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Upcoming Community Schools Forum Focuses on Strong Schools, Strong Neighborhoods

The following is a guest blog post from Martin Blank and Reuben Jacobson at the Coalition for Community Schools and Institute for Educational Leadership. The Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership, is an alliance of national, state and local organizations in education K-16, youth development, community planning and development, family support, health and human services, government and philanthropy as well as national, state and local community school networks.Their upcoming national forum will take place April 9-11, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Strong neighborhoods require strong schools. Strong schools require strong neighborhoods. That’s what teachers, community members and organizers, nonprofit and higher education leaders, faith-based groups, United Ways, and neighborhood leaders will be talking about at the 2014 Community Schools National Forum in Cincinnati April 9-11.
A community school functions as a unique and essential center of the neighborhood -- a place where the resources of school and community are aligned to support students’ academic and non-academic development. Together with community partners, including human services nonprofits of many kinds, community schools provide academic, physical, social, emotional, and enrichment opportunities and supports to our nation’s vulnerable children; and they strengthen families so that they are better able to support their children’s education.
The theme for this year’s Forum is Community Schools: The Engine of Opportunity. It’s a theme that reflects our commitment to equal opportunity for all students, and the belief that that community schools, with their deep and sustained partnerships between schools and community organizations and institutions, are the “engine” that will prepare our young people to succeed. This Forum comes at a key moment in time. There is a growing conversation about the importance of student engagement in learning, and the influence of out-of-school factors, including poverty, on student achievement. Community schools and their partners work in both areas knowing that there is no “silver bullet,” no one program, that can accomplish the work we need to increase opportunity, decrease inequity and help young people succeed.
The conference is being held in Cincinnati because of their successful Community Learning Centers initiative that has recently been featured on NBC’s Education Nation, Marketplace, and The New York Times. This district-wide community school strategy (community schools are called ‘community learning centers’ in Cincinnati), represents a unique and sustained partnership between the school district, school board, teachers union, and more than 400 community partner organizations. Cincinnati is demonstrating how partnerships can help schools fulfill their core academic mission while offering students the opportunities and supports they need and deserve to thrive.
The Forum will cover a variety of topics such as community organizing and community schools, the relationship between community schools and other place-based initiatives (including Promise Neighborhoods and Cradle-to-Career); engaging learning; expanded learning; and family community and engagement.
In addition to engaging site visits and workshops, the Forum will include presentations from: Christopher Edley, Co-Chair of the Commission on Excellence and Equity; Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the California Senate Education Committee; Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra; Rev. William Barber, Chair North Carolina NAACP; Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President, Annie E. Casey Foundation; Hedy Chang, Director, Attendance Works; Michael McAfee, Director, Promise Neighborhoods Institute; Dianne Piche, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Joseph Bishop, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; and Ira Harkavy, Director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.
To learn more about the Forum and to register, please go to www.communityschools.org.

Call for Presentations for Neighborhood Revitalization Conference 2014

The 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference, to be held July 24-25 in Washington, DC, is now accepting workshop proposals. The Conference brings together stakeholders in comprehensive community building. In its fourth year, the conference will focus on the theme of leveraging federal, philanthropic and local investments to ensure success and sustainability. Senior administration officials, policymakers and others will provide updates on federal efforts, while thought leaders and practitioners will describe efforts in the field.
The conference will feature up to 20 workshops, lasting 90 minutes each. Areas of interest for workshop content include: Measuring that Matters, Frontiers of Knowledge, Engaging All Voices, Innovative Financing Approaches, and Partnering with Purpose. Other workshop content areas germane to the field of neighborhood revitalization will also be considered. Please see the full Call for Presentations to learn more about each focus area and to find out how to submit your workshop idea.
We are proud to announce that this year’s conference will feature a special skill-building component in the focus area of Engaging All Voices. These sessions will use an interactive, hands-on format to introduce practical tools and techniques, and will progress from beginner to intermediate to advanced levels of skill building. You are welcome to submit a workshop that fits in to this track.
The conference typically attracts approximately 350 participants that include nonprofit practitioners at all levels; academic and other thought leaders; government representatives from the local, regional, and federal levels; foundation representatives; and investors interested in the future of neighborhood revitalization work. All presentation ideas must be submitted by Friday, March 21.
We look forward to an exciting and informative conference full of diverse topics from presenters around the country! Send in your presentation ideas soon!

