Get IN Chicago Identifies Five Key Areas Crucial for Anti-Violence Efforts

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Top Recommendation: Placing Youth at the Greatest Risk of Violence at the Center

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Today, Get IN Chicago, a private organization studying and funding violence prevention initiatives focused on acutely high-risk youth, revealed five key recommendations from its work with community-based organizations, 60 grantees and anti-violence experts to date.

“At this midway point, these findings serve as a funding assessment benchmark for the work we support,” said Dr. Toni Irving, the executive director of Get IN Chicago, which was founded in 2013. “Our goal has always been to track the progress of our grantees, share our results, and improve philanthropic strategies. At the end of these five years, we want to have evidence-informed models for youth violence prevention that can be scaled and replicated elsewhere to create sustainable impact.”

As part of the initiative, Get IN Chicago provides feedback and capacity-building services to community-based organizations doing innovative work to reduce youth violence, ranging from mentoring and parenting programs to community sports leagues and trauma-focused therapy. Drawing from observations and evaluation efforts, Get IN Chicago has formulated five key screening tools and considerations for organizations working to reduce youth violence. They include:

1.    Confirm the program is serving the needs of acutely high-risk youth, who are at the greatest risk for violence. Some anti-violence programs are working with young people who are at-risk for teen parenthood, dropping out of high school, or otherwise not reaching their full potential, but who are not necessarily at-risk for gun violence or gang activity. Recognizing this distinction makes a real difference when programs are aiming to have direct impact on youth violence. Get IN Chicago has helped grantees to create a thoughtful referral system to better recruit and retain participants.*

2.    Ensure that organizations on the front lines have the capacity and capabilities to work with acutely high-risk youth and collect quality data related to their services. Addressing violence in a sustainable way is hard work, and resources are limited. There are certain skills, expertise and operational upgrades that will be crucial for community-based organizations to be effective. Get IN Chicago has been able to support organizations with technical assistance to develop staff training, strategic planning and financial management in order to strengthen program infrastructure, which in turn has had significant impact on program outcomes. These collaborations can also help strengthen the community overall by encouraging work to continue beyond the life of a particular grant.

3.    Review treatment dosage to determine if the program is delivering the correct quantity of intervention. Similar to medication, much evidence-based programming is only effective when delivered at the appropriate dosage, which varies by program and the participants risk level. When a program is not implemented at the correct dosage, its chances of making an impact decrease. For example, many mentoring programs require at least two 1-hour sessions per week. By increasing attention to dosage, Get IN Chicago is helping organizations gain a clearer understanding of which programs are effective and why.

4.    Track programs from the start to improve outcomes and share success. To see greater and ongoing impact on violence, more community-based organizations need to have systems for collecting and sharing data so efforts can be documented and impact can be monitored. Based on these results, programs can be improved upon and adjusted to meet the needs of the people they are trying to help. All Get IN Chicago grantees are improving their capacity to participate in evaluations.

5.    Empower communities to serve their local youth in the effort against violence. Get IN Chicago’s work shows communities become safer when people feel empowered to take action against crime and when there is stability and economic activity. Moreover, delivering high-quality services to acutely high-risk youth requires neighborhood spaces for programming and community settings that allow for ongoing care (versus limited or temporary). Success depends upon a community of engaged and empowered people. Therefore, supporting community collaboration and resident empowerment programs should be vital to funding priorities.

“There are so many organizations trying to figure out how to stop the scourge of violence in Chicago,” said Chris Crane, Get IN Chicago Board Member and President and CEO of Exelon Corporation. “These recommendations are going to be extremely helpful in recognizing what we can do to improve our chances for success and ensure a brighter future for our kids.”

Get IN Chicago has awarded more than $29 million in grants to 60 community organizations serving more than 10,000 acutely high-risk youth and their families as of July 2016. Beginning in 2017, more than 20 agencies will collaborate with Get IN Chicago, using these recommendations to bring mentoring and cognitive behavioral therapy programs to acutely high-risk youth in Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Roseland, South Shore, and West Englewood.

For more information and a current list of funders and grantees, please visit http://getinchicago.org/.

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*The term “at risk” includes young people with any risk factor for violence. The acutely high-risk demonstrate multiple/severity of risk factors, further detailed at http://getinchicago.org/us/background-and-strategy/

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Allie Pitcher
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