Melody Barnes argues that improving life outcomes for opportunity youth is a moral imperative and economic necessity. April, 2015.
>> Well, good afternoon and welcome everyone. You may be surprised to see me here. I'm not Suzanne Collins I'm Liz Gerber. Suzanne Collins is, unfortunately, stuck in traffic. She'll be here as soon as she can. But, she asked me to introduce our distinguished speaker today. So, today is our final Policy Talk lecture of the academic year. And, without a doubt, we are ending on a high note. When we set out to create the slate of speakers for this year's Academic Policy Talk series, a leader in domestic policy seemed to be an important choice. And, we're actually thrilled today to have one of the University of Michigan's most distinguished alumni accept our invitation for this policy talk. Melody Barnes was Assistant to President Obama as Direct of the White House Domestic Policy Council from, excuse me, not that long, 2009 to 2012, working with the Administration on a broad portfolio of domestic policy issues including education, healthcare, federal and federal to state government relations, and many other important areas. She is now CEO of Melody Barnes Solutions and Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership initiatives and a Senior Fellow at the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU. Melody also serves as the Senior Director at the Albright Stonebridge Group which is a global strategy firm. And, she's on the board of directors of the Marguerite Casey Foundation. She's currently chair of the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions which works to support the collaborative efforts of nonprofits, business, philanthropy, and government to address problems. With her remarkable breadth of distinguished policy experience, our students and faculty have been looking forward to this visit all year. And, I am very grateful for the generous time that Melody has already spent with our students and faculty. She was a guest speaker in my class this afternoon. And, I know she met with a group of students who I saw were enwrapped in conversation with here earlier today. Before we begin I'd like to remind the audience that, at about 4:40, staff will come around and collect your question cards. If anybody would like a question card, there will be staff with extras as the come around with those as well. They'll collect those around 4:40. And, for those of you who are watching online, you can also tweet your questions using the hashtag Policy Talks. And then, with my help, our students Emily Ruska and Mira Lee will read your questions for the Q and A portion. I think that's all for introduction. So, it's now with my great pleasure and honor to welcome Melody Barnes. Melody.
[ Applause ]
>> Melody Barnes: Well, thank you so much for that terrific introduction. And, it's really wonderful to be there this afternoon. I don't think I've been back in Ann Arbor in a number of years. And, last time, I was, you know, down the street at the Law School. So, it's terrific to be back. I have already had a Zingerman's Brownie. So, I'm in good shape. But, and had a wonderful time this afternoon already, as Liz mentioned, spending some time with one of the classes, with her class, as well as lunch with a really wonderful group of students. Which, I have to say, and some of this comes out of my experience at NYU as well, it always makes, I always have two feelings when I have experiences like that. One of them is relief. And, that is because I am struck by just how smart and how savvy and the kinds of experiences that students here have already had. So, I feel relief that things are in good hands. And, the other one is a desire to both learn and to share, and to share from the experiences that I've had but also to learn from you. I don't think you all realize how much we gain from spending time hearing what you're thinking, hearing about your approaches, hearing about the experiences that you've already had and how that shapes the work that we're able to do when those of us who are wiser have to go back out into the world and do the work that we do. And, just going back to that sense of relief for a second. That comes from the experiences that I've had and all that I've been fortunate to see, but all that I see that also gives me a sense of urgency and impatient about the kind of work that we have to do because of the significant challenges that sit in front of us today. And, they're the issues that we're all hearing about, reading about, thinking about. I know I've had that experience already with many of you and I know that you're thinking about issues of economic mobility and social mobility and just how significant that is for our country right now. I have talked to so many students already who have a clear passion for education at all levels. And, how do we insure that we are educating every child and educating every child at a level of excellence that will allow them to fulfill their potential and be able to compete in the world today, know their issues of human rights and civil rights not only domestically but internationally. How are girls and women being treated and able to fill their potential? Issues of natural resources and the environment. I mean the list goes on and on and on. And, I know, for many of us and often times when I'm in communities around the country, those issues seem daunting. And the ways that we go about solving them seem to be calcified and ineffective. But, one of the things that I feel very passionate about is that there is a way forward and it involves the human capital and the development of the human mind that's happening here and involves what's happening around the country, and, some of the things that I want to talk about today that I'm lucky enough to have been involved in. And that's why the title of my speech, it refers to the anatomy of a public policy issue. And I want to dissect that and talk about some of the tools and the way those tools are coming together to create the kind of change that I think is necessary. I think my husband would probably laugh, I don't know that he saw the title of this speech, because of the use of the word anatomy and my use of the word dissect, because he actually jokes that I'm a frustrated doctor at heart. We have landed on the fact that I have an instinct for healing because he said I know you got your MD when you got your JD when you were at Michigan. But, I think that that is an approach that I want to bring to what I want to talk about this afternoon. And, how do we go about solving the big complex harry frustrating challenges that sit in front of us today? As you all know, I spent the first three years of this administration as the Domestic Policy Advisor as Director of the Domestic Policy Council in the White House. And, I can still reflect back to that point and time after the election and after the president had asked me to serve in that capacity. And, we were in the transition period which I always think of and describe to people as an 87 day due diligence, kind of, M and A approach to taking over the biggest corporation in the world which is the United States Government. So, how do you wrap your arms around everything that's happening in the Government for this amazing peaceful transition that we have every four to eight years? And, we were in Chicago and it was December, and the core members of the president's senior team had been put together. And, we were sitting there and getting a briefing on the economy. And it's, for those of you who have read about it, it's when Christ Romer, who was chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, famously said to the president, you know, Mr. President, this is your oh shit moment. And, what she meant by that was the fact that what we had seen in terms of the infrastructure of our economy, over the course of the campaign, had been crumbling was far, far worse than we knew. And, we spent that day and many, many others talking about the problems and the challenges that were in front of us. And, that president, at that time, challenged us not only to think about the substance of those problems but also to think about how we were going to approach those problems. And, to try and think about that and approach the challenges in a very, very different way. And, as a result of doing that, we started to focus on a series of things. And, for me and my portfolio, that included everything from education to civil rights and a whole host of other domestic issues. But, the