Training Opportunity: Webinar on Place-Based Performance Management

Social Solutions is offering a free webinar Thursday, February 27 entitled “Performance Management in Place-Based Solutions: Experiences of a Choice and Promise Neighborhood.” The webinar will feature two non-profit organizations effectively utilizing data to manage performance outcomes for place-based initiatives. They will share examples of reports and data they use internally to ensure program fidelity, and also externally in order to ensure beneficial relationships with partners. The webinar will also include practical experiences and lessons learned from collaborative agreements on what data should be measured, how data will be shared across partners, and what formal agreements must be in place.

The two non-profit organizations featured are The Community Builders, Inc., the lead agency on Cincinnati, Ohio’s Choice Neighborhood implementation grant, and Alliance member agency the Youth Policy Institute, the lead agency on Los Angeles’ Promise Neighborhood initiative and the recently-announced Promise Zone initiative. Both of these organizations bring invaluable real-world experience, including challenges and lessons-learned, from enacting comprehensive and cross-sector neighborhood revitalization projects.

Social Solutions provides software and other solutions to promote “efforts to outcomes” data measurement and improve performance management among the human services sector. They also engage in a wide array of advocacy efforts intended to build awareness and transform the way in which human services are delivered, funded, and evaluated.

White House Announces Seven New SC2 Communities

Last week, the White House officially announced that seven new communities will participate in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative. The seven communities to receive the SC2 designation this year are Brownsville, TX; Flint, MI; Gary, IN; Macon, GA; Rockford, IL; St. Louis, MO; and Rocky Mount, NC. SC2 is “an innovative and flexible program designed to strengthen local capacity, coordinate federal investments, and spark growth in economically distressed communities.” Cities participating in the initiative receive the assistance of federal inter-agency teams working alongside local government and organizations to address problems of persistent poverty.
The seven new cities will try to replicate the success seen in the first class of SC2 participants-- Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; and Youngstown, OH. Each of these seven pilot cities received help from a federal SC2 team beginning in 2012 to improve efficiency of services and better use hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. Projects in SC2 cities focus on economic development, housing, transportation, public safety, and public health. SC2 is an integral piece of the Obama administration’s commitment to place-based neighborhood revitalization policy and creating “ladders of opportunity” for communities blighted by long-term poverty.
Ron Clewer, CEO of Alliance member organization the Rockford Housing Authority, expressed excitement about what the designation means for the people of Rockford: “Originally being placed on the list as a possible applicant comes with the challenge of recognizing your community's struggles and opportunities. Being named an SC2 City is a great opportunity for us (public and private leadership) to better align our organizations and programs for the greatest potential improvement for our community.”
A key feature of SC2 is creating strategic partnerships between private, non-profit, and government resources to find sustainable solutions tailored to the needs of a specific community. Every community is unique and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to spur community and economic development. The administration is also committed to measuring the impacts of SC2 and other neighborhood revitalization initiatives. In April 2013, the White House released the first Annual Report on SC2. We encourage you to read the report on the first year of SC2, as well as project descriptions from the first class of SC2 designees and the newest class. This type of programming represents a new direction in federal policy and shows a welcome commitment to neighborhood revitalization at the Executive level.

Save the Date: 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference July 23-25

We are pleased to announce that the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference is scheduled for July 23-25 in Washington, DC. This year’s Neighborhood Revitalization Conference, presented by the Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building at the Alliance for Children and Families, will be held at the Capital Hilton hotel.
Please continue to follow this blog as well as our website and social media for updated information on conference agendas, events, pricing, and hotel reservations. We hope that you will save the date and join us for the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference!


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by Dr. Radut