DURHAM, N.C. - The City of Durham announced today that IBM has presented a report to the city's leadership that recommends strategies to ensure the education, well being, and job-readiness of the community’s young adults.
The recommendations emerged from a $400,000 study funded by a competitive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant awarded to cities, such as Durham, that have demonstrated progressive thinking and a commitment to embrace change.
For the study, six IBM employees hailing from all parts of the globe spent most of February living in Durham and interviewing approximately 80 residents, officials, and community leaders. The IBM team, comprised of finance, technology and management experts, presented their findings and feedback to city officials in early March, to be followed in a few weeks by a more formal, written report.
"Durham was part of an elite group of cities that earned an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant in 2012," said Steven Pearson, a North Carolina-based manager for IBM's Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs group. "That means that we believe the city is forward thinking, candid, ambitious, and committed to change. During the time it spent here, our team was impressed with the City's leadership and citizenry, and believes that it has a bright future ahead of it, particularly when it comes to keeping its youth well educated and employed."
IBM found that while numerous individual public, private, and not-for-profit groups are addressing aspects of empowering and connecting youth to opportunities, there is no formal, consistent mechanism to coordinate these fragmented efforts over the long term, or ensure that funds being spent are delivering desired results. According to the IBM team, synchronizing and centralizing activities would help to set concrete and collective goals, build broader community buy-in, demonstrate stronger resolve, allocate resources more efficiently, improve information sharing and collaboration, measure and fine-tune progress, build capacity, and provide accountability.
The IBM team recommended that a more aggressive strategy of prevention, intervention, and reconnection be developed, so that fewer youth become disconnected from school or work. The IBM team also suggested that the framework and vocabulary employed in this important endeavor be centered on youth, not bureaucratic goals.
Outreach efforts also need to be framed as opportunities for youth, not as problems to solve. Suggestions included the development of a “pride builders” program, leveraging the broad informal network of advocates across the community including role models, mentors, internships, tangible success stories, and youth conferences.
The IBM team also recommended that a common and consistent language and data should be used by all involved groups so that they can understand each other better and exchange case information more meaningfully.
The IBM team also recommended enhancements that might be made to the educational experience of the community’s youth. Namely, there could be more multicultural sensitivity, educators could employ more sophisticated approaches in identifying and addressing mental illness, and alternative educational and vocational options need to be available.
“I am pleased that IBM selected Durham as the first U.S. city for the 2012 IBM Smarter Cities Grant program,” said Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell. “Thanks to the efforts of Durham City and County governments and Durham Public Schools, the IBM team was able to immerse themselves into our community for three weeks to understand our weaknesses and strengths. We, hopefully, now can use that information to enable our governments, schools, and community organizations to propel our youth toward successful lives. I look forward to receiving IBM’s formal recommendations and engaging the Durham community in the next steps.”
The City of Durham was one of 33 cities named as recipients of IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge grants in 2012. Launched in 2011, this three-year $50 million program for 100 U.S. cities is IBM's single-largest philanthropic initiative. It funds in-person engagements staffed by teams of top IBM experts, who study and then make detailed recommendations addressing locally important urban issues.
In the upcoming weeks and months, feedback on IBM's recommendations, as well as additional ideas for reaching out to Durham's youth, will be solicited from the general public and from other stakeholders.