Manhattan Institute’s Civil Society Awards

Manhattan Institute’s Civil Society Awards


Sal Khan. Reid Porter. Brandon Chrostowski. As one looks back over the more than a decade of
these awards, you see some of the most pressing social problems in America
being addressed by private individuals with predominantly private financial support. We at the Manhattan Institute believe there are limits to what can be
done well by government. That a vibrant, innovative civil society needs to be
there to address emergent social problems and that’s what we’re
recognizing and we think nurturing through these awards program. GlamourGals is
a great example of a program that is deceptively simple: Teenage girls are
volunteering their time at nursing homes. They work on the fingernails they
make up the elderly women, but at the same time they’re having a conversation. You can imagine all sorts of complex public programs to reduce isolation
among the elderly but here’s something that’s doing exactly that that just came
from one young woman’s head. “Today at the makeover a mom pulled me aside to say
this has changed my daughter’s life.” “I chose this piece because more and more
these days, I see girls everywhere struggling with their self-confidence
and self-image.” “Rich and wealthy, far beyond his eyes telling his story, called
the hood life, and how he held his own.” The New Jersey Orators seek to help kids
learn how to present themselves well. It’s predicated on the idea that you
won’t get a job unless you know how to go in and sell yourself, speak well, make
eye contact. “This organization is totally volunteer
and if there were more organizations like this, you could address that
achievement gap. And I know there are. Who are passionate about putting positive programs in place.” Ten years ago the last thing on Luma
Mufleh’s mind was starting a school to help refugee children catch up
academically to their American peers but that was before she took a wrong turn in
suburban Atlanta and came upon a group of children playing soccer. Today she’s
going on to build a school which goes far beyond sports. “You have to have the
highest possible standard, not ‘oh they’re poor refugee kids let’s just get someone
in the room.’ No, we know all the kids speak a different language at home but
at school we want you to learn English and it’s a complete immersion.” The results are a miracle. She relies on the sort of private philanthropy that’s in
short supply elsewhere and we can only wish that many others will follow The Harlem Children’s Zone does what it
calls “cradle-to-college interventions” with the most economically disadvantaged,
socially disadvantaged kids in America The striking thing about the Harlem Children’s Zone
is that the founder, Geoffrey Canada, conceived the idea himself. He said ‘I have a
better way to approach this problem of uplifting disadvantaged kids. I’m gonna
seek support for that way.’ And that’s what he did. “I fundamentally believe that
these poor kids who have every social ill you can… you name one, we got it.” “All of my kids are gonna go to college.” You can, with hard work, save all the kids. It’s our goal also to help the
organizations that we’re recognizing. Linking them to new donors, bringing them
to wider attention so that they can continue to grow. “The receipt of
Manhattan Institute award it has given us the opportunity to bring in more
funds, to bring in a lot more volunteers who want to come on board and grow with us.” Our award winners are part of a very well-established American tradition of
private individuals thinking they can do something about public problems. And what
we’re doing is looking across the country for the new versions of those.

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