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Federal Urban Policy (General)

Social Innovation Fund: A Source of Place-based Funding?

The Corporation for National and Community Service today released a draft Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the $50 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF). As we reported earlier this year, Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone attended the initial roll out event at the White House in late June and was cited as an example of the kind of program the Fund is intended to support.

The SIF will provide $50 million in funding to 5-7 intermediary grantees that will, in turn, provide subgrants of $100,000 or more per year for 3-5 years to other nonprofits for innovative programs in low-income communities. Given Geoff Canada's presence at the White House event, it seems likely that some entity with an interest in place-based efforts will apply and receive funding. If so, this could be yet another source of funding for local place-based work.

Comments on the draft notice are due by January 15, 2010. The final notice is expected to be released in February.

Coalition for Community Schools Report on Promise Neighborhoods

The Coalition for Community Schools recently released a short brief on Promise Neighborhoods and Community Schools. The piece addresses two key elements- the general role of anchor institutions and the specific role of community schools as anchors.
The organization defines anchor institutions as “public or non-profit entities that are permanently rooted in specific locales – generating jobs, creating local business opportunities, and contributing in significant wants to the development of human, social and cultural capital.” These institutions include colleges and universities, hospitals and health centers, community-based youth development organizations, and schools.
Community schools can be traditional public schools, public charters, magnets schools, or alternative schools operated by local districts, CBOs, institutions of higher education, or educational management organizations. These schools are distinguished by extended hours, extended services, and close relationships with community resources. The Coalition has presented some useful tips in the documents, as these partnerships should prove to be important for the successful planning and implementation of Promise Neighborhoods.
The Coalition for Community Schools recently released a brief on Promise Neighborhoods and Community Schools. The piece addresses two key elements- the general role of anchor institutions and the specific role of community schools as anchors.

The report first suggests that anchor institutions should be at the core of providing services for Promise Neighborhoods:

Anchor institutions are public or non-profit entities that are permanently rooted in specific locales – generating jobs, creating local business opportunities, and contributing in significant ways to the development of human, social and cultural capital. Higher education institutions, hospitals and health centers, community-based youth development organizations, and schools are some of the most important anchor institutions that may be in, or near, a Promise Neighborhood. Engaging the leadership of these institutions as partners in a Promise Neighborhood and mobilizing their assets will be vital to the success of the effort.

The report also strongly suggests that “community schools can and should be an integral part of any Promise Neighborhood,” defining these schools with the following:

Community schools have extended hours and extended services as well as deep and purposeful relationships with community resources. The vision of the community school has the school building open all year, all day and well into the evening, involving an array of community partners working together around a set of shared outcomes to a) develop the academic social, emotional, physical and civic competencies of students; b) strengthen families so they can support their children’s education and contribute to the community; and c) provide various opportunities and support to community residents.

The Coalition has presented some useful tips in this document, highlighting key partnerships that may be useful for communities gearing up for the initiative.

"Race to the Top" for Promise Neighborhood Funding?

Earlier this month Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the finalization of rules for the Race to the Top Fund. According to the administration, this competitive program seeks to awards grants to “States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform.”

After its initial unveiling in July, the Department of Education solicited feedback from stakeholders that helped inform its guidelines for the initiative. Now that the final rules have been released, states have until mid-January to enter the first round of the competition. (Note: The Department will be holding two technical assistance workshops in the next week or two, and more info on these events can be found here.)

Unlike the Department’s locally-focused i3 Fund, the Race to the Top Fund does not target schools systems or community based organizations as grant recipients. However, there still may be an opportunity here for groups interested Promise Neighborhoods.

Recently Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle announced that part of the state’s application for the competition would include provisions for “Milwaukee Children’s Zones.” This suggests that state-sponsored initiatives geared toward place-based strategies are not necessarily off limits for these applications.

