NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg is doing something really noble, it was reported today. He is spending some of his personal foundation money to help black and Latino male youths stay away from jail and become more employable and more employed. Total dollars spent will be $130 million. If handled well, it will improve the quality of life of this group of young men who index high for lives of crime, becoming baby daddies but not husbands, jail time and recidivism.
I’ve read about a number of the program tactics and many are well thought out. Morning remedial classes and skills training tied to afternoon paid internships. Re-training 500 probation officers. 900 paid mentors. Yoga for anger management. Computer skills classes. Lots of tactics, but no strategy. I’m not feeling a “see something, say something.”
Before Mr. Bloomberg gets out the checkbook and feeds the tactics mill he needs to get the strategy right. The young men who are most at risk are angry. Besides their anger sometimes all they have is pride or false pride. Not being a good reader or student does not create a prideful environment for a man walking into a classroom.
Fear also surrounds this class of young men. The fear they create in outsiders. The fear these young men instill in each other which is coin of the realm. The fear of losing control when trying to climb out…or of appearing to sell out.
Before the first million is spend on this important program, behavioral planners need to understand the fear and the anger. Really understand it. With that understanding, working with brand planners they need to craft a strategy. Don’t hire Jay-Z. Don’t offer up Amare. Find a strategy that works on the street. Not above it. Peace!