issue that I want to talk about a bit today is that of what we started to refer to as opportunity youth. Now, many people, most people talk about vulnerable youth. Many people refer to disconnected youth. And, what they are referring to, what we're all referring to are this group of about 6.7 million. And, in fact, most people think that's an undercount. Well over 7 million 16 to 24 year olds who have been disconnected from the education system and disconnected from employment. Whether they have dropped out of high school, whether they have finished high school with a GED but not gone on to get some kind of post-secondary credential, whether that's a certificate or a two year AA degree. And also that, they're not in the workforce in a significant way. They may have some kind of lower level job, but, not what we think of as a family sustaining wage job, not a job that you can actually live on, support a family with and grow and become a vibrant and vital member of the middle class. But, I specifically use the term opportunity youth because, as we have been out and talking to young people around the country, one of the things that we have noted is that, this group of young people, they don't see themselves as disconnected. They don't see themselves as a chronic challenge. And instead, what they feel is a sense of hope that they can be a part of a broader society, that they have something to contribute that they want to raise their families and be part of the U.S. and the American community. That, and I believe, having spent time with many of these young people, that this is an untapped but vital resource for our country, that, they have much to contribute and intellectual gifts and a grit and a view of the world that can help us solve many of the challenges before us if, in fact, we are able to work with them and to support them and to bring them back into the fold of our country. We know that this is a moral challenge for all the reasons that we could describe. But, at the same time, what we felt it important to do is we start to look at this group of young people is to also start to talk about the economic challenge that's represented. And, what we know is that, in 2011, if you stopped at that moment in time and you looked at this group of 7 million young people that this, there's a cost to the country of about $95 billion annually to taxpayers by not addressing this challenge. And, if you look at the broader societal cost, it's about a $252 billion annual problem. And, if you look at the lifetime of those young people, in 2011 dollars, you're talking about $1.6 trillion lost to the taxpayer, $4.75 trillion lost to society by not addressing the fact that these young people are a part of or trying to engage in systems that are actually disconnected. So, the moral imperative, the economic cost, and the economic challenge, how do we fix this? I bet all of you can think of ways that we've tried to approach these kind of problems and seen these young men and young women over the years and we failed over and over and over. If we still have, are talking about 7 million young people, we're not doing something right. So, how do we approach this challenge? What is the new way of doing business? And, those are the kind of tools that I want to talk about today. If we look at the challenge and we look and see what's happening around the country where we see green shoots, where we see progress, we have to recognize that it is the Federal Government but it's also State and Local Governments. It's also the business community. It's the philanthropic community, and it's the nonprofit sector all working together cohesively that actually has a chance to make a difference. And, we are starting to see proof of that. So, I want to talk a little bit about how those sectors are working together. But, the bottom line for what I want to talk about today is that I believe that this strategy for approaching these complex persistent problems is a way that we can address so many of the challenges that we're facing right now. The Federal Government engagement, and I'll start there, when we started to look at this problem, was one that we decided to tackle by bringing together a group of some of the most talented people in the country from across sectors. Everyone from, and I mentioned this earlier today, you know, Patty Stonesifer who led the Gates Foundation to a senior business executive at the Gap companies to Judith Rodin who used to be head of the University of Pennsylvania now is at the Rockefeller Foundation, to John Bon Jovi who is an active member of our cultural society, you know, across every sector, we brought together about 26 business leaders, philanthropic leaders, local government leaders to work with us. And, we said go out and we want you, one, to think about how are we going to galvanize resources to take on this challenge? And, two, what's working? What out there is actually working? And, they scoured the country and they went community by community by community. And, they found instances of success in places like Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio and the Strive Network. And I don't know how many of you in here are aware of the work of the Strive Network. You know, Strive has taken on this issue of cradle to career education. And, they recognized their graduation rates in that region were substandard, that not enough, not enough children were prepared to start school and not enough of them were coming out of school ready for college. Not enough of them were persisting through some kind of postsecondary education and getting a good job. And, they took this problem on. And, within 5 years of the beginning of their work, they noticed, because they came together and identified goals, that, 43 of the 50 benchmarks that they had set out they were making progress on. And then, they decided, ultimately, to take their work and said we're not just going to do it here but we can replicate this all over the country. And now, that work is taking place in over 34 different cities and the District of Columbia around the country and we're seeing that kind of progress everywhere we turn. What they actually were doing and what we found was happening in communities all over the country was something that people hadn't named until an organization called FSG started to write about it. And, what they wrote about is what many people are now calling Collective Impact. It is collaboration across sectors, but, it's doing that in a very disciplined way. It says we've got to come together and identify a common goal. Now, we're all in relationships. And, you and your partner, you and your spouse may think that you're all, that you're both working toward a common goal. But, it's not until you sit down and really work it out and talk about it that you may realize, you know what, we're actually rowing the wagons or rowing the boat in two different directions. I mean, we've all had that experience. But, when you sit down and talk about it and you've identified that goal, you realize you know what, now we all know that our goal is to get from Ann Arbor to Detroit. So, we actually have a shot of getting to Detroit as opposed to one of us ending up in Grand Rapids. We also have to focus on the fact that, as we're doing this work, we have to measure and evaluate how we're getting from here to there. We also have to have actions that are mutually reinforcing one another. Even as we work individually, we have to make sure that our collective actions are getting us where we need to be. And, also, to do that, we have to have continuous communication. Again, it's just like any relationship. If you're not talking to one another, you're surely not going to be able to achieve the goal you sat out. And, as programs are doing that, in the instance that I'm talking about, we have to have someone that's like an orchestra conductor, that entity that is making sure that all these different entities are working together harmoniously in doing the things that I just mentioned. Those are the five elements of collective impact. And that's what we found was actually working and making sure that, in community after community, they were actually making progress. And, at the same time the council looked at that, the also did a deep dive on this issue of opportunity youth. That led to an endorsement of collective impact. That led them to move forward and say here are the recommendations we're making to the Federal Government for what the Federal Government can do, performance