Transforming the lives of children, youth, and families in Baltimore
The GreenLight Fund, an IS member since 2006, works at the intersection of community need and social innovation — helping transform the lives of children, youth, and families in high-poverty urban areas. The nonprofit envisions a national network of GreenLight Fund sites across the country. Current sites include Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Greater Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Twin Cities, and it’s two newest sites – Baltimore and Chicago.
We asked Ryan A. Turner, Founding Executive Director of GreenLight Baltimore, about his plans to bridge across neighborhoods to realize new possibilities for children, youth, and families in Baltimore.
IS: As the founding executive director of GreenLight Baltimore, can you give us a “behind the scenes” look at your role as head of the site?
My role requires lots of partnership development, especially as a founding executive director. Though I am a native of Baltimore, GreenLight is new to the city. So, I’ve done a lot of relationship building and partnership development to ensure that my portfolio organizations have access to meaningful resources as they enter the city to do great work and tackle large challenges. More importantly, grant decision making shouldn’t be done in a vacuum — the community must be involved! I am a strong believer that the people closest to the challenges are close to the solutions. Consequently, I spend a considerable amount of time (in partnership with my dynamic Program Associate) interfacing with community members, business leaders, government leaders and more to understand where the gaps in social support services exist. I make my investment decisions from that lens.
IS: What changes in the lives of Baltimore’s children and families do you hope to achieve as a result of the work of GreenLight Fund Baltimore?
Through the work of GreenLight Baltimore and in partnership with organizations and leaders working locally, I hope to disrupt cycles of economic emergency and socioemotional distress that have been prevalent in our communities for far too long. We are committed to centering innovation and equity as we do our part in tackling Baltimore’s most intractable challenges. To me, success in five to ten years would be that children feel safe in every neighborhood, families are adequately fed, economic burdens are lifted within communities that have been marginalized, and there are clear college and/or career pathways for anyone who desires access.
IS: GreenLight Fund Baltimore recently announced an investment in Point Source Youth to scale its Direct Cash Transfer program to Baltimore City to support youth who are experiencing homelessness. Can you tell us more about it, and how it is helping homeless youth?
We are elated about our very first portfolio organization. Point Source Youth works to prevent and end homelessness for young people by equipping them with the resources and wrap-around services they need to make the best decisions they’ve determined for their own lives. This investment comes at an ideal time as Baltimore navigates enhanced support for youth. Twenty three percent of Baltimore City residents live below the federal poverty line, and 40% of families with children live below 150% of the federal poverty line. These factors have led to an increased number of youth experiencing displacement and housing instability.
Point Source Youth’s Direct Cash Transfer program provides a practical intervention to supporting youth on a journey toward self-sufficiency and housing. Through this intervention, youth who are experiencing homelessness will receive a one-time $3,000 initial cash transfer and $1,000 a month for a duration of two years. Additionally, participants will receive case management and peer navigation ancillary support services providing youth with opportunities to pursue academic, vocational, and other goals that will enhance their quality of life and financial stability. These are the kinds of interventions that will disrupt adverse life cycles and place children, youth, and families on paths of self-sufficiency.
IS: You’ve worn many hats during your career in the human service and nonprofit sectors. As the founding Executive Director of GreenLight Fund Baltimore, who or what was most helpful to you as you acclimated to this new leadership role? I’m sure that others considering career changes can benefit from your experience.
I am blessed to have a social support structure that is invested in my growth as a young professional. I often seek guidance from mentors within my fraternal organization, but much more I have learned to center relationships as a mechanism for growth and development. I often reference the phrase, “relationships drive results.” Those relationships have taught me to 1.) always lean in with curiosity; 2.) commit to being a lifelong learner; and 3.) always consider the unintended consequences when you’re making decisions even from the most altruistic position. These lessons and more have allowed me to acclimate as GreenLight Baltimore’s leader and will continue to guide the manner by which I support my beloved city of Baltimore.
IS: How can being a part of Independent Sector’s member community help you better achieve your goals?
Being a part of Independent Sector’s member community gives me the opportunity to network, learn and exchange best practice with like-minded professionals who have committed their lives to improving the condition of the world from their discipline and perspective.
Video: About the GreenLight Fund
Statistics about GreenLight Fund Baltimore:
35% of children live in households with incomes below the federal poverty line.
15% of 8th graders in Baltimore city are proficient in reading.
2X average income of white residents relative to Black residents in Baltimore.