Get IN Chicago is dedicated to discovering the most effective ways to reduce youth violence. In addition to our rigorous evaluations, our position as a funder, measurement entity, and thought leader has given us insight into pressing issues faced by the Chicago nonprofit landscape.

As we move into 2016, we reflect on five key learnings to date:

1. Recruiting and Retaining
Recruiting and retaining acutely high-risk youth is challenging but absolutely crucial.  Our research has shown that while many services exist to support at-risk youth in Chicago, there is an urgent need to address youth at acutely high-risk for violence. These young people are often disconnected from their schools, families, and communities, and frequently begin their court involvement with non-violent offenses. Further, they are often difficult to locate and recruit for programming.

2. Capacity of Community-Based Organizations
The number of acutely high-risk youth exceeds the current capacity of community-based organizations that serve them. While program funding dollars are scarce, operations and infrastructure support is also profoundly limited. To be able to implement programs with fidelity and at scale, our CBOs are in need of greater technical assistance.

3. Dosage
Programs often do not provide the dosage necessary to impact outcomes. Evidence-based programs show promising results in the lab, but they must be implemented with fidelity to achieve maximum effect.  More work must be done to ensure that youth receive appropriate dosage of the most effective programs.

4. Measurement
Measurement is not easy, but you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Long-term systems in place for measurement or evaluation make it possible to learn what works and what doesn’t.  Putting strong data collection systems in place and training organizations on data use are first steps to discovering how we can reduce violence.

5. Empowered Communities
Communities have tremendous assets, in both their people and their resources, and they must be engaged, informed, and empowered. Our city is made up of many disconnected groups and institutions, but communities are at the core.  We need to find new ways to connect generations, elicit ideas, and foster collaboration within the community space.

There are no simple solutions to complex problems, but we know that we have the tools to make progress on these issues.  We believe that through collective collaboration, effort, and conversation, we can create safer communities and brighter futures. In the coming months, we look forward to sharing more about what we learn and offering more opportunities for everyone to get IN.