pilots that required different agencies to work together, to pull their resources in a way they hadn't done before by giving them that kind of flexibility also saying here are the standards of evaluation, here's the level of change that we need to see. And, we're starting to see that being executed around the country in 10 different performance pilots that are being used to advance this issue around these youths. And, all of that also happened, surprisingly, given the calcification we see over and over today through the 2014 Appropriations Process. So, Congress actually endorsed and said this is the way that we're going to help the Executive Branch move in a better way to making sure that we're approaching opportunity youth and solving this problem. We also took on the Social Innovation Fund which is a unique animal that we created in about 2010 that said smart things are happening in communities. Everything good is not happening in Washington. So, how do we support that? How do we scale it? How do we leverage it? And, how do we use federal resources that to galvanize privates sector resources? And, in doing that, we were able to put money into intermediary organizations and ultimately, at this point, into about 189 different nonprofits around the country that have leverage over half a billion dollars in private sector resources to move these innovative ideas forward. And now, that Innovation Fund has said let's take on this issue of opportunity youth as well. So, in different ways, the Federal Government, thinking how they can approach this problem. The other thing that we started to focus on is, okay, if the Federal Government is moving, we also passed a big workforce bill, what else do we have to do? Again, not a single entity that can solve this problem. The business sector and the philanthropic sector, and the nonprofit sector all have to be involved. So, one of the things that Liz mentioned that I'm doing is that I am spending time chairing the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions. And, that's a nonprofit organization that was created at the Aspen Institute with the intent of continuing to push this work even after the Federal Government Council sunset it. And, what we've done at Aspen is that we've said, okay, collective impact is a model that we started to see some evidence of working. So, we want to continue to push to see if this really will work. And, at the same time, let's take this issue, this challenge around opportunity youth, and see if we can use that model to continue to make big strides in helping and working with this population. In doing that, we now are working with 21 communities urban, rural, and tribal around the country all at different stages of their work, from California to Detroit, to Philadelphia, to Hopi Arizona, and the list goes on. And, in working with them, we're supporting some of the critical needs that they have around data and that backbone organization that I mentioned to make sure that they can move forward. We know, already, that they are starting to see success. You know, you take what's happening in rural Maine for example. And there, it was a group of youth leaders, youth leaders, we're talking 19, 20 year olds who sat down and said one of our big challenges here is with foster care. And, youth that are aging out of foster care but they haven't completed school, they're not in the workforce. How do we get more resources to support them? And, how do we lift the age so that those resources can support them for a little bit longer until they're about 24 years old? It was the young people there who led to the policy change and the main legislature passing an act to create the kind of change that they identified from their own experience as being absolutely critical in moving forward. That Social Innovation Fund that I mentioned, now is specifically focusing on opportunity youth. But also, at Aspen, we've received resources from the Social Innovation Fund to specifically focus on boys and men of color and go out and support additional communities as they do this work all with highly rigorous evaluation. So, it isn't I kind of sort of feel like this might be working or we think we heard some great stories about what might be happening, but rigorous evaluation to make sure that what we believe is true, we're evaluating and understanding to be true so we can share that more broadly. As I said, philanthropy, another critical sector. The resources that philanthropy can put into these challenges is important. But, philanthropy is also struggling with how do we fund? You know, those one year grants, those three year grants, when you're taking on big harry problems not long enough to solve the problem. So, what should funding cycles look like for philanthropy? And, what should the relationship between philanthropy and their grantees look like so that we aren't getting that, and again, this is something many of us are probably seeing, that, since, when you want to show off for the person that you're, that's giving you money so you make it all look pretty and shiny, you tie a bow around it. But, that's not really what's happening. So, how do we think differently about those relationships so philanthropy's actually a partner? I see someone smiling and nodding. Philanthropy's actually a partner in the work as opposed to someone that stands off in the sidelines and that you call in once a year and show them a pretty report. We've done that by including them in the leadership council that we have at the Aspen Institute, actually sitting at the table with us, going through the tough problems with us, and bringing together, and we'll do this in a couple of weeks, literally, a couple of hundred funders to talk about some of these challenges and how we can all continue to move forward. Employers in the private sector, particularly, when you're dealing with this challenges, and with so many it is important to have the private sector at the table. And, often, the private sector comes to the table, and I was saying this in a class earlier today, it's like well let's be mentors to young people, absolutely important. And, when we do that in the best in class ways, critical. But, we're talking about people who need jobs not just mentors. So, how do we help the private sector rethink the way that it's approaching the challenge and this problem and to do that in a way that they're putting resources forward in a way that not only helps them build those pathways but to do that in a way that they're spreading the good news and the importance of this issue to their colleagues. So, JP Morgan Chase, Starbucks, Bank of America are three of the key partners that we're working with that are putting substantial resources into this issue but also are starting to think about, and many of you may have heard about the work that Starbucks is doing, we're going to hire these young people. And, not only are we going to do it at Starbucks, but we're also going to talk about those vendors that we work with who are part of our supply chain and say we want you to do this too. That's the, beyond the creation of 2 jobs or 10 jobs or 12 jobs, that's hundreds and thousands of jobs and the creation on the demand side for the kind of young people and the training that young people need on the supply side. Mixed with that is also the need to change perception. And, this is one of the things that I've seen over and over and over again. People are willing to believe that there's that one exceptional person. And, we've all seen the TV, you know, the TV news clip or we've read about it in the paper, we've read some magazine article and there's the young person who came out of hard times and has gone on to college and is doing well. And, everybody cheers and says well isn't he exceptional, isn't she exceptional. But, 6 million exceptional young people? Society seems to be unwilling to believe that that's possible. But it is. And, part of what we're doing is trying to change the perception and the way society and employers start to look at and think about these young people. Because, if the perception doesn't change, who would hire the person that they don't believe that they believe can't do the job? So, we've started to work with the private sector and foundations to create what we call the Grads of Life campaign. And, I want to just give you a sense of an ad that we've done directly targeted at HR leaders and private sector leaders as we want to start getting people to think a little bit differently about these young people.
