partner groups share a clear and common set of messages with parents. The program metrics that Olender developed will be shared with partners for feedback as the city decides its next steps.Now back in Cambridge, the soft-spoken Olender said he at first found it a bit intimidating going from graduate studies to presenting ideas to a mayor, “but it’s also been really exciting in part because so many of the senior leadership have been through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative training, and they’ve listened to my ideas and have been really open and receptive” to different approaches. Baton Rouge also has prioritized “research and data and wanting to be a city that is well-run and really smart about the ways it does things, and that’s been really exciting, too.”A new paradigm to help cities thriveThe Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration among Bloomberg Philanthropies, Harvard Business School (HBS), and HKS. The program, which began last fall, first enrolled mayors and two senior officials from 40 U.S. and international cities in a year-long executive education effort to help them tackle problems more effectively, efficiently, and equitably. Later, the participants identified challenges and design projects for the new student fellows.The idea behind the fellows program was to create deep links involving executive education for city leaders, faculty research on urban issues, student learning and career development, and University involvement in the field.,“We really wanted to reinvent the concept of a summer fellowship. We didn’t want to send the students out and, you know, ‘see what you can do’ without any support,” said Jorrit de Jong, the initiative’s faculty director and an HKS lecturer. “Student fellows, instructors, and city executives reinforce each other in a focused, structured way.”The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative works with city officials to create strategies, solve problems, and improve results. Click here to learn how the overall program operates.center_img To understand why poverty is so persistent across generations, city leaders asked Santiago Mota, who is pursuing a master’s in design engineering, a joint degree program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), to create a “heat map” of Laredo using GIS (geographic information system) data and department records to measure need block by block and to pinpoint underlying local factors driving ongoing poverty. City officials will use Mota’s maps to identify not only where the poorest residents live and the demographics of their households, but also what physical, social, and economic conditions are in play that contribute to their poverty. The officials will gauge what resources are needed to change that, and which ones are currently making a difference or not.“There are two ways to understand poverty,” Mota said about his mapping mission. “I think the structural definition applies to the city because the environment and the conditions people are living in describe how people become impoverished and why they remain impoverished, and that is a more difficult thing to explain because it requires a lot of data. So, it matters where they live, what their health condition is, what their income is, what their access to services is, etc.”,“We knew the data was there, [but] we’ve never had a platform or a project to really come in and dig deep as to what poverty really looks like in our own city,” said Blasita Lopez, Laredo’s executive director of tourism, marketing, and communications. “We know what the Census Bureau statistics tell us, but we don’t really know what single individuals are dealing with in their homes, in their circumstances, in their lives — and is there a way that the city can repurpose the resources that we already have to maybe address a particular issue?“We haven’t made any assumptions. We’ve really left it open so that the data can tell us the story, and then we can retool what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” she said.An architect from Mexico City with an extensive background in mapping, Mota was drawn to the Laredo project, in part, by the chance to live and work on the border as a Mexican student in the United States. “It’s a good opportunity to be here safely and with some level of access to understand the nuances of what’s happening in terms of immigration,” he said.Mota was particularly intrigued by the project’s open-ended, trailblazing nature. The city had never attempted such an ambitious mapping effort, which meant he had to do extra legwork finding, cajoling, collecting, and sifting through data from city departments and agencies.“Really going into the raw data and working from that level up, that was a real challenge,” he said.Starting the project from the ground up was liberating, he said, in that it allowed him to do a deeper analysis, set the parameters of the mapping, and closely define what the maps would and would not measure.“Describing poverty through maps would require studying the environment, understanding the physical infrastructure of the city, and also the social components, so it had all these dimensions that made it interesting,” said Mota.Downtown Laredo, where city hall is located, has boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, but also offers plenty of intriguing potential for improvement, Mota said.Laredo has “good bones.” Laid out in the late 1700s on a European-style grid, block after block has intriguing examples of Spanish colonial architecture and walkable, tree-lined streets, unlike the rest of the city, which has wide avenues lined with strip malls.,“The beautiful thing about Laredo is that, from the very beginning, it has a grid that works,” unlike, say, Houston, which has always been sprawling, said Mota. As many American cities have realized in the last two decades, a smartly revived downtown can have a powerful and positive multiplying effect on the social and economic life of a city, if harnessed correctly.Nearly all of Laredo’s real estate growth and increased property value in the last two decades has occurred 20 minutes north of the city center, and has provided no measurable benefit to downtown businesses or residents, Mota told city officials during one of his periodic briefings about the project. Jobs also have shifted to the north side, forcing residents to commute farther across town.Laredo’s border location also means the city does not entirely control its own fate. Over time, significant state and federal interests, like roadways, security fences, and border crossing stations, have intruded on the city landscape, disconnecting large sections of town from others.