I was thrilled to be in Baltimore last week to join representatives from five communities as they launched 100-Day Challenges to prevent and end youth homelessness. As a national partner, I was there to show support and answer questions about philanthropy, public-private partnerships, and national examples of what works. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and private funders, the Rapid Results Institute—in partnership with A Way Home America and HomeBase—facilitated the comprehensive launch process over an intense two days.
The communities selected—Baltimore (MD), Columbus (OH), Hennepin County (MN), Louisville (KY) and Palm Beach County (FL)—mobilized teams that included: service providers, youth and young adults, and a variety of representatives from local housing, mental health, foster care, and juvenile justice agencies. All these partners convened in Baltimore—in teams of up to 25—to get down to work.
The 100-Day Challenge, pioneered by the Rapid Results Institute, is a simple idea with profound outcomes. A community that is wrestling with a tough problem commits to an audacious goal (like ending the experiences of homelessness for a large number of young people in each community in just 100 hundred days).
The temptation is to say:
“You are setting yourself up for failure.”
“If it were possible, we would have done it in the years we have been dealing with this issue.”
But what is amazing about the 100-Day Challenge is that by design, it stimulates collaboration between partners, innovation, and experimentation. And most significantly, I believe, by bringing together cross-sector teams who might not be accustomed to working together, it sets the stage for more permanent systems change.
When you only have a 100 days to accomplish a very public goal, everyone must operate at the top of their game and figure out ways to work differently to reach the goal. The unique combination of limited time, high visibility, and support from coaches, peers, and federal leaders helps to create rapid progress.
100-Day Challenges may sound gimmicky, but it’s based on the premise that innovation in both program and systems is needed to prevent and end youth homelessness, and that joint discovery of solutions will emerge during the 100-day journeys. While the specific of solutions may be different in each community, lessons emerging from local efforts can have policy and practice implications beyond the communities involved, and will help to build national momentum for the effort to end youth homelessness.
This was not my first experience with 100-Day Challenges. Last year, the Melville Trust joined funding forces with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Raikes Foundation, and Casey Family Programs to test the 100-Day Challenge process for the youth homelessness field in three communities, Austin, Cleveland and Los Angeles. The results were fantastic!
“Our goal was to reach 100 youth, but we didn’t look at it from the perspective of just reaching a number over the last few months. We looked at it as a stepping stone to a higher goal.”
-Mayor David Condon, Spokane Washington, WA
By day 100 each community had met their goals, and collectively connected 428 youth and young adults to stable housing! Beyond the tremendous housing outcomes, the cities also operationalized significant practice and policy changes, including:
- establishing community-wide by-name lists of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness
- embedding deeper youth collaboration
- experimenting with youth navigators to assist youth in finding stable housing
- implementing common assessment tools
- trying new strategies for care coordination between child welfare and city agencies and providers.
It is terrific to see this effort growing: HUD will be funding five additional 100-Day Challenge communities later this year! Scaling up 100-Day Challenges is a critical way to build knowledge in the field and see what works, quickly. After all, we don’t have time to waste—youth homelessness is destined for the history books by 2020.
If you are interested in following the progress of the five teams, sign up to receive news from A Way Home America. You can also follow the challenges on Twitter: #100DayChallengeAccepted and #endyouthhomelessness.