>> What would you bring to my company?
>> What do you need?
>> I need problem solving skills.
>> I've gotten through high school without a car, a phone, or a computer.
>> No college degree though.
>> Not yet. But, life's taught me a lot and I'm ready for more.
>> Well, you're not the kind of candidate I hire. But, you are the candidate I'm looking for.
>> Your company could be missing out on the candidates it needs most. Learn how to find a great pool of untapped talent at gradsoflife.org.
>> Melody Barnes: So, that's just part of a larger campaign that we have underway to get people to think differently about these young people. And as I mentioned, well.
>> Thank you for inviting me to join the launch of the exciting new.
>> Melody Barnes: She's running for president by the way in case you missed that. Now there's, actually there's a reason why that came up next. The Grads of Life campaign is doing this work. And one of their major partners is, in fact, the Clinton Foundation. And, having Hillary Clinton on the Daily Show, I mean, you know what the viewership of the Daily Show looks like, go out and say to John Stewart, this is a group of 7 million young people and we've got to take on this challenge. And, John Stewart's like, what are you talking about? And she explains it. Again, we're looking for lots of different avenues, lots of different venues to get people to start to think about and recognize the challenge and, ultimately, to start thinking about these young people in a very, very different way. The final sector that I want to talk about are communities and young people themselves. Again, the perception has made this more challenging. The idea that we used to talk about disconnected youth and talk about young people as though they were broken, as though they were, in toto the challenge or the problem, created the sense that who are these people and how do we engage with them? Do we want to engage with them? Is it safe to engage with them? Why would we want to work with them or sit beside them? And that's a microcosm of a larger challenge that we often have as we are working collaboratively to solve big problems. In many cases, we don't involve or engage the communities themselves that we say we want to help and to support. We don't value what those communities can bring to the table, much less the policy making table. That's an elite table. Right? No. No. You have to bring the very people in the communities that you want to work with to the table to understand what the challenge and the problem is so that you can go about with their support, with their assistance, with them as partners actually fixing it. Who's a better expert on the life of an opportunity youth than an opportunity youth? Who better understand what they face than those young people themselves? And so, we've worked very, very hard to insure that, on a national level and on a local level, those young people are sitting at the table with us? And, as they say, nothing about us without us. And, we take that very, very seriously. So, at Aspen, they are members of our leadership council, our collaboratives have them sitting at the table with them. I mentioned to you a few minute ago the work that's taking place in Maine that was driven by, propelled by young people coming out of their own experiences and catching the ear or the attention of the legislatures and others in that community. We also have a youth leadership tract to help young people continue to develop their own leadership skills. And, in fact, just two weeks ago, we hired one of our youth leaders to work with us at Aspen. So, if we're going to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk as well. And, all of that has made our work much, much richer. We've also put together a collective impact forum. And, that forum we did in partnership with the organization FSG that first started writing about collective impact and the United Way and other partners around the country to create a learning community, to create a hub where communities that are doing this work can talk to one another. Because, what we often found is that, literally, communities 50 miles apart, 100 miles apart, not to mention a country on each coast, didn't know what the other were doing. And, as a result of that, communities were making the same mistakes over and over. We could leapfrog past that if people were talking to one another, if the tools we're finding are necessary, we could put in one central place, if we could use technology to scale what we're trying to do much more quickly and to insure that learning community was a robust one. And now, you know, we started out and we were hopeful in the first year that we might find 5,000 communities that wanted to be a part of it, and, we're well over 10,000. And, we also are talking to communities in Canada and communities in other parts of the world as they use this strategy for change. And, specifically, many of them are also focusing on this issue of opportunity youth. So, I'll close by saying this. One of the things that people often ask me, when they hear I'm doing this work or spending some of my time doing this work in local communities is, you know, does this mean that you don't think a federal sector works anymore? Does this mean that you think everything should be focused on the state and local level? And, what I tell them is no. I am a very firm believer, and you don't really have to look much further than my resume to understand, I'm a firm believer that the Federal Government has to work. It has to be effective, it has to be smart. And, we have to work to make sure that we're getting the Federal Government to that place. But, as I said earlier, there won't be a single shot solution to a complex, complicated, harry problem. We have to have all sectors working collaboratively and working together if we're going to achieve the kind of change that we want to achieve. And, that's why I believe so strongly that we need the robustness of a collective impact strategy if we're going to get ourselves to where we want to be. And, we have to use data and evidence, we have to work closely in community, we have to bring those pieces together. We have to make sure that the private sector is at the table and that we're all using a language that we can understand if we're going to meet the challenges that sit in front of us. But, what I also believe, seeing the things that I've seen community after community after community is that we can have the kind of success that we want and that we need. We can solve these problems, if we work collaboratively and with the benefit of the kind of education that many of you are getting there today, you will be the essential fuel in each of those sectors to make sure that we get there. So, thank you very, very much. And, I look forward to engaging in a conversation with you all. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Okay Mrs. Barnes. For our first question from the audience, oh. Hi, my name is Mira Lee and I'm a first year MPP student and I'm really passionate about poverty alleviation under the subgroups of food security and women economic empowerment. For our first question audience member's really struck by your optimism and sense of possibility embedded in your vision. However, how should we reconcile that with the despair and sense of crisis that frames the Black Life's Matter Movement, because both the views are centered on the future of opportunity youth?
