The Rita Allen Foundation, after working with Normal Next in 2020 to develop an emergency response mechanism for foundations, funded exploration of a new way to quickly prepare young people to work together on complex, multidimensional tasks. The program, currently called C/Corps and still in development, gives young people the structure and skills to provide world-class capacity to professionals who are solving society’s most pressing problems. C/Corps teams consist of 4-6 young people mentored by a mid-career professional and a senior domain expert during their tenure on the Corps. Teams undergo rigorous training in design thinking, systems thinking, communication, and teamwork before being deployed on three-month projects confronting pressing public issues. In addition to providing excess public capacity, C/Corps will create a pool of young professionals with the frameworks, processes, and training to address complex societal problems in the future. C/Corps has completed several rounds of prototyping in partnership with the Rita Allen Foundation and the Civic Science Fellows including projects: Philanthropy 911 and Civic Science Communication. We have several additional projects with the Rita Allen Foundation planned this year.

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Culture of Health Leaders 

Normal Next was hired in August 2020 to help reimagine the RWJF Culture of Health Leaders program for a remote-first world, ensuring the vibrant 3-year fellowship program of 300 health/race-equity leaders, could thrive during the pandemic and work seamlessly between convenings once people can gather together again. After interviewing several dozen program participants we saw that an online community would embrace the momentum of the program’s existing model while also providing participants ongoing support and a way to create a lasting network effect. Our contract was expanded to evaluate and stand up a community technology platform while also helping the program officers bridge offline and online community building practices, hire and train a dedicated community manager, and prepare the program for long-term repeatable success. We will begin onboarding program participants into the online community spring 2021.

Jacksonville History of American Music Museum

We are supporting efforts by the Jacksonville Historical Society to create a museum that brings the community together across racial, economic, and generational divides by showing how the city’s incredible musical history comes from a fusion of musical influences that have all influenced each other. Jacksonville is best known as the birthplace of the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, and other bands often lumped together under the heading of “Southern Rock.” However, Jacksonville was also where the Blues was performed and recorded for the first time, according to some historians. Jazz pioneers such as Jelly Roll Morton and Ray Charles launched their careers in Jacksonville. James Weldon Johnson, a Jacksonville native and scholar, diplomat, and artist of national renown wrote Lift Every Voice and Sing, considered to be the Black National Anthem (and sung at this year’s Super Bowl by Alicia Keys.) And 12-yr old Keedron Bryant was signed to Warner Brothers Records, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, and name-checked by President Obama in 2020 for his music about social justice.

Jacksonville Resiliency Project

Jacksonville is by far the largest city in the United States by land area: more than three Chicagos and more than fifteen San Franciscos could fit in Jacksonville’s city limits. Yet the city is very sparsely populated, with less than a million residents. The city has a very large waterfront area, since it is divided by the Saint Johns and its tributaries which are all tidal, making it subject to extensive flooding and storm damage. The city has historically underinvested in infrastructure, with tens of thousands of residents still depending on septic systems. Enabling the city to withstand and recover from the effects of climate change and baseline weather events is a complex engineering, planning, and financial challenge, and decisions made at each stage have serious implications for equity within the community. Working with the NE Florida Regional Council and Pace University in NY, we are trying to help the City Council learn from best practices around the country as they hire their first-ever Chief Resiliency Officer.