Innovation on Behalf of Young People
innovative events in Boston’s recent history have both benefited
the young people of the city and created dynamic models for other
cities—and in one case the entire nation. One was path-breaking
it brought together groups that had rarely worked in unison in the
past and became a model for an entire generation of Boston-founded
public-private partnerships. The other began as a small Boston-based
idea and grew into the favorite program of a President of the United
States, resulting in a far-reaching government funded initiative.
Both strengthened ties between Boston’s adults and the young
people that, to them, represent the future.
The Boston Compact
The Boston Compact is Boston’s historic, flagship agreement
that laid the foundation for public school improvement and guaranteed
the commitment of the business and higher education communities
to Boston Public School graduates. The Compact’s scale and
longevity made it stand apart, and helped to spawn other similar
efforts in other cities—and other public/ private partnerships
Through the first Compact, signed in 1982, the business community—represented
by the Private Industry Council—committed summer jobs and
priority hiring policies for students. Higher education institutions—represented
by the Boston Higher Education Partnership—pledged scholarships
and priority admissions for Boston graduates. The Boston Public
Schools committed to improving the schools in concrete ways that
would be measured by test scores, increased attendance, and reduced
The development of the Compact would have been an important innovation
in any city. But, coming eight years after Boston had been torn
apart by racial violence associated with the integration of the
Boston Public Schools through busing, it was nothing short of astounding.
The Compact’s mutual accountability arrangement—the
contributions of each stakeholder being contingent up on the contributions
of others—was unique at the time. City leaders who generally
did not work together did so through the Compact and, while there
had been individual partnerships of a similar kind in other cities,
a multilateral agreement of this sort had never been developed before.
The Compact has lasted for more than 20 years.
In fact, it became the first of many public-private partnerships
in Boston in the late 1980s and 1990s—and paved the way for
the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools, the first
private endowment to fund public education in the country.
The Significance of City Year
The home page
of City Year’s website opens with the engaging challenge,
“Young enough to want to change the world—Old enough
to do it!” This visionary program, founded in 1988, provides
high school and college-age students with the opportunity to devote
a year of their lives to rigorous community service and civic engagement.
City Year began as privately-funded, non-governmental, non-religious
movement. Today, it is a program of Americorps, which was inspired
by its innovative model. Every day, it continues to change the world
and the way we live in it in significant ways.
City Year is now a program of Americorps,
which was inspired by its innovative model
City Year members volunteer in a myriad of social settings, including
public schools where they mentor students and organize character
development and leadership building programs. City Year volunteers
assemble for an annual “Convention of Idealism,” where
they share ideas and goals with corporate and civic leaders. They
lead moving celebrations of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
each year on the national holiday. In exchange
for these activities and much more, volunteers receive an educational
stipend—and a world of experience.
Based on an idea developed by two Harvard Law Students, Alan Khazei
and Michael Brown, City Year began with a pilot project in Boston
involving 50 members. Its subsequent local success helped the organization
grow to its current size: some 8,000 members and alumni, aged 17
to 24 years, spanning 15 cities and 11 million cumulative hours
of service. Most recently, groundwork has been laid to expand the
program globally to include Johannesburg, South Africa.