Shawn Dove, Open Society Foundations

TITLE: Campaign Manager, Black Male Achievement

FUNDING AREAS: Black male social services and entrepreneurship

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Dove is wholly committed to bettering the life of African American men through social service programs, entrepreneurial spirit, and open dialogue. He is also keen on measurements of achievement; though metrics are difficult in this realm, if you've got a creative way to communicate them, Dove will be interested in you.

PROFILE: Shawn Dove is the Campaign Manager for Open Society Foundation's Black Male Achievement initiative. Per the foundation's official bio for him:

Shawn Dove joined the Open Society Foundations in May 2008 as manager of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. He has more than two decades of leadership experience in youth development, education, and community building.

Dove served as one of the founding directors of New York City’s Beacon School movement in the early 1990s while working with the Harlem Children’s Zone. As creative communities director for the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts he led a national initiative that partnered community schools of the arts and public housing communities in 20 U.S. cities.

As New York vice president for Mentor/National Mentoring Partnership he initiated a strategic response to the lack of African American and Latino male mentors for New York City’s boys by creating a public awareness and recruitment initiative called The Male Mentoring Project.

In 2006, Dove founded Proud Poppa, a publication for African American fathers and is a co-founder of Harlem Men Stand Up, an empowerment project that holds quarterly summits in Harlem. Dove was a Charles H. Revson Fellow at Columbia University in 1993 and received a BA in English from Wesleyan University.

In a 2012 interview, Dove discussed how the Black Male Achievement initaitive came to pass at the Open Society Foundations, and how he became involved:

I would say an impassioned conversation inside philanthropy was ignited after an article titled "Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn" appeared on the front page of the New York Times in 2006. The article highlighted the many disparities and inequities confronting African-American men: indeed, at a time when the economy was booming and the nation's top earners were gaining significant wealth, African-American men were falling further and further behind. Well, the article ignited a conversation at OSF among staff who felt that an organization that prided itself on supporting a more democratic, fair, and just society and on empowering the most marginalized individuals in society to become agents in their own empowerment should be at the forefront of this issue. As I later learned, there was debate about whether the foundation should launch a campaign specifically targeting support for African-American men and boys, with some staff making a strong case that the foundation already was engaged in the issue through its investments in reform of the criminal justice system. But it eventually became clear to everyone that this was an opportunity to more directly address the causes of the "prison pipeline."

At the same time that discussion was happening, I was publishing a community newspaper called Proud Poppa for African-American Fathers and leading a youth ministry at my church. Prior to that, I had worked with Geoffrey Canada at the Harlem Children's Zone. After the foundation decided to launch the campaign, a number of people encouraged me to apply for the position of campaign manager. Eventually, I did, and that's how I got involved.

The campaign, which launched in 2008, was originally supposed to be a three-year initiative. But about eighteen months into it, OSF founder George Soros and the foundation's board decided to get rid of the term limits and, based on our early work, increased our budget. I think that decision helped other philanthropic institutions to better understand the severity of the problem and the foundation's deep commitment to addressing it over the long haul.

Measurable impact is something Dove thinks about, but also knows that it's a difficult challenge in this particular realm. In that same interview he goes on to share:

. . . it is important that we acknowledge that this is a generational issue that will require a long-term commitment. The challenges that prevent black male achievement come out of decades and centuries of systemic injustices. So to expect that after four years of a campaign we would reverse these trends is reflective of the general state of philanthropy, which often will focus on a hot or popular issue of the moment but, after a few years, will move on to the next pressing issue. If we hope to truly measure impact and see change we must commit for the long term.

The work being done at Open Society Foundations also has personal meaning for Dove. In a 2012 interview with emPower, Dove notes, "I ironically have had to overcome many of the challenges and barriers that the Campaign for Black Male Achievement seeks to do for the broader population."

VIDEOS:

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