Funding Promise Neighborhoods in Cash Strapped Cities

This Thursday the Brookings Institution is co-hosting a forum with the National League of Cities on urban fiscal conditions. After a presentation a number of mayors from across the country will share their how their localities have been impacted by the struggling national economy.
Elsewhere, a recent survey of 150 cities conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors uncovered a number of startling trends that speak to this phenomenon:
Two-thirds of the cities project that they will experience a budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.
Nearly three-fourths of the mayors (74 percent) report that cuts in state funding to their cities (either grants or passed-through revenues) have contributed to their budget shortfalls.
Actions most often being taken to avoid budget shortfalls this year include postponing projects or initiatives (by 81 percent), eliminating city positions through attrition (by 75 percent), and reducing purchasing and procurement (by 73 percent).
More than four in five mayors responding (81 percent) anticipate a budget shortfall in their next fiscal year.
These trends are important for potential Promise Neighborhood applicants to consider, as the administration has emphasized the need for matching dollars. With fiscally challenged municipalities offering increasingly scarce resources, coalitions hoping to secure Promise Neighborhood grants should consider a variety of alternatives to support their funding match.
This Thursday the Brookings Institution is co-hosting a forum with the National League of Cities on urban fiscal conditions. After a presentation a number of mayors from across the country will share how their localities have been impacted by the struggling national economy. As the Brookings has noted:

Given the normal lag time of 18-24 months between changes in the economic cycle and its impact on city fiscal conditions, local officials anticipate that the next year or two will bring large-scale city government layoffs, deep cuts to local government services, and halted or delayed capital projects. Just as federal stimulus package spending trails off, city fiscal dynamics could well place a serious drag on economic recovery.

Elsewhere, a recent survey of 150 cities conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors uncovered a number of startling trends that speak to this phenomenon:

  • Two-thirds of the responding cities project that they will experience a budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.
  • More than four in five (81 percent) anticipate a budget shortfall in their next fiscal year.
  • Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) report that cuts in state funding to their cities (either grants or passed-through revenues) have contributed to their budget shortfalls.
  • Actions most often being taken to avoid budget shortfalls this year include: postponing projects or initiatives (81 percent), eliminating city positions through attrition (75 percent), and reducing purchasing and procurement (73 percent).

These trends are important for potential Promise Neighborhood applicants to consider, as the administration has emphasized the need for local matching dollars. With fiscally challenged municipalities offering increasingly scarce resources, coalitions hoping to secure Promise Neighborhood grants may need to consider alternatives, including community foundations and corporate philanthropies, to provide matching funds.

Recap from the HCZ Conference

Earlier this week we traveled to New York City to attend the "Changing the Odds: Learning from the Harlem Children's Zone Model” conference. Co-hosted by the HCZ and PolicyLink, the two day conference was filled to capacity with 1,400 attendees from over 100 cities and had a 400 person waiting list. A number or resources including speeches, media coverage, and relevant reports are now available online and accessible on the HCZ website.

Speakers included:

  • Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, U.S. Dept. of Education
  • Melody Barnes, Director, White House Domestic Policy Council
  • Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder & CEO, PolicyLink
  • Geoffrey Canada, President & CEO, Harlem Children's Zone
  • Kenneth Chenault, Chairman & CEO, American Express
  • Marian Wright Edelman, Founder & President, Children's Defense Fund
  • Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City

All of the speakers gave well-received remarks, but Secretary Duncan’s closing speech was especially exciting for UNCA as he referenced our founder Jane Addams and the settlement house movement.

Now there are two great traditions of social programs that Promise Neighborhoods will draw from that also have been woven through my own life. The first tradition is the century‐old community school movement, which really has its roots in Chicago. Jane Addams’ Hull House—the famous settlement house Addams established in 1899‐‐provided recreation, college extension classes, kindergarten, book talks, visiting nurses, art exhibits, and legal services to poor immigrants. Addams believed that the problems of poverty were interconnected, requiring a holistic response.

Were you in attendance at the conference? If so, feel free to share your ideas, comments, and feedback.

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by Dr. Radut