By Hartford Courant

New research published at the end of last year by Dalio Education reveals a statewide crisis: 63,000 young people in Connecticut between the ages of 14 to 26 are not engaged in school or work, not on track for gainful employment, or both, while another 17,000 are at the greatest risk for experiencing disconnection.

The report, Connecticut’s Unspoken Crisis, is a call to action with recommendations for how local stakeholders can take concrete steps toward addressing this crisis. Through our work with the Connecticut Opportunity Project, a social investment fund of Dalio Education, we know that young people experiencing disconnection can re-engage and thrive if they have the support they need. The investments we make in community-based nonprofits across Connecticut aid our grantee partners in achieving results with young people every day, demonstrating that the report’s recommendations are impactful. In short, we know they work.

CTOP invests currently in seven Connecticut-based organizations: COMPASS Youth Collaborative, Forge City Works, Our Piece of the Pie, and Roca Hartford Young Mother’s Program in Hartford; Connecticut Violence Intervention and Prevention in New Haven; Domus Kids in Stamford; and RYASAP in Bridgeport. Heroic individuals at these organizations have worked tirelessly for years – decades, even – serving young people who are experiencing disconnection. Yet the challenge they have faced in their work, common across the nonprofit sector, is that the level of resources available to deploy in advancing their missions is insufficient to meet the need we know exists.

Embodying one of the report recommendations, CTOP is working to change this status quo, providing financial and non-financial resources to our grantee partners to help them strengthen their organizational capacity for continuous improvement and high-quality service delivery – which means helping a growing number of young people to positively alter their life trajectories.

CTOP provides unrestricted grant dollars along with extensive technical assistance over the long-term time horizon that we know is necessary for organizations to engage in meaningful capacity building that translates into improved outcomes for young people.

What this capacity building looks like is supporting our grantee partners in internalizing what we know from the evidence works to re-engage young people, and then redesigning their programming and training their staff in new skills accordingly. It also looks like building and deploying robust data systems that enable their organizations to monitor and manage service delivery, and how those activities are impacting the skills development of young people. And it looks like strengthening the infrastructure of their boards and internal management systems in ways that are critical to the long-term health of the organization, making it possible for high performance to be sustained over time.

The work of CTOP’s grantee partners is a testament to the return on investment from strengthening a nonprofit’s capacity to do its work effectively and sustainably – as well as to the profound potential to succeed and thrive that is within every young person currently experiencing disconnection.

What we see in our work every day is that it is possible to address Connecticut’s Unspoken Crisis, if our statewide community commits to doing so together.

Adhlere Coffy and Amanda Olberg are Senior Portfolio Directors at the Connecticut Opportunity Project.