“The infrastructures that service the border and service both nations came in and segmented this grid. It’s basically a contradictory condition where we have all these bridges connecting two nations, but we have elements that fragment the city in the other direction,” said Mota.,In addition to the heat map, Mota will give Laredo a framework so city agencies have clear, specific data points to refer to and build on. He also hopes to create a model to identify indicators of poverty specific to Laredo, so the city can plan more strategically and develop an action plan to address them. “Once you can measure, then you can manage,” said Saenz.In the coming weeks, the maps and the information used to create them will be incorporated into the first phase of Laredo’s Open Data Project so residents can not only learn Mota’s findings but conduct their own analyses to augment them.“This is really important because having a website with all these maps and all this data will allow not only city officials but the community to understand itself better,” Mota told city officials. “Everyone now is connected to the internet. They can browse and they can see these maps and they can say ‘Wow, there’s a problem in this section or that section. What can we do?’ So, it can be empowering not only for the government but for the whole community.”In all, Mota describes his experience in Laredo as “incredible.”“Being able to ask tough questions to city officials, to have access to their data, [and] extract meaningful data points to contribute a larger explanation has been invaluable,” he said. “And understanding, also, all the pressures that they’re facing as a local government has been extremely interesting.”An affordable housing plan for Charleston, S.C.Natasha Hicks,With meticulously restored Colonial and Antebellum homes sporting shiny wooden shutters, and flickering gas lanterns lining palm-fringed, cobblestoned streets, Instagram-darling Charleston hardly looks like a city in need.By many key metrics, this busy port is thriving. It’s consistently ranked a top tourist city by travel magazines, drawing 7 million visitors annually. It has a burgeoning tech sector, with 250 companies in that field working in “Silicon Harbor,” bringing in jobs, investment, and skilled workers from out-of-state. The area also has benefitted from Mercedes-Benz and Boeing building manufacturing facilities in nearby North Charleston.Yet local officials say that many of the factors that have made Charleston suddenly so popular — its historic character and charm, its small size and human scale, its waterfront location, its rich cultural diversity and fine quality of life — have rapidly pushed real estate prices and rents to historic highs, and many residents are feeling the pinch.“For folks who have lived here for some time, what they’ve experienced is rapidly increasing housing costs and stagnant or slowly increasing wages, so the local effect has been extreme,” said Jacob Lindsey, director of Charleston’s Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability.In response, the city sought help from a student fellow to develop its first strategic plan for affordable housing. “That’s why we feel we are moving into a very extreme time when we have to take extraordinary measures,” said Lindsey.,By August, the year-to-date median sales price for a single-family home downtown had risen to $975,000, 8.3 percent over 2017, while the median price for condominiums and townhomes was up 6.8 percent, to $588,000. Rents have similarly spiked, forcing many young professionals to share apartments with two or three roommates. In a city with many tourism jobs, the costs of living are now outstripping what workers in the hotel, bar and restaurant, retail, and recreation businesses can afford to pay. The average Charleston household now spends 56 percent of its income on housing and transportation.Housing is also in short supply, with some homes even boarded up because owners cannot afford the high cost of repairs. According to the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development, there are about 30,000 more households that need units than are available downtown; about half of those need affordable housing.“I’ve always been interested in … how can we use design to dismantle some of the systemic inequities that are built into the urban fabric,” said fellow Natasha Hicks, a Los Angeles native who is pursuing a master’s in urban planning and urban design with a concentration on risk and resilience at GSD.Trained as an architect, Hicks said that as she began to learn more about housing and economic development at GSD, she saw how the country’s shortage of affordable housing is reshaping many cities’ trajectories, literally determining who lives and works in them, undercutting quality of life for many, and threatening to erode decades of gains in employment and economic development. Natasha Hicks, pictured below, discusses her work in Charleston this summer.,Though many cities struggle with affordability, Charleston has what Hicks calls “a layer cake” of barriers and issues that make the problem especially onerous there, a puzzle that drew her to the project.