Removing Barriers and Creating Opportunities: Making the Case to Help Young Men of Color Succeed

Sep 1, 2015

Since beginning Forward Promise in 2011, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has taken a specific interest in promoting health and opportunity for young men of color (YMOC), ages 12 to 18. The foundation focuses on this population because the experiences and decisions that many of these young men face make their path to adulthood especially difficult and have a profound effect on their health and well-being throughout their lives. Through research that spanned the course of nearly two years, the foundation researched and developed messaging strategies that can raise awareness and support for investing in YMOC. The success of this research will help yield more support for solutions that remove barriers and create the opportunities these vulnerable young men need to succeed. The findings and analysis are summarized in this toolkit with recommendations for how to apply them to your work.
  • Focus group participants in our research, across all racial backgrounds, strongly believed that a person's mindset or motivation was a major factor in explaining whether or not that individual can overcome adversity.
  • Most Americans believe our nation has made great strides in eliminating racism, but it is still difficult for them to talk about race and prejudice – especially the structural nature of racism.
  • The best way to build empathy for young men of color is to appeal to audiences' identities as parents and adults who care about the well-being of young people.
  • When your goal is to change hearts and minds, it is essential to illustrate your case rather than argue your point. In other words: Show. Don't tell.
  • At the beginning of every focus group, we asked participants to show us on a scale how hopeful they were that we could make a difference in the lives of young men of color.