>> Melody Barnes: Absolutely. I will start out by speaking to a personal experience that I had. I, I guess it was about a year and a half ago and I was speaking in Brooklyn at a YouthBuild function. And, I don't know if many of you know YouthBuild. It's a wonderful organization that is led by a woman named Dorothy Stoneman that focuses on the opportunity youth population and helping young men and young women get their GED's and also workforce training as well as other services that they need. And, I was introduced, at that event, by a young man who, literally, was thrown away as a baby, literally. He was found in the trash as an infant. And, he went through, as you can imagine, having started his life that way, many of the trials and tribulations engagement with the Juvenile Justice System, in and out of school, all of those things. And, ultimately, though, found himself in YouthBuild. And, standing there as someone who had gone on to get his high school degree, was going onto a postsecondary program, was working and saw himself and was actively a member of his community. It is the kind of despair that I think that you are speaking to and that we see over and over and over again. But, at the same time, what had captured him, what had surrounded him were individuals who believed that his life had value. And, beyond that idea that his life had value, also were bringing structure, bringing a best in class approach to the solutions to the challenges that were in front of him to help move him forward. And, it isn't just that young man, again, but, I've seen that over and over and over again. And, I've talked to young people who have said to me, straight up, said I led a thug life, young people who have said I, as I sit here, I, at one point, could have hurt you and it would have meant nothing to me. And yet, when given those opportunities, when given a sense that they were valued, that there was hope for them, that there was a pathway for them were able to not only help turn their lives around but want to do that but to reach back and to grab others to do the same and, as I said, to be actively involved in their communities and actively involved in the solution. So, the despair is real, the challenges are real. But, at the same time, there are approaches and there are ways that we can work with these young people to, at the same time, start to turn their lives around and also create those same opportunities for others. But, the, I think, part of the key is to make sure that they are involved, that their voices are heard, and that they are also seen and respected as leaders as part of that movement, that we're not just doing something to them or for them, but, we're doing something with them to create that kind of change.
>> Thank you for that very thoughtful response. And thank you for coming to speak with us today. My name's Emily Ruska. I'm a first year MPP here at Ford. We have another question here from the audience. In addition to the examples that you've offered as part of collective impact, what are particularly promising practices for engaging youth activist and student voices to influence youth policy to create opportunity in this historically marginalize population?
>> Melody Barnes: Well, one example that I've seen is the Council of Young Leaders. And, they've actually also created an organization called Youth United. And, this is an extraordinary group of young people who are moving forward and driving this, they're driving the progress themselves. And there are a group of us that call ourselves the Circle of Allies. We are there. We're allies for them. We're supporting them as they do this. But, they've articulated what their goals are, how they want to engage and how they want to be, how they want to be engaged. They are saying we want to sit at these tables with you. And, I'm seeing more and more of these kinds of organizations, and also, quite frankly, a new way of thinking about leadership. And, you know, it requires, I will be 51 in a couple of weeks. It requires, I think, a new way of thinking about leadership. It isn't this hierarchical, you know, I'm old and I'm wise so now I sit here at the tippy top of this pyramid. But, it is a collective table, it is a relational frame of leadership that's using lots of new tools to communicate with people all over the country and, indeed, all over the world. And, it is a respect for, as I said before, the kind of knowledge that people share that comes out of experience. And, I'm seeing more and more of these organizations while, at the same time, inside, you know, our workplace, inside many of the organizations that we have that are very structured, we're also inviting and bringing those young people in so they can be part of the change that we seek to create. So, there are a lot of exciting opportunities for young leaders that I'm seeing all over the country. And I empathize with you guys. I know how hard this is.
>> Thank you for your patience. Okay. What are some of the most effective policy solutions to poverty and opportunity youth that you have observed from your own professional experience?
