A Better Chicago today released the Youth Opportunity Dashboard, a first of its kind tool in Chicago, that will provide city leaders, philanthropists, and youth advocates with a comprehensive and easy to use data tool that provides guidance on how young people are faring – and what resources are needed to ensure they are on a the right track for a bright future.
Using information that is publicly available from multiple city, state and national resources, A Better Chicago then compiled the data sets and organized them against six key cradle to career milestones that are among the most determinative in projecting a child’s future. The dashboard provides a district-level snapshot of how young people are measuring up to a series of 26 indicators that indicate progress toward the six life milestones. Including the district-level specificity was particularly important to policymakers and hyper local advocacy organizations who focus on specific neighborhoods.
To create the dashboard, ABC tapped into its own experience investing in youth outcomes in Chicago, while also gathering inputs from other philanthropic leaders, youth advocates and policymakers about what sort of tool would best support their giving strategies and create a more holistic approach to strengthening opportunities for young people.
“We have always been intentional about ensuring our investments are informed by data but we saw that the data we needed was hard to find and not always organized in an actionable way,” said Beth Swanson, CEO of A Better Chicago. “As a City, we are collectively investing tens of millions of dollars every year into youth programming and services, but without a data set like this we cannot definitively say that the money is being spent in ways that will have the greatest impact. We want to provide a tool that could change that.”
The six milestones included in the dashboard align with the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance which uses a well-researched framework of six milestones, which are:
- Entering school ready to learn
- Meeting benchmarks in reading and math
- Graduating from high school ready for college and career
- Completing postsecondary education or training
- Successfully entering the workforce
- Keeping youth on track and giving them second chances
“My hope is that, with this tool, we as a city begin to organize ourselves around a more collective impact model where we’re each doing our unique part to strengthen access to opportunity for young people,” said Mike Strautmanis, Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Obama Foundation.
The Youth Opportunity Dashboard is being launched at a critical time for local youth, on the heels of a pandemic that erased important educational gains Chicago youth experienced before the pandemic, and amid significant changes within the education landscape in Chicago including: new leadership in the City, a move to an elected, 21-person school board and significant enrollment declines at CPS.
A Better Chicago reviewed similar models across the country to help shape the dashboard, looking for models that resulted in deeper collaboration across policy, philanthropy, nonprofit and academia. The dashboard is in part modeled after similar initiatives in Tulsa and Dallas that have been nationally recognized as successfully aligning local giving from philanthropy and city/state governments around key milestones that data showed were most needed in their areas.
“Given the upheaval of the last few years and the uncertain future, it is vital we have the data we need to make informed decisions about how best to help young people succeed,” said Stephanie Banchero, Education & Economic Mobility Program Director at the Joyce Foundation, which invested in the Youth Dashboard. “A Better Chicago’s Youth Dashboard can help the field, including philanthropy, understand where best to lean in.”