Announcing the 2014 CASE Change Academy class!

In September, my CASE colleagues and I unveiled a brand new program called the Duke CASE Change Academy. (If you missed the announcement, see the program details here.) We received 34 outstanding applications for the Academy’s 6 slots, which left us with a tough decision to make. Today I am thrilled to announce the winners.

Each organization below will bring 3 leaders to the Academy, for a total of 18 participants in the cohort. These leaders are fighting to make an impact in their communities—in education, in health care, in the economy. To meet their goals, they’ll have to overcome daunting obstacles, as you’ll read below.

Over the six months of the program, we hope you’ll follow our story on this blog as we fight for social change. We’ll be open about what we’re learning—both what’s working and what’s not—in hopes that our insights and our mistakes will prove helpful to you. But for now, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the talents and aspirations of 6 great organizations.

-Dan Heath

United Way of Greater Toledo


Port Clinton, Ohio has been battered by a seemingly endless stream of bad news. A crumbling manufacturing base. Declining job opportunities. Stagnant wages. Not to mention the associated social ills: Divorce rates have quadrupled and juvenile-delinquency rates have spiked. A recent New York Times article depicted Port Clinton as the face of the “crumbling American dream.”

The people of Port Clinton are sick and tired of the bad news. And the team at the United Way is ready to lead the comeback. Their vision is a “cradle to career” framework that keeps the future bright for Port Clinton youth. On tap first is a community-wide mentorship program that will match youth 1-on-1 with adults who are ready to serve and support them—to ensure that their dreams don’t ‘crumble.’

Will the mentorship program be enough to create some early momentum? Is it possible to reverse such daunting social and economic forces? The obstacles are sobering, but this is a story worth watching. Don’t bet against a community with its back against the wall.

Teach for America


We all know Teach for America as the organization that recruits the nation’s best and brightest students and trains them to teach for two years in some of the nation’s most impoverished urban and rural communities. After the two years, many of the recruits leave teaching to pursue other careers. But of course many more discover that they love teaching and don’t want to leave the field. In fact, there are now over 10,000 full-time teachers who are TFA alumni. And that network presents an opportunity.

TFA has one goal: To ensure that, in our lifetime, children have the ability to attain a quality education regardless of their ZIP code. As TFA has matured and grown—it is 23 years old this year—its leaders have come to realize that its success will depend not only on recruiting talented new teachers, but also on mobilizing and supporting its alumni teachers.

But what does it mean to tap the network’s power? For many alumni, their TFA service is years in the past. What do they want, if anything, from TFA? And what can be expected of them? How can TFA’s leaders support them to lead their students to even better outcomes?

Community Solutions – Brownsville Partnership


Brooklyn is known around the globe as a cultural hub, full of writers and artists and musicians. But the Brownsville region of Brooklyn has a different distinction: It is one of the poorest communities in the United States. Only 30% of its residents have a high school degree; the median household income is about $16,000.

The Community Solutions team led the stunningly successfully 100,000 Homes Campaign, which is on pace to house 100,000 chronically homeless individuals by next summer. Now, they want to use the same game plan – a compelling goal that rallies and aligns dozens of local partner organizations – to combat poverty in Brownsville. The goal? Lining up jobs for 5,000 Brownsville residents by 2017.

If successful, those jobs could provide the foundation for an economic revival. Jobs provide income; income leads to more local spending; spending sparks more investment by local businesses; investment creates more jobs—and in this way, a virtuous cycle can emerge. But, for the work to succeed, the team must triumph over an array of tenacious societal problems: generational poverty, crime, lack of education, and more. Can Community Solutions create a bright spot in one of the most troubled parts of the nation?

Year Up – National Capital Region


In the Washington DC area, there are over 33,000 urban young adults who lack the job skills and opportunities to launch a rewarding career. Responding to this need, Year Up has pioneered a job-skills training program that takes urban youth from poverty to professional careers in only one year. Only four months after graduating, an average of 85% of its graduates are either enrolled in college or placed in full-time jobs with employers such as AOL, Microsoft, and Freddie Mac.

It’s a stunning success. So what’s the problem? Two things: First, the program can only handle 240 youth per year. There are thousands more young people who could benefit if the program could expand. And that leads to the second problem: The business model. Year Up earns enough revenue from employers to pay for roughly 2/3 of the cost of the training program. But that leaves 1/3 of the cost to be covered by the fickle currency of donations and grants.

If Year Up’s team could ever close that 1/3 cost gap and become truly self-sustaining, it would allow them to serve hundreds or even thousands more youth. But an adjustment that large will take careful work. How can they attract additional revenue—or pare back costs without hurting the outcomes?

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte


An estimated 80 million Americans—that’s more than 1 out of every 4 people in the country—have “prediabetes,” meaning that they have blood sugar levels that are elevated but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, prediabetes is likely to progress to type 2 diabetes in 10 years or less—unless there is an intervention.

That intervention is what the YMCA of Greater Charlotte wants to provide. The YMCA has signed a pioneering partnership with the Carolinas Health System to change the lifestyles of patients with prediabetes. The scale of the work is impressive. In 2014, as part of the partnership, 50,000 people in the Charlotte area will take a risk assessment to see if they are at risk of developing diabetes. Those found “At Risk” will have their blood sugar tested, and if they are found to be prediabetic, their doctors will enroll them into the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. It’s a prescription for prevention.

The question is: Will the intervention work? It’s one thing to identify a person with prediabetes; it’s another thing to change his or her habits. Changing people’s exercise and dietary habits is a notoriously difficult mission. But if the YMCA can succeed, its program would instantly become a model of national importance.

Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT)


Studies show that 39% of Dallas households do not have enough assets to survive at a basic poverty level should they lose their main source of income. What can be done to boost the economic self-sufficiency of working families living at and just above the poverty line? That mission has become the #1 priority of the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT), one of the largest grantmakers in the state of Texas.

A groundswell of interest in this issue among organizations in the Dallas area has been building since CFT released its first report on the subject, engaging groups from nonprofit service providers to foundations to corporations to government agencies. At present, these interested parties are working tenaciously but mostly independently. What is needed, however, is an organized “movement” to help working families. The question is: How can CFT best partner with and encourage these allies to cultivate a common direction?

The barriers are numerous: Organizational inertia. Conflicting priorities. The slow pace of change. Not to mention the most basic challenge of them all: What, exactly, can you do to improve the lot of working families? Which programs are effective? Which are sustainable? CFT is committed to untangling this thicket of social and organizational difficulties.