Letter from Our Senior Portfolio Directors
In our third year of implementing CTOP’s ten-year social investment strategy, our team and our grantee partners continue to evolve rapidly. We have harnessed our lessons learned and utilized our collective understanding of how we can best support young people in achieving success by driving improvements to programs and organizational resilience.
We first want to recognize that this past year has brought significant change to CTOP’s internal team, with our founding Director David Hunter announcing his return to retirement, after being called away from it to craft and then lead the initial implementation years of CTOP’s social investment strategy. While his daily leadership and partnership in this work will be greatly missed, his contributions to advancing it will endure in the form of the incredible foundational framework he developed for CTOP and the competencies that CTOP’s Portfolio Directors have strengthened through his mentorship and coaching. Engaging in the organizational development practice we advise our grantee partners on by intentionally expanding our team capacity to support our growing portfolio of work, we also created a new role of Portfolio Associate, adding to our team two young professionals, Zari Havercome and Emily Bonzagni, who bring tremendous passion for this work along with strengths and skills that will aid CTOP in charting the course for our future growth and transformational work in this sector.
Over the past year, a major focus of our team has been the advancement of three parallel research projects. Each substantial on its own, we envision that together the resulting products will be more than the sum of their parts and meaningfully accelerate the work that CTOP, its grantee partners, and others are doing to re-engage youth who are severely off-track and disconnected. The first of these projects came to fruition with the October 2023 publication of the report Connecticut’s Unspoken Crisis, which revealed that 63,000 young people ages 14 to 26 are not engaged in prosocial institutions and/or not on track for gainful employment, and another 17,000 are at the greatest risk for becoming so, creating urgency around the imperative for all stakeholders to do more to address the needs of this population. The two reports to be published in the year ahead will inform our understanding of what is necessary to re-engage young people, based on the national evidence base as well as the direct experiences and perspectives of young people as captured in their voices via qualitative research.
As part of the continual refinement of our strategic approach, we also identified this year a new category of investments to be made in social enterprises, making our first such investment in 2023 in Forge City Works in Hartford – with investments in this area being made with the goal of supporting such organizations in strengthening and expanding their services to prepare young people not only to secure and sustain employment but also to grow in career paths that lead to upward mobility for themselves and their families.
Meanwhile, our grantee partners continue to work tirelessly to serve their young people while also strengthening their operational capacity and strategic competency so that they never stop improving the quality of the services they provide as well as the long-term health of the organizations that make those services possible. This year, the number of active program slots our grantees delivered, and the corresponding number of youth therefore likely to achieve intended outcomes of reconnecting to school and employment, rose to 925. On behalf of our entire team, it continues to be always humbling and an immense privilege to support and celebrate the achievements of our grantee partners and the heroic work they do every day. We invite you to stay updated on our efforts in the year ahead through our website ctopportunityproject.org and by following us at @ctopportunity on Twitter.
Adhlere Coffy & Amanda Olberg
Senior Portfolio Directors