My Brother’s Keeper

Addressing opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color from cradle to career.

Pittsburgh youth provide feedback on best practices for MBK programs
Jeron X. Grayson Community Center, November 2016  photo: Ben Filio

Promoting Equity Through Collaboration

In 2014, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County embraced President Obama’s call to action for My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), and The Sprout Fund quickly supported the regional commitment to create a more equitable community where all residents—especially boys and young men of color—benefit from the region’s growth and improvements.

In 2015, a 16-member committee formed with representatives from academia, the clergy, community groups, police, city and county government, and local school systems, and this group created the local MBK Playbook for the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Released in October 2015, this publication identified community partners already working to achieve social and economic equity, and it outlined a series of future strategies that might advance the same work in the years ahead.

With support from The Heinz Endowments, Sprout worked with key regional partners to understand how to transform the committee’s early momentum into tangible regional impact. Sprout engaged Homewood Children’s Village (HCV) to serve as the MBK project manager to plan and lead MBK-related meetings, communication, evaluation, and advocacy. Additionally, Sprout engaged UrbanKind Institute to lead a community and stakeholder planning process.

These efforts inspired the creation of the Digital Literacy Collaborative, a community of practice and funding program that Sprout established to forge new partnerships between “youth-serving” organizations that worked directly with youth in out-of-school-time settings, particularly young men of color ages 16-24, and “resource” organizations with demonstrated experience in mentorship, youth leadership, and/or digital literacy best practices.

Finally, Sprout supported a comprehensive planning process for the future of MBK by developing an in-depth action plan that resulted from an intensive series stakeholder feedback interviews and community conversations. The action plan was used to secure ongoing funding for the initiative at a new long-term organizational home.

My Brother’s Keeper

Program In Brief

Years Active


Digital Literacy Collaborative Partners


Case Studies


Collaborative Projects


Total Investment


Local Playbook

created in 2015


My Brother’s Keeper Program Recap

Learn more about Sprout’s efforts to support community efforts that create a more equitable community—especially for boys and young men of color.

MBK Digital Literacy Collaborative

The Digital Literacy Collaborative sought to create more inclusive community programming through the implementation of projects and activities that cultivated digital literacy skills connected to future employment for boys and young men of color. Through a series of 3 professional development and technical assistance sessions during Summer 2017, the youth-serving organizations and resource organizations worked together to refine plans for 2017-18 programming and create case studies illustrating examples of high-quality programming for the youth they served.

Funded Projects

The 5 Digital Literacy Collaborative youth-serving organizations each received project support to develop and implement new programming with their resource organization partner.

Case Studies

The 5 Digital Literacy Collaborative resource organizations developed case studies on programs that provided youth with opportunities to acquire technological, social, and academic skills that enhanced their quality of life and ability to secure employment. Resource organizations were encouraged to detail a program that also incorporated peer-supported mentorship, workforce development, and excellence in digital literacy training.

Coding Club

Coding Club

An AIU Alternative Education teacher pilots a free coding club for youth by utilizing’s high-quality, freely available resources.

JA Company Program

JA Company Program

Junior Achievement utilizes a blended learning format to help students explore the principles of entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and business success.

Manufacturing 2000 Machinist Training

Manufacturing 2000 Machinist Training

New Century Careers integrates theoretical knowledge with project-based, hands-on machining competency development using equipment prevalent within the region’s machining industry.

Pathway to a Technology Career

Pathway to a Technology Career

CCAC Homewood-Brushton enables youth interested in music technology and transitioning into college to take an entry-level course through the community college.

Technology Explorer

Technology Explorer

Computer Reach partners with the Boy Scouts to teach computer skills, explore tech-related career opportunities, and bring access to technology to the neighborhoods of the high school participants.

Planning Projects & Stakeholder Conversations

Best Practices for MBK Youth Programs

UrbanKind Institute facilitated conversations among young men, service providers, and other community members about out-of-school programming through a series of 7 public planning sessions in venues across Allegheny County. Based on the information generated by UrbanKind, Sprout identified the following programmatic recommendations for best practices to narrow the opportunity gap for youth in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Partnerships with schools

Schools often offer secure spaces and transportation options, which are desirable elements in program design. Meanwhile, many high-quality programs also exist outside of the traditional school context.

Consistency and care

Relationships between youth and program staff are critical but take time to build. Programs that retain participants are spaces where youth feel loved and listened to, and where they feel a sense of belonging and stability.

Clear expectations

Youth should know what is expected of them in terms of attendance and participation as well as the skills and experiences a program can (and cannot) offer so that they can make informed decisions about participation.

Peer and near-peer mentoring

When youth relate to a mentor socially and culturally, and are made responsible for a peer’s success, they learn valuable lessons in leadership and other beneficial social and professional skills.


Barriers to participation must be reduced or eliminated. Accessibility considerations include proximity to programs, public transportation, participation and registration costs, perception of promotional materials, and ADA compliance.

Continuum of program services

Programs should offer a continuous sequence of activities to choose from, go between, or grow into to expose youth to relevant opportunities and encourage interest in digital technology fields.

Year-round programming

Year-round programs build stronger peer and staff relationships with youth, offer more in-depth learning experiences, and provide consistent safe spaces for participants who are not otherwise supported at home or in-school.

Opportunities to stay connected

Providers should allow participants to stay involved even after youth finish high school and “age out.” Such youth build deeper relationships, serve as peer mentors, and help to shape future programming.

Hands-on activities with real world applications

Attractive programs engage participants in hands-on, experiential learning focused on life skills and/or college and career preparation, which often includes digital literacy programming.

Youth input

More personalized goal-setting, meeting youth where they are, and making participants part of the assessment process from the beginning of a new program are critical when setting the program’s goals and outcomes.

Planning for MBK in 2018 and Beyond

Sprout also facilitated a community-based planning process to inform the future of the My Brother’s Keeper Pittsburgh-Allegheny County initiative. The following activities were used to develop an action plan to guide the MBK initiative into 2018 and beyond.

Stakeholder Interviews

Stakeholder Interviews

Josiah Gilliam of HCV conducted a listening tour and gathered feedback from 21 stakeholders engaged in the MBK community.

Feedback Events

Feedback Events

Sprout facilitated 3 community feedback sessions to garner feedback from MBK stakeholders. These events occurred in the Hill District, McKees Rocks, and Homewood.

Community Survey

Community Survey

Sprout synthesized the findings from the interviews and community feedback events and released a digital survey to solicit additional feedback from the MBK Community.


Thank you to all those who made this program possible!


  • The Heinz Endowments


  • Allegheny County, Office of the Chief Executive
  • City of Pittsburgh, Office of the Mayor
  • Homewood Children’s Village
  • UrbanKind Institute


  • Diana Avart
  • Mac Howison 2016–2017
  • Ani Martinez 2016–2017
  • Dustin Stiver
  • Josiah Gilliam project manager at HCV