One of the downfalls of many social justice or public service organizations is their desire to be noticed. In an effort to get press and coverage, they can sometimes forget why they do the work they do in the first place. Ego can ruin the mission of an organization. But, being noticed is of no concern to the Pinkerton Foundation, which has been doing their good work for fifty years without fanfare, ego or a need for accolades. They prefer to do their good work away from the public eye by providing funding to a variety of organizations in New York City who are on the ground, day-to-day working to change the lives of our cities most vulnerable members: young people.
By funding, partnering with, and building bridges between various organizations, the Pinkerton Foundation has supported and continues to support a network of programs and experiences that are life changing. As a Peace Educator, what I find most striking about the Pinkerton Foundation's work is their effort at addressing Root Causes such as poverty, social inequality and other forms of structural violence. Instead of paying lip service to these big picture issues, they create or fund programs and partnerships that offer real opportunities for young people to change the system that oppresses and marginalizes them.
With programs in literacy, capacity building, youth justice and science, to name a few, the Pinkerton Foundation has been instrumental in empowering children and adolescents to become agents of change. Working with the framework that too many youth and children are marginalized racially, economically and socially, they put their support into Community Based Organizations and targeted programs that help to create "credible messenger mentors", or in other words, they help kids find other kids (or young adults) who look, talk, think, and live like they do to foster engagement. The Pinkerton Fellows - a partnership with John Jay College - is just one example of a program wherein enlightened and engaged activist youth are paired with organizations that allow them to mentor kids 'just like them'. The learning becomes a two-way street; the older mentors learn from the younger kids and the younger kids have a college age role model/mentor who has lived a life similar to theirs....and they all work together to address issues that they see as problematic, such as prison reform and youth justice.
What I like most is the simplicity with which the Pinkerton Foundation approaches their work: Find organizations doing good work. Respect their work and expertise. Help them do that work. Stay in touch. Build Connections. And much of the Pinkerton mission is completely consistent with current research in adolescent psychology and resiliency studies: the value of a caring adult, the importance of out-of-school time, the need to develop 'grit' and the benefit of being part of engaging activities. It seems like a simple formula, one that any of us who work with youth should recognize and emulate.