>> Melody Barnes: Well, I think, I know from talking to a number of you today that you are very, very passionate about education. And, I continue to believe that that's an absolutely critical element in addressing the challenges that a lot of opportunity youth have. I mean, there's everything from the work that's happening around reconnection and we're seeing the birth and growth of reconnection centers around the country to bring young people who dropped out of school back into school so they can finish secondary and move forward. We're also seeing some really interesting pathways and best of class efforts coming out of organizations like Jobs for the Future and others that are focused on early college high school for example and the importance of apprenticeships and the way that we build that into the secondary education experience so that young people are finishing high school and some of them have an AA degree when they finish. They're, I remember just recently talking to a young woman, I believe, who finished, no it was a young man who graduated and got his AA degree a week before he got his high school diploma. And, that break between high school and postsecondary can often be, you know, it's a break for some people, it's a golf for others. And, trying to prevent young people from sliding down in the crack there but move more seamlessly onto postsecondary education, that we're seeing as being a very smart way forward. And, that's embedded in some of the work that is being reviewed on Capitol Hill. I think, the recently passed Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, which increased, over doubled the amount of resources that local communities can use for out of school young adults and giving them an opportunity to get workforce training and to move into those family sustaining wage jobs and also increasing the amount of time that they have to qualify for those jobs. So, there are a whole host of things that I could go on with. But, that's also what we're examining in the work that we're doing at the Aspen Institute. Because, what we're trying to do is we're learning from each of those communities some focusing on foster care, some focusing on juvenile justice, and the list goes on. What are the policy changes that we need to see to make these efforts more successful? And, we're in the nascent stages of our work but we're starting to learn from that. And we started out by bringing on a third party evaluator so all through our work we can look at what's working and what we're learning and then move that into the policy bloodstream and move policy accordingly.
>> Our next question here is sort of a mix of questions that we've gotten from the audience. So, research has demonstrated lifelong impacts of youth unemployment on economic mobility and earning potential, involvement in the criminal justice system as well as other social impacts. How do these experiences shape opportunities for these opportunities? And also, what are some of the most cost effective solutions that you've seen to this challenge and how scalable are they?
>> Melody Barnes: Wait, I'm sorry. Start, say that one.
>> So, basically, question of youth unemployment having lifelong impacts on youth, many of these opportunities that we're speaking of today. And how is there engagement with institutions such as the Criminal Justice System and their experience of unemployment itself effecting the opportunities that they are able to engage with moving forward? And what are some cost effective solutions that you've seen.
>> Melody Barnes: Sure. And again, as significant problems, we're seeing the loss of skills or the inability to acquire skills when you have young people that aren't being employed. And, that's such a significant problem. This is not limited to that opportunity youth cohort. But, one of the problems that we saw coming out of the recession, because so many young people weren't being hired, they weren't getting the opportunity to gain skills at an early enough stage in their career that it would allow them to be successful as they, kind of, the natural ark of their career took place. And, that's only compounded when we're talking about opportunity youth that often also have substantial, substantially inadequate educational experiences and opportunities. And then, compounding even further, when they've been incarcerated, in many instances, education, you know, coming to, are slowing down or coming to a halt, coming out not having the necessary reconnection opportunities, the rates of recidivism, kind of the list of, I think, many of the things that we, you know about on and on and on. And, I've seen some interesting things that are taking place. I have a friend that I worked with a number of years ago. He, David Domenici, started with his Colleague James Forman, The Maya Angelou Public Charter School. And, after getting the school up and running, one of the things that David is focused on now is improving education inside our Juvenile Justice System. And, you know, there's obviously a debate and work that has to happen, reasons why youth are being incarcerated in the first place and how they get there. But, recognizing that, so many young people are there, how do we improve educational outcomes for them there? And, he's working systemically with several different states to try and address that challenge. So, we see things like that that are underway. And, also, as I mentioned, some of the communities that we're working with are very specifically focused on ways that we can work with employers and have them think differently about young people who are coming out of the Juvenile Justice System and what their hiring practices will look like. And, I've talked to, you know, significant multinational companies, huge companies that are starting to think, okay, we know this is a problem and we understand how this problem ramifies throughout the system. You come out, you know, rates of recidivism go up, you know, if you've got children, your inability to support your children. And, quite frankly, if you're also on the business side, you know, the lack of income that means that communities aren't growing, that people aren't spending or buying etcetera. So they're thinking how do we adjust our policies so that we're hiring more young people who have had these experiences? So, there are a number of things like that that we're starting to see, particularly, as we've focused on the Juvenile Justice System to try and address the problem. There is a root problem, however, that we have to tackle, which is how so many young people end up there in the first place. And as, you know, I was talking the other day to Anna Deavere Smith, I don't, many of you may know her work, and she calls it the Womb to Prison Pipeline, and what happens so early and what we see, literally, in, you know, lack of third grade reading, you know, what the criminalization of young people in school that, ultimately, is putting them directly on a path into prison. And we also have to address that. That's a very significant problem for our country and for our communities.
>> This is a two prong question. The first is what are some specific ways in which opportunity youth cost taxpayers?
>> Melody Barnes: Cost taxpayers?
>> Melody Barnes: There's, you know, we've talked some about the Juvenile Justice System and the cost and the cost to the system there. We're also talking about loss of tax revenue. I mean, if you aren't working, then, in many ways, you aren't, you're paying some taxes but you're not paying a whole host of other taxes. We're also looking at what's happening to the healthcare system. If you aren't working and your income is below a certain level, the way you acquire and get healthcare. So, when you think about many of the programs that are in place, and I think appropriately so to help people and provide a safety net, there would be fewer people that needed that safety net if we strengthened our education system and if we got people into families wage sustaining jobs. So, those are some of the cost to taxpayers. Then there's the broader societal costs, literally just loss of earning power. And, that's why I mentioned those two numbers and the second is so much larger than the first. The first one, what does it cost taxpayers? The second one, what is society losing? And, there's a report, and I'll flip and remember the name of it for anyone who wants to see it, that we did when I was at the White House. My friend John Bridgeland, who was George W Bush's Domestic Policy Advisor, really helped to lead the effort in getting that report done to look at what the economics are of this challenge because we wanted to have that data. So, I'm going to find the name of that.
