OpportunINDY is a collective impact model. It emerged from a community commitment to improve key outcomes for young African American men in Marion County, ages 14-24.

How It All Began…

In 2014, Mayor Gregory Ballard of Indianapolis created a Your Life Matters Violence Prevention Task Force stemming from a growing concern over homicides in the urban core of the city.  Ballard selected Tanya Bell, President and CEO of Indiana Black Expo, and Jamal Smith, Indiana Civil Rights Commission Executive Director to lead the task force.  This multi-sector group submitted its findings in November 2014. The Your Life Matters Task Force Report to the Mayor  shared current outcomes, trends, disparities, promising practices and recommendations on how to transform outcomes for young Black men. It included data from communities that are outside Indianapolis, but inside Marion County.

It reported no quick fixes; and, it could have become yet another report.

But, the Mayor responded to the findings with a charge to change the status quo. He asked the team to create a community-owned Plan of Action.  That plan was finalized in spring 2015. It called for using a specific model, “Collective Impact,” and chose to address four critical areas:

-high school graduation and post-secondary certification

-teen and young adult employment

-justice and successful re-entry

-physical and mental health

 The Plan of Action acknowledged that many people have been working on these challenges for years. Therefore, it called for five rules as strategies rolled out:

  • 1Build on and support existing initiatives and efforts
  • 2Encourage all members of the community, including donors and policymakers, to assess the quality of their own efforts and outcomes, improving both
  • 3Leverage and align existing community resources across all sectors
  • 4Connect interested and committed parties across all sectors to each other
  • 5Communicate systemic challenges in balance with successes and opportunities
Once the plan was presented, the Mayor asked Indiana Black Expo to serve as the host organization – to house the Your Life Matters initiative and help oversee its successful implementation. The mission of IBE is to be an effective voice and vehicle for the social and economic advancement of African Americans.  (To learn more about Indiana Black Expo and its year-round programs, visit www.indianablackexpo.com) There was natural alignment with each other’s goals.

To stand as a neutral convener, Your Life Matters needed its own staff leadership and multi-year funding. Local funders stepped up to the plate, including USA Funds and Central Indiana Community Foundation.  Others have and will be joining them to ensure that the outcomes are sustained long-term —a critical element of maximizing Collective Impact.

Just as the Your Life Matters Plan of Action was being completed, two other efforts were emerging.

The first was President Barack Obama’s national initiative focusing on young men of color, My Brother’s Keeper.  Indianapolis accepted the challenge to be a MBK community and has integrated its objectives into the Your Life Matters framework and outcomes.

The other initiative was the Indy P3 pilot grant opportunity through the U.S. Department of Education.  Its focus is to create education and employment pathways for young men of color.    The Opportunity Zone  in Beechwood Gardens and Hawthorne Place Apartments in the 46218 zip code area was funded and will officially launch January 2016.  It is modeled after a highly successful program in Minneapolis.

This takes us to the present. With the launch of this website, Your Life Matters will officially become OpportunINDY to better reflect who we have become and what we are about.  We know that expanding opportunities changes lives and makes for a stronger and more vibrant community.