The Words of the Hyun Jin Moon
Program facilitators and GPFF staff at the close of Atlanta's
summer Character Competencies program.
The city of Atlanta is known historically as the "Gateway to the South." From the perspective of the Global Peace Festival Foundation's team in Atlanta, it is becoming the "gateway" to the entire United States on the basis of the programs pioneered here recently.
The goal was to address significant social challenges being faced in the Atlanta area through introducing initiatives in GPFF's three core focus areas: interfaith, family, and service. Inspired by his experience at the Global Peace Convention in the Philippines in 2009, Georgia State Senator Emanuel Jones agreed to become the chairman of GPF-Atlanta.
There followed a meeting in January that included Carlis Williams, administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services, Region IV, former Congressman Earl Hilliard, Rev. Mark Farr of the Points of Light Institute, Jim Flynn, senior vice president of GPFF along with Rev. Paul Murray, executive director of GPFF-USA, and Alan Inman, a GPFF consultant. The conclusion was that Atlanta would welcome a GPFF initiative and a partnership was formed to make it happen.
The rest, as they say, is history. The group quickly developed plans to attract substantial partners in and around Atlanta. As a result, partnerships and coalitions have formed around each of the three focus areas and have launched substantial programming.
For example, in the area of family issues, Alan Inman for GPFF, and the DHSS' Administration for Children and Families in Region IV, partnered to launch the Strengthening Families and Communities Coalition -- Atlanta in July. With the direct support of Carlis Williams, GPFF has since able to convene around 40 agencies and organizations that have set up structured committees to focus on priority family concerns in the Atlanta area.
These committees are: School Drop Out; Violence Prevention among Youth; Teenage Pregnancy Prevention; and Economic Development and Financial Literacy. The organizations involved represent diverse fields including government (federal, state and city), academic, NGO's, faith and business.
The faith, and service sectors of GPFF are rapidly gaining momentum also as the Global Peace Youth Corps, the division of GPFF that mobilizes young people in service and other projects, engages more and more youth pastors and youth organizations.
One of the most significant accomplishments in this area during the past summer was the introduction of GPFF's Character Competencies Program to the summer youth employment initiative rolled out by the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency. This came about because the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, recognized the value this program could add to the city's summer youth employment program.
Atlanta provided summer jobs for 1700 young people through the Georgia Teenwork Program but many of them were ill-prepared for a work environment. The Character Competencies Program offered the 318 youth who registered for it interactive training in four areas: attitude; communication; conflict resolution and anger management; and problem solving. City supervisors saw noticeable improvement in the students who attended the program and 314 of them had jobs by summer's end.
The program succeeded in part because of the unique partnership between government at the federal, state and city level and a private non-profit group. The City of Atlanta, the Georgia State Human Services Department, the Federal Administration for Children and Families, and the Global Peace Festival Foundation worked closely to bring together all the elements needed to ensure the success of the program, documented by the University of Missouri. A team from the school conducted a final evaluation and identified a number of measurable positive effects on the participants.
Looking forward to next year, GPFF is already discussing plans to extend the program to all the participants in Atlanta's summer jobs program. The team is also with the ACF in the region to expand the program into other cities.
Meanwhile GPFF is working with its various coalition partners in the Atlanta area to hold a Global Peace Festival in the city in December. The festival would showcase the programs launched by the coalition in 2010 and highlight their impact. It would also mobilize greater support and help build capacity so that the programs can achieve still more in 2011.