• Nick Luhring

Unsustainable: Why Good Programs Sometimes Fail

Credit: The former Inner Harbor Project hosts police officers from Baltimore in a youth led training session.

One thing I have noticed in my research efforts around the issue of gun violence is how many good ideas there are out there. Ideas that verifiably make a positive impact on communities in the form of the programs that holster those ideas. One such idea is that of violence interruption, which has found success in Chicago, with the Cure Violence initiative (www.cureviolence.org), and in Baltimore with the Safe Streets program (https://health.baltimorecity.gov/safestreets). These programs leverage knowledgeable and caring community members against the scourge of street violence, and have shown marked success of reducing the frequency of shooting incidents. Both programs have seen fluctuations in funding due to the fact that they have to rely primarily on grants.


However, these two cases are ultimately success stories. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has secured over $5 million for the Safe Streets program through state and city funds and has a goal to increase the number of sites to ten. Cure Violence has expanded into cities such as Philadelphia and New York and claims a 70% violence reduction rate. They were also just ranked #10 NGO in the World by NGO Advisor (https://www.ngoadvisor.net/).


But while some initiatives gain success, other do not. Such is life in the realm of donations and grants, not all programs can sustain themselves through the chaos that comes with it. Two examples of youth-led organizations that have tried to improve relations between youth and police, and ultimately had to cease operation due to lack of funding are the New Lens project (http://www.newlens.info/about_new_lens.html) and the Inner Harbor Project (http://www.theinnerharborproject.org/), both from Baltimore City.


Ambitious in their scope and successful for a time, both programs relied on youth to be Peace Ambassadors in some sense, and to mediate conflicts before they get out of control. The Inner Harbor Project saw a sharp decrease in the number of arrests and incidents in the community they served. How can we help programs like these maintain their funding?


One simple answer is to educate ourselves about the programs that do exist, what their success rates are, and then who to communicate their successes with.

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