>> Yes. Please. Thank you. The second part to the question is given the pervasiveness of isms racism, classism, etcetera, aside from commercials, what are other sectors doing to change the mindsets about opportunity youth?
>> Melody Barnes: Sure. Before I answer that, so the name of this report is the Economic Value of Opportunity Youth. So, it's the Economic Value of Opportunity Youth. And it goes through that. One example of can think of, I have a friend Trabian Shorters who was an official at the Knight Foundation who is now running an organization called Be Me. And, they specifically now focusing on boys and men of color and the fact that as opposed to seeing these young people as a challenge as a problem as a liability as a cost, that, we start to see these young men as assets. And, now only do we see them as assets, what he's also putting on the table are the facts that prove they are assets as entrepreneurs, as business owners, as civic leaders. And, in fact Trabian and Ben Jealous, who used to run the NAACP, just edited a book of essays by, I think all of these are by black men, talking about their experiences and the ways that they have contributed to society, to their community, to their country. And, over the course of this next year, they are launching an all-out campaign specifically focused on perception change. How do we get the country to stop repeating and hardening this narrative that has people seeing, in this instance, young black men as just a cost and just a problem as opposed to vital members of society that are adding and that are contributing? So, that's one example of what I'm seeing. I know that the My Brother's Keeper effort that the president launched a little over a year ago, includes in it a specific focus on perception change. And, in many ways, it is the thorniest and knottiest of all the problems that we have. And, it sits at the base of so many of the other challenges that we're trying to address.
>> I have a question here from Twitter. They ask is it possible to make better use of our workforce development funds. The twitter user also indicates that stimulus dollars help but that is not a systematic change.
>> Melody Barnes: Right. I mean, in stimulus dollars, we knew, as we were developing the policy that we couldn't do many things or anything that would have a tail because those are resources that would, that would run out. So, I refer back to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act which was, you know, that rare piece of bipartisan legislation that passed Congress and was signed into law last July. And, that includes significant resources for opportunity youth and for communities to take on this issue of opportunity youth. I was mentioning a little bit of that. It allows, I think, communities to use up to about 75% of their resources to focus out on, or part of their resources to focus on young people and young adults who fall into this cohort. And, you know, that's a, that in and of itself can be a really important piece of policy. We're now in the regulation writing phase and just starting with to see implementation. But, it's something I know that both the Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education are all very, very focused on. And, we're hopeful that that legislation, having learned the lessons of the Workforce Innovation Act, we can improve upon and do some smart things. I think the other thing that's important that sits there is that there's a lot in there for evaluation. And, we have to understand what really is working and what is not. And, that has to be a continuous process so we can adjust accordingly.
>> The next question is you mentioned that Detroit is one of the communities you work with currently under the Aspen Institute. What do you think about its recent experience in bankruptcy and being served under the Emergency Management and other ongoing challenges? What strategies do you hope to see happen in Detroit in order for the city to move forward successfully?
>> Melody Barnes: Well, one of the things I'm excited about, and I'll go back for a second. I remember early on, probably between 2009 and 2010, and I was in the Administration and was invited to and attended a meeting in Detroit that, in many ways, was, I think, an example of collective impact. I mean, it really brought together a range of different sectors at the table to do, to think about what the plan would be for moving Detroit forward. And, that group or much of that group, I think, has held together and that's been in critical to get Detroit to where it is as it's, you know, coming out of, coming out of bankruptcy and focusing on the way forward. I think, you know, as with in every community, it's complex. I mean, there are kind of land management issues, there are cultural issues. And, in by that I mean there, our culture can be such an important driver to economic development. And, I think, people are focused on ways to use what's here and what's rich about the community to be able to help create economic development. You know, we saw the preservation of the artwork that's staying in Detroit. You know, all of those things, I think, people consider to be important. Also, you know, I go back and I give the administration that I was part of credit for preserving jobs in the auto industry and making sure that that remained important to the economic structure of the city and indeed the region and the country. So, I think there are a number of different ways that the plan is moving forward. But, it has involve philanthropic leaders, it's involved business leaders, it's involved, you know, economists and academics and other thinking about what that plan should be and the fact that everyone has to work together to be able to move it forward. So, you know, I'm excited and hopeful about what's happening in Detroit. I know several of the people who have been a part of that and local Michigan foundations that have been a part of that. And, I think it's really critical that the table was set to include so many different sectors and actors.
>> So, you've spoken at a number of intersections about the importance of involving the private sector in all of these efforts. And, this question from the audience speaks to that. They're wondering, we're seeing a lot of movement towards corporate social responsibility. A lot of major corporations are implementing departments for that. Are you seeing it, some folks are commenting that this might appear to be a trend or a fad. Do you see this as a trend or something that is more sustainable in a real movement in the corporate community that will be continued long into the future?
