Ready for Work’s Lessons for Investors Interested in Supporting Initiatives Designed to Improve Youth Outcomes

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 highlights the role of backbone organizations—or organizations that are involved in funding and implementing large-scale initiatives—for investors interested in assuming the role of a funder and facilitator in school-based initiatives. We hope that the lessons and recommendations provided here will shed light on how VPP built relationships and leveraged investments from key investors and innovators to build a successful school-based initiative.

The brief begins with an overview of key successes and challenges experienced during the implementation of Ready for Work. Next, we offer recommendations for investors in similar initiatives—based largely on key takeaways learned from the stakeholders who collaborated to support the initiative’s continued efforts, including Suitland High School’s (SHS) staff and administration, Prince George’s County staff involved in programming, nonprofit partner staff, and investors.

We note that, while COVID-19 has likely reshaped the role of investors in initiatives like Ready for Work, the lessons presented here are still applicable to investors interested in learning more about Ready for Work or investing in similar initiatives.


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 Investors Interested in Supporting Initiatives Designed to Improve Youth Outcomes. Child Trends.