“Not only do you have the baseline supply-and-demand issues, but you have seismic and flooding issues, which [drive up] the cost of building here. You also have a very limited amount of land on the peninsula, and a combination of an aversion to building higher or densifying,” she said. “And on top of that, there’s this historic layer that makes it very difficult for developers to build here because there’s a lot of policies and codes to make sure [buildings] fit within the character of the downtown architecture.”Additionally, the state government has opposed efforts to require local developers to contribute to the affordable-housing stock, and Charleston’s meager public transportation infrastructure makes developing such housing outside downtown, where land is less expensive and building regulations less stringent, no easy alternative either. City officials say creating affordable housing in the suburbs raises equity issues, imposing new costs on poorer residents and on the city  through longer commutes, reduced access to vital services, added traffic, rising pollution, and increased road maintenance that in the end could hurt the local economy.With tourism the city’s top economic driver, businesses that rely on lower-wage service workers such as waiters, hotel staffers, and tour guides find it harder to hire and retain staff when those employees have to move ever further from work to live.Since the burgeoning city had not confronted its housing crisis in a formal, systematic way before, Hicks’ ambitious task was to develop Charleston’s first strategic plan for affordable housing, one that includes a policy framework and a toolkit the city can use to realize its goals over the next five years.“Essentially, my work is just to look those barriers straight in the eye and figure out what the toolkit and plan of action should be,” she said.,Additionally, Hicks has been assisting the city’s beleaguered effort to redevelop a large swath of land on the East Side of downtown that has been fallow since the Cooper River Bridge was demolished more than a decade ago. Straddling two historically African-American neighborhoods, a privately built hotel is rising, a 300-unit loft building with 70 affordable units will open soon, and the Charleston Housing Authority, which oversees federally subsidized public housing, is building 62 low-income apartments, including five that can be purchased. Though the former industrial site presents environmental challenges, the city hopes to take advantage of this rarely available raw acreage to build affordable housing.“Cooper River Bridge is a really interesting opportunity because it is in a neighborhood that is gentrifying,” said Hicks. “It hasn’t fully gentrified yet, but it is definitely on the cusp. So that’s a great site to put a lot of these tools in one spot and really make a signature site that shows the city’s investment in affordable housing and demonstrates that to the larger world.”As with many cities, rising property values resulting from redevelopment of urban centers and waterfronts has undercut many African-Americans. As recently as the 1980s, downtown Charleston had a majority-black population and a high crime rate, and was viewed as a less-desirable place in which to live and work by many whites, who lived in the suburbs. That reality has now inverted, with whites displacing many African-Americans who sometimes can no longer afford to keep the homes they’ve lived in for generations and feel  pressed to sell to developers or who seek less expensive rents outside the city center. “Nobody’s going to say ‘No, don’t make my neighborhood better.’ But residents don’t want that to happen without them, and they don’t want to be forced out by price increases. It is about choice, the choice either to stay or leave. And a lot of times, what we’re seeing in many cities is that people don’t get that choice — they’re just priced out.” — Natasha Hicks Steven Olender, pictured below, discusses his work in Baton Rouge this summer.,“What we talk about on a national level is universal pre-K and about improving schools and things like that, which are all really important, but universal pre-K starts when kids are 4, and 80 percent of brain growth has happened between 0 to 3. Kids are already so far behind. It’s really important for us to intervene there, but it’s also really difficult to do,” said fellow Steven Olender, who’s focusing on child and family policy at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). “So, I was very drawn to Cradle to K because it was working to do that in what I think is a very smart way.”Operated under the city’s Head Start program, Cradle to K first tries to get parents to understand how what they do in their children’s first few years has lifelong implications and to help them see the benefits of adopting simple, everyday habits that promote children’s development and well-being. Then the program gives parents tools and support so they can become more confident and engaged with their children.“It’s so much more than giving folks diapers and telling them ‘congratulations.’ The parents have to be empowered if we’re going to empower the children,” said Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, the driving force behind the local Cradle to K initiative. “If the parents are feeling depressed, down, disgusted, it’s not going to be a good connection for that new baby, so empowering those parents is so important.”Because research shows that people are more likely to accept new ideas that challenge their own beliefs and change behavior if information comes from a trusted source like a family member, friend, or neighbor, getting influential local parents committed to Cradle to K’s core themes and techniques — and then getting them to lead discussions and share what they’ve learned — is a key to the initiative’s peer-to-peer outreach.,“A lot of these types of programs, especially targeting low-income families, really focus on what families are perceived as not knowing and not being able to do and seeing them just as recipients of what others have to offer,” said program manager William Minton, who supervised Olender. “Our approach is trying to build on the strengths already in the community, and, while there is a guiding component to that, the parent voices are front and center.”Over the summer, Olender gathered and analyzed data that underpins Cradle to K’s approach and strategies, and put together a sweeping report that the city will use for partner organization training and parental messaging.The project was a natural fit for Olender, who has an extensive background in children’s issues. Before returning to school for his master’s, he worked with court-appointed special advocates for children in the Texas foster care system. In 2015, a federal judge ruled that Texas had been negligent because 12,000 foster children had been exposed to more physical, emotional, and sexual  trauma in the state’s care than in the abusive homes they had been removed from. The state fought that ruling, prompting Olender to rethink his career path.“I wanted to go to school because I think we as a country are not doing right by children, by any stretch. And I looked at what was going on in Texas and said: Someone needs to be helping and reforming the system,”  Olender said.,So far, two dozen local organizations — including a new children’s museum, the local PBS affiliate, and Louisiana State University — have signed on to Cradle to K to help parents ensure that their kids reach the developmental milestones they need before kindergarten.“We are a city at risk. We have the same statistics for mental illness as we have for illiteracy, 1 in 5. And we’re creeping up to 1 in 4. We have 99.99 percent free lunch in our schools,” and many failing schools that have been taken over by the state, said Mary Stein, assistant library director at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, a Cradle to K partner.For decades, the public library system has been at the forefront of child literacy efforts in Baton Rouge, holding story times at local Women, Infants & Children (WIC) clinics, giving books to families, and operating a bookmobile to take learning to children whose families may not know about all that libraries offer. “For many years, the census reported that in Louisiana there was 0.7 book in each home. We wanted to break that cycle,” Stein said.The initiative is organized around three pillars of effective parenting: practicing patience, encouraging curiosity, and teaching through conversation. Several “parent club” events gathered families in a party-like atmosphere to share everyday experiences and parental frustration while also getting information about the local educational, health, and career services and resources available. While the parents talked, their children explored STEM, reading, and creative activities run by partner organizations that combine learning and fun. The Cradle to K organizers hope to get more groups and parents involved, soliciting testimonials from respected community figures and from parents about the program’s value, and training mothers and fathers to run smaller parent club events.The goal is to convey that by making small changes in how parents interact with children every day — such as asking questions about what they see in a grocery store or telling stories — they can help ready their children for school.Though Olender worked on children’s issues previously, doing so through a city government has been a “fascinating” learning experience. “Universal pre-K starts when kids are 4, and 80 percent of brain growth has happened between 0 to 3. Kids are already so far behind. It’s really important for us to intervene there, but it’s also really difficult to do.” — Steven Olender For their fellowships, the students had access to 12 faculty members, including de Jong, for coaching, strategizing, problem-solving, reflecting on issues, and organizational support. The students were asked to interview key players to gauge the impact the initiative has made on the cities, which gave the program valuable data points and provided insights for students and city officials.The goal is to help cities apply the learning from the executive education programs and implement new ideas while exposing students to life in city halls and helping them imagine themselves working in local government, said Glendean Hamilton M.P.P. ’17, senior program manager for mayoral relations with the initiative and coordinator of the fellowship program.Since cities need leaders with diverse talents and skill sets, the program in its first year recruited student fellows from many disciplines. Seventy-two students applied. The 16 selected came from six Schools (HKS, HBS, GSD, SEAS, the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Graduate School of Education).The fellows wrote blog reports about their work, and some students will share their experiences during a community speaker series this semester at the Ash Center at HKS.With the new cohort of mayors and senior leaders starting the year-long program, de Jong anticipates there will be even more opportunities for students next summer, which should benefit all involved.“The student gets a great professional development opportunity. The city gets real, valuable help, and we as a University learn from the things they’re analyzing and the things they’re developing,” he said. “And we get the opportunity to share those lessons with other cities.”last_img read more