>> Melody Barnes: I do. And, what I believe and hope I'm seeing is maturation of corporate social responsibility because there's a form of it that's, you know, we've got our private sector, our foundation, our corporate foundation and we give money, you know, we're the Melody Barnes Corporation that builds widgets, and we give money to X cause that has nothing to do with our widgets which is great. You're giving money to a good cause. What I think is happening more and more now is we're seeing, kind of, CSR 2.0 or 3.0 by the best in class companies. And, what they're doing is saying okay what is it that we do and what is it that we're really good at? Let's use our resources on that. How do we take our existing assets and do something good for our community? Because, we know that and we understand it better than anyone. And, you know, I would use Starbucks as an example and I was talking about the work that they're doing with their supply chain. I mean, that is CSR. But, they also see that as a smart business model and, the support that they're providing, educational support for their workers. You know, I can go through a list of others. I mean, you look at the 10,000 small businesses, 10,000 women small businesses effort by Goldman Sachs. Again, they're thinking about what it is that they do and how can they provide that kind of support in a corporate social responsibility context but building on what they're already best in class at. So, I don't think that it's a fad. I do think and hope that companies are starting to think more smartly about the way that they engage. Because, as I talk to people who are doing this work, what they're saying is it's more sustainable. We have more of our folks engaged, more of our people involved. We see the benefit to our company when we're doing it that way and it's less, the heart of our business is over here and the corporate responsibility work is over there. And, that's a nice thing that we do and instead seeing those two things coming closer and closer together. So, that's what I'm seeing and hopeful for.
>> Thank you. So, this is going to be our ultimate question. Mira will take us home in a second here. This second to the last question will be about your time in the Obama Administration. And, this person is wondering if you could speak to your experience there and what, perhaps, surprised you the most about that job chairing the DPC.
>> Melody Barnes: My experience there, I am hesitating because I could over a lot of territory everybody. I think, one of the things or some of the things I was surprised most about, you know, from the small to the large, I mean, when you walk in the White House, literally day one, so, it's inauguration day. And, everybody's outside and there's a parade and everybody's happy and there are balls that night. And, I remember going in and being freezing cold and, you know, fighting my way through the parade to get in, and literally the phones are ringing. I mean, it's like, I don't know where the bathroom is and the phones are ringing. And, because the assistants to the president all had to show up and go into the building on that day. And, there's the sense that it just, it never ever, it doesn't stop. And, what your role is and maintaining that peaceful transition that we talk about, but, it really is quite spectacular when you think about what we do after every election cycle. It's also the sense, particularly at the White House as compared to the rest of the Executive Branch, how tiny it is. I mean, literally, it is a physically small space. But, also, the number of people who are working there, it's a small number of people who are there and closest to the president and trying to act on both what he has promised and what his goals are and respond to what the big challenges are. And, that requires a real respect for, and it's something I think this country's lost and it's sad, a real respect for those who are career bureaucrats, I mean those bureaucrat is taken on pejorative, but people who have been there year after year administration after administration who have real expertise and can act on the big and the small that come about every single day. And, you are struck by what it takes to make that happen because there are so few of us who are literally in that building. So, that's striking. I think the other thing, coming out of the experience, is the range of policy experience that I've had, it is, there is no other place to get a clear 360 degree view of what it takes to get policy done. You know, I was there, I was the domestic policy director and I worked with communications people and, you know, national security and homeland and, you know, on, legislative affairs, on and on and on. And, the decisions that you think having nothing, that you might think have nothing to do with what you have to do can have absolutely everything to do with what you're able to execute on, when you're able to execute on it, and how you're able to do so. And, I deeply appreciate having had that experience as well. And then, there's just such a strong sense of what we do in this country and our form of government and how special it is. And, for all the criticism, for all the frustration we have, this is a pretty amazing system that we've created. And, we have to refine it and we have to improve it and requires individuals to go in with the best possible motivations and the desire to get something done and to compromise and work across lines. But, you know, as my boss, you know, as Senator Kennedy said to me once, sitting over at his kitchen table, when it works, it is amazing. And I have such a deep appreciation for that having worked in a couple different of branches of government and come out of this administration.
>> Okay. Okay. For our last question, this is from Twitter. Any chance that we'll be able to see you back in the White House, specifically doing, specifically if the president is Hillary Clinton?
>> Melody Barnes: I'm wondering if my husband wrote that question to make sure it wasn't going to happen. I have had spectacular experiences working in government. You know, when I left Senator Kennedy I thought I'm done. I loved working for him and, you know, no matter where you are ideologically, I was just at the Institute, Kennedy Institute opening, his institute opening two weeks ago and there was Trent Lot, Tom Daschle, John McCain, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, you know, every part of the ideological spectrum speaking and talking about this man and what he's done. And, I loved that job. I thought, I'm done, I'll never work in the White House, never going to work on a campaign. Oops. So, and I went into the White House and it was just, it's the hardest thing I've ever done and the most amazing thing that I've ever done. But, I'm done. And, I'm, I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything, not one thing. I learned a lot and I want to take what I've learned and I want to use it in the ways that I'm doing it now. And I love the multiplicity of things that I'm doing and the different teams that I'm able to build and work with in the communities I'm able to work in. And, I'm excited to support the Federal Government, but, from out here.
>> Thank you.
>> Melody Barnes: Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Well, I'm so sorry I wasn't here to introduce our special guest. But, I'm delighted that I heard not only her really interesting presentation but also here very thoughtful and candid remarks in response to all of your questions. And so, let me, at this time, first thank all of you for joining us, for your, again, very thoughtful questions. This is the last of our policy talks for this year and I have to say a really wonderful way to end the series. But, we hope that you will join us back here again next year. But, before then we have a continuation of the conversation with a reception just outside of those doors. So, please stay and join us for that. But please also join me in a very special final round of thanks to Melody Barnes. Thank you. That was wonderful.
[ Applause ]