Ready for Work’s Lessons for Backbone Organizations in School-Based Initiatives

Research BriefYouth & Young Adult EmploymentDec 21 2022

Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) is a philanthropic organization that utilizes the venture capital model of investing to assist and partner with nonprofits in the Greater Washington, DC region.1 In 2010, VPP created the youthCONNECT Network in the Washington metropolitan area—an effort to bring together high-performing nonprofit organizations to better the educational achievement, career outcomes, and healthy behaviors of youth ages 14 to 24.1 In 2015, VPP added youthCONNECT to Ready for Work, its initiative to promote career- and college-readiness among high school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland.


Ready for Work—a collaboration between VPP, Prince George’s County, and five local nonprofit organizations—was a three-pronged strategy to improve student outcomes in three Prince George’s County high schools: Suitland High School, High Point High School, and Oxon Hill High School.  The three Ready for Work strategies are as follows:

  1. Strengthen career and technical education programs.
  2. Expand VPP’s youthCONNECT model.
  3. Provide students with meaningful work experiences.

This brief is one of five products that summarize key findings from Child Trends’ implementation evaluation of the three Ready for Work strategies. The information in this brief is relevant for organizations that are keenly interested in becoming, or seeking, investors and innovators in collaborative initiatives that involve multi-sector partnerships. The recommendations provide insights on developing and maintaining community-based partnerships.

In this brief, we discuss lessons learned from VPP’s role as the backbone organization for Ready for Work, a role in which VPP facilitated multi-sector partnerships for Ready for Work; we also provide an overview of factors that must be considered to achieve successful buy-in to a similar initiative. VPP stresses the importance of high-quality partnerships in its investments by adopting any role necessary to support collaborative initiatives. The findings here are especially relevant as organizations like VPP reimagine their roles as investors and innovators in collaborative initiatives after the global COVID-19 pandemic.


1 Investment Profile – Ready for Work. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Suggested citation

Carney, M., Peckoo, S., Gilbertsen, J., & Andrews, & K. (2022). Ready for Work’s Lessons for Backbone Organizations and Investors in School-Based Initiatives. Child Trends.