Cover: Building Better Boyhood Programs

Building Better Boyhood Programs

Evaluation of Programs Funded by the African American Men and Boys Task Force Initiative

Published Aug 19, 2015

by Dana Schultz, Lisa Sontag-Padilla

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Research Questions

  1. How successful was each grantee in executing its proposed implementation plan?
  2. How successful was each grantee in reaching its stated goals?
  3. What collective impact did the AAMBTF programs have within each priority area?

African-American youth in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County in Pennsylvania face the same challenges as many of their peers across the country, including poor employment, education, and criminal justice system outcomes. To address these obstacles, human services and community-based programs seek to capitalize on the strengths of youth while recognizing the heterogeneity and interactive nature of both positive and negative individual and environmental influences. While these programs often focus on bolstering youth skills, such as academic motivation, self-esteem, and interpersonal competence, implementing them is challenging, and the degree to which these types of programs are effective is not always clear. This report evaluates the implementation of programs funded by The Heinz Endowment's African American Men and Boys Task Force initiative in Allegheny County and to understand how the programs operated, whether they made progress toward achieving their goals, and what can be learned from their implementation.

Key Findings

Engaging in a formal planning process aids implementation.

  • Programs with a structured curriculum or detailed implementation plan were better able to maintain interest and engagement among at least a core group of youth.

School-based settings facilitate recruitment and implementation.

  • Overall, programs based in schools facilitated implementation because they had more access to referrals, resources, and infrastructure that were not generally available to programs operating in a community-based setting.

Committed leaders and staff who exemplify the program's priorities are essential to the successful implementation and longevity of the program.

  • All programs stressed the importance of having positive African-American male program leaders to foster youth engagement and commitment.

Cross-program collaboration provides opportunities for grantees to learn from and support each other.

  • Information-sharing and networking among grantees with similar programming helped them learn from each other, share strategies, and support each other with program design and implementation.

Supporting programs with technical assistance and formal evaluation aids implementation.

  • During the evaluation period, each active grantee participated in a collaborative and iterative process with the RAND research team to articulate specific goals and corresponding objectives, and to identify indicators or measures of progress for each objective.

Culture, family, and community affect all aspects of program delivery and overall success.

  • A consistent finding across grantees was the importance of understanding and accounting for the impact of culture, family, and community on both program delivery and the ability to "move the needle" on key program outcomes.


  • Support programs' engagement in a structured implementation planning process that outlines initial goals and objectives to help ensure programs stay on target and improve the likelihood that goals are accomplished.
  • Prioritize funding programs that have established school or community connections or the capacity to cultivate strong relationships with potential referral sources to facilitate recruitment and implementation.
  • Help programs identify tailored and flexible strategies at the outset and align with existing county or community resources to address the challenges of working with the target population and increase engagement with the program.
  • Select programs that have a track record in identifying and recruiting program leaders, staff, and volunteers who are committed to and exemplify the program's priorities.
  • Facilitate cross-program collaboration that allows grantees to engage in peer-to-peer learning, share strategies for addressing challenges, and support each other with program design and delivery.
  • Provide ongoing support for continuous quality improvement efforts to improve implementation and the likelihood of having a positive impact on participants in the program.
  • Support grantees in identifying targeted, short-term, individual-level outcomes and measures that are aligned with program goals and activities to enable an assessment of the individual-level impact of the program.
  • Encourage the use of core implementation models and common measures to improve cross-program comparisons and measurement of collective impact.

The research described in this report was jointly conducted by RAND Health and RAND Education, both divisions of the RAND Corporation.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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