Opportunity Works Subgrantee Selection Process

Back on Track Designs

Reengaging Opportunity Youth

Reengaging youth and young adults who are off track to graduation, or disconnected from both education and work, and putting them on a path to postsecondary credentials.

Lili Allen
Associate Vice President, Reconnection Strategies and Designs
617.728.4446 x105

Opportunity Works Subgrantee Selection Process

Opportunity Works
Social Innovation Fund Subgrantee Selection Process

July 2015

I. Goal of the Competition

The goal of the Opportunity Works Social Innovation Fund competition was to select a diverse portfolio of up to 12 communities taking a collective impact approach to improving outcomes for opportunity youth, which have a high likelihood of success in implementing Back on Track evidence-based interventions, and which have the capacity to participate in a third-party evaluation, resulting in a moderate level of evidence of impact, especially for boys and men of color.  Back on Track interventions are Reengagement and Enriched Preparation; and Postsecondary/Career Bridging, which have shown evidence of effectiveness at helping youth transition into and through postsecondary credentials.  Collective impact efforts engage the key sectors critical to building pathways for opportunity youth, in particular K-12 education, postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations, and workforce entities. 

II. Competition Promotion/Advertising

JFF/Aspen took a multi-stage approach to notifying eligible applicants of the opportunity to apply for SIF subgrantee awards.  

JFF posted the opportunity to apply for SIF subgrantee funding on its website, as did the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.  The posting indicated that any nonprofit organization from a target community that met eligibility criteria for being the collaborative’s backbone organization would be eligible to apply.  The posting indicated that an RFP would be released, on the websites, by October 25, 2014, and that a Letter of Intent was required by November 7, 2014, in order for a community to apply.  The posting also indicated that JFF/Aspen would notify communities as to whether they have met the initial eligibility criteria within one week of receipt of the Letter of Intent.   

JFF/Aspen reached out to a wide range of networks that connect to communities with collective impact efforts in place and/or efforts focused on opportunity youth and/or boys and men of color, and invited them to notify communities in their networks about the opportunity to apply for funding.  These networks included the National League of Cities, PolicyLink, the Forum for Youth Investment, Strive, the Youth Transitions Funders Group, and FSG.

JFF/Aspen also directly notified all communities in the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, by email, that JFF had been awarded a SIF grant and that an RFP would be forthcoming. 

III. Overview of the Letter of Intent

Applicants were required to submit a letter of intent by November 7, 2014 indicating the community that they would target, and identifying the collaborative that forms the infrastructure for the collective impact effort, and how it is focused on opportunity youth.  We received 66 Letters of Intent, and 44 applicants met the initial eligibility criteria of being in targeted geographies/communities with significant numbers of low-income opportunity youth where there exists a structured collaborative of key stakeholders organized to improve outcomes for opportunity youth through catalyzing the adoption of effective approaches in education and career attainment leading to productive careers.   

IV. Selection Criteria

High-performing nonprofit (15% of total score)

  • Applicants were required to offer evidence that the backbone is financially sound, and has the infrastructure and systems in place to manage a federal grant and to adhere to Federal cost principles (drawn from SIF Terms and Conditions), administrative requirements, and audit requirements, in addition to the National Service Criminal History Check Requirements, which include a National Sex Offender Public Website search and appropriate state and/or FBI checks, as outlined in the SIF Terms and Conditions. 
  • Applicants were required to offer evidence that the backbone has the capacity to manage a collaborative
  • Applicants were required to offer a budget that supported effective implementation of the collective impact approach to implementing Back on Track interventions and that supported participation in the third-party evaluation
  • Preference was given to collaboratives that are in communities that are philanthropically underserved, as these communities are a priority for the Social Innovation Fund.

Cross-sector collaborative (15% of total score)

  • Applicants were required to describe their existing cross-sector collaborative, and its ability to effectively facilitate the collaborative in using the principles of collective impact –including setting a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and a backbone support organization – to support the anchor programs/partnerships in implementing the identified interventions with high fidelity to the model
  • Applicants were required to include a list of members of the collaborative that included representation of key sectors critical to implementing the pre-identified interventions for opportunity youth, including boys and men of color (such as secondary, postsecondary, and workforce partners)

Strong, specific, and achievable plan (30% of total score)

  • Applicants were required to have developed a strong, specific, and achievable plan for implementing one or both interventions drawn from the evidence-based Back on Track interventions that create pathways to postsecondary and economic success for opportunity youth  
  • Applicants were required to describe the intervention(s) that the applicant proposed to implement (Reengagement and Enriched Preparation; and/or Postsecondary/Career Bridging), with a clear and compelling rationale for selection of one or both intervention(s); a description of the anchor schools/programs and partnerships that the applicant proposed would implement the intervention(s), and the criteria used to identify these schools/programs
  • Applicants were required to offer a clear and compelling case for the site’s ability to implement the intervention(s) resulting in a moderate level of evidence, including a detailed plan of the steps that they would undertake to ensure the successful implementation and scaling up of the pre-identified intervention(s) resulting in growth in the number of people reached through the intervention(s) through, for example, expansion in locations or replication in additional locations  
  • Applicants were required to include letters of commitment from schools/programs implementing the interventions, including partner postsecondary institutions or training programs
  • Applicants were required to include letters of commitment from leaders of key sectors required to implement the intervention(s)
  • Preference was given to applicants that demonstrated an understanding of and partnership with the current and planned work in their community that focuses on boys and men of color and with other national efforts that have a presence in the local community

Capacity to collect/analyze data (25% of total score)

  • Applicants were required to offer evidence that the backbone has experience in collecting data and using it to assess progress of initiatives and to undertake continuous improvement; and evidence that the backbone is committed to evaluation and can participate in the required third-party evaluation
  • Applicants were required to offer evidence that the backbone has agreement from anchor programs that they will share individual student data once appropriate confidentiality protections are in place (ideally through MOUs, at least through letters of commitment)
  • Applicants needed to indicate that they have the data capacity to track success for boys and men of color as a key subpopulation within the overall opportunity youth population.

Match (15% of total score)

  • Applicants were required to offer evidence that the backbone has the capacity to raise the 1:1 non-federal match in cash and to develop a sustainability plan for after SIF funding has ended, based on prior experience with sustainability planning 

V. Release of RFP

In late October, JFF released the full RFP on its website and emailed it directly to both OYIF communities and to the other networks (National League of Cities, PolicyLink, the Forum for Youth Investment, Strive, and FSG/Collective Impact Forum) for dissemination (i.e., posting on their websites and/or direct email to potential backbone organizations that they deem will meet the eligibility criteria).   

VI. Technical Assistance

JFF/Aspen hosted two bidder’s conferences for potential eligible applicants:  one at the OYIF convening in Aspen, Colorado on October 27-29, and one web-based bidder’s conference (webinar) for non-OYIF eligible communities on November 5, 2014 at 2 p.m. EST. 

Both bidder’s conferences used the same slide deck with key information about the SIF opportunity, including:  Logic model guiding the initiative; eligibility and selection criteria; award ranges; timeline of award; expectations for evaluation and budgetary implications; descriptions of key interventions with examples from the field; budget requirements.

VII. Review/Selection Criteria and Process  

JFF/Aspen designed a selection process that would allow for full vetting of applications in order to result in a strong portfolio of subgrantees.  We designed our selection process to ensure that both JFF and Aspen reviewers were not prejudiced in favor of, or against, any communities with which such staff have worked (i.e. through the OYIF) so that all communities received fair and equal consideration.

Proposals were reviewed and scored by members of a review team made up of JFF and Aspen senior staff; at least one review team member for each community had strong evaluation expertise to assess evaluation readiness.  Each proposal was additionally reviewed by at least two reviewers who independently reviewed and scored each proposal using standardized evaluation tools that aligned with the selection criteria identified above.  Proposals were scored and the full review team met to collectively review all scores/comments within one month of the proposal due date.

Twelve top applicants were asked to either respond to questions by email; participate in a conference call to discuss their application; or host a one-day site visit, during which a JFF/Aspen team interviewed members of the collaborative, backbone staff, and other key stakeholders including local funders, and conduct site visits to foundation programs identified to implement the intervention(s), to assess their understanding of and commitment to the proposal.        

Based on the combined rating of the proposal and site visit, Jobs for the Future and the Aspen Forum determined which applicants met the selection criteria and had the highest likelihood of success in implementing the interventions.  By March 20, 2015, JFF forwarded finalist subgrantees to CNCS for their review and final approval by March 31, 2015.      

View summaries of reviewer comments.

VIII. List of External Reviewers

The review team was comprised of the following:

  • Lili Allen, Jobs for the Future
  • Cheryl Almeida, Jobs for the Future
  • Terry Grobe, Jobs for the Future
  • Monique Miles, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions
  • Mamadou Ndiaye, Jobs for the Future
  • Yelena Nemoy, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions
  • Norma Rey-Alicea, Jobs for the Future
  • Michael Sack, independent consultant
  • Elizabeth Santiago, Jobs for the Future
  • Lisa Soricone, Jobs for the Future
  • Adria Steinberg, Jobs for the Future
  • Rebecca Wolfe, Jobs for the Future

IX. List of Successful Applicants

Successful applicants were as follows:

  • Boston Private Industry Council, Boston, MA
  • Capital Workforce Partners, Hartford, CT
  • Cowen Institute, New Orleans, LA
  • Philadelphia Youth Network, Philadelphia, PA
  • Bay Area Community Resources, San Francisco, CA
  • Kids in Common, Santa Clara, CA
  • United Way of King County, Seattle, WA

View successul applicant program narratives.