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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.

White House Announces Inaugural “Promise Zones”

Last week, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Obama reiterated his long-standing commitment to neighborhood revitalization and community building by announcing the first five “Promise Zones.” Each community designated a Promise Zone will be targeted for comprehensive, interagency, cooperative assistance with projects aimed at fighting poverty and blight. Up to 20 Promise Zones will be designated in the next four years. The first five are: San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
 
The Promise Zones initiative grew out of the White House’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), meant to encourage place-based policy development and interagency cooperation for the purpose of creating “Ladders of Opportunity” out of poverty for some of the country’s most-blighted communities. Through NRI, low income neighborhoods were targeted for community-based housing, education, and public safety projects that prioritized local needs and resident-centered decision making. NRI and Promise Zones both acknowledge that every community is unique and so needs individualized responses to fighting poverty.
 
Eligible applicants were limited in the first round of Promise Zone designations to existing NRI grantees, but the next round will be open to any community that meets the eligibility criteria. The application may be available as early as February, 2014. For more information about each of the five new Promise Zones, read below.
 
Los Angeles, CA (Neighborhoods of Pico Union, Westlake, Koreatown, Hollywood, and East Hollywood): Los Angeles’ Promise Zone will work toward increasing housing affordability, expanding their existing community schools model, improving career and technical education opportunities, improved public transit infrastructure, and charging local political leadership with improving efficiency.
 
We are pleased to announce that Alliance member agency the Youth Policy Institute is a lead partner in LA’s Promise Zone. Dixon Slingerland, Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute, said of the announcement:
 
“It was an honor for me to join Mayor Eric Garcetti at the White House last week for President Obama’s historic announcement that Los Angeles had been designated as a Promise Zone, one of only three cities selected in the nation. YPI is proud to be the lead partner with the City in this effort and to be the only agency in the country to have been awarded all three White House signature neighborhood revitalization initiatives — Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, and Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation. YPI believes, as the President does, that a child’s zip code should never determine her destiny.”
 
San Antonio, TX (Eastside Neighborhood): San Antonio’s Promise Zone will focus on job creation and training, the establishment of high quality pre-K programs, improved college access and adult education initiatives, and improved public safety through better street lighting and demolishing abandoned buildings.
 
Philadelphia, PA (West Philadelphia): Philadelphia’s Promise Zone will focus on improved job skills training and adult education, small business development, building a supermarket in the West Philadelphia neighborhood to provide both jobs and better quality food, mentoring middle and high school youth for college readiness, and better community-based policing efforts.
 
Southeastern Kentucky (Kentucky Highlands): In the Kentucky Highlands, the Promise Zone will help to diversify the economy and make it more resilient by leveraging private sector funds to grow small businesses, training youth in entrepreneurship and leadership, and developing metrics to evaluate college and career readiness.
 
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma: The Choctaw Nation’s Promise Zone will focus on improved workforce training, investing in infrastructure, improving education through better data sharing, more parent supports, and early literacy initiatives, and pursuing economic diversification.

Civic Engagement Fellowship Program Now Accepting Applications

The Alliance for Children and Families is now accepting applications for its fourth cohort of New Voices Civic Engagement Fellows to be selected in January, 2014. The fellowship is designed to recognize and fuel the leadership of individuals who are involved in civic engagement work at the local and regional level. Selected fellowship projects are designed to embolden staff and community leaders, while simultaneously building the civic engagement capacity of the human service sector.
 
Successful applicants will receive $8,000 to implement a civic engagement project at their sponsoring organization. The 2014 New Voices Civic Engagement Fellows will implement a self-designed action plan for boosting community advocacy, convene with the cohort four times during the year, participate in a two-and-a-half-day cohort gathering, and organize and host one civic engagement training opportunity for Alliance members.
 
Applications are accepted now through December 13, 2013, and are open to individuals connected to Alliance for Children and Families and United Neighborhood Centers of America (UNCA) member organizations. Individuals can be staff, volunteers, partners, or have some other connection. If you or someone you know is a budding civic engagement leader, consider this opportunity to increase engagement and advocacy in your community. Apply now!

HUD Releases “An Early Look at Choice Neighborhoods”

Collaborative, place-based planning for neighborhood revitalization in areas of concentrated poverty is certainly a common-sense idea with a lot of intuitive appeal. But what do the data say? The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is trying to examine just that with an ongoing, systemic evaluation of the Choice Neighborhoods program. Piloted in 2010, Choice Neighborhoods is HUD’s piece of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a federal effort to implement integrative, cross-agency, place-based policy solutions for communities blighted by long-term concentrated poverty.
 
A new interim report, entitled An Early Look at Choice Neighborhoods, takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to monitoring the impacts of Choice Neighborhoods on five of the original implementation sites. The report includes a baseline measurement of community characteristics such as housing stock, demographics, poverty, unemployment, and violent crime in the five neighborhoods. This helpful baseline will be used to assess the impacts of Choice Neighborhoods.
 
The quality and thoroughness of the report is a promising sign for just how seriously HUD is taking the budding Choice Neighborhoods initiative. Ongoing monitoring will help to identify any problems at an early and hopefully minor stage. It also signals the interest in sustaining the impacts of the program long beyond the grant terms. Hopefully, the seriousness with which HUD and the Choice Neighborhood teams are treating the demonstration of impact is a sign of a sea change in community development policy; moving away from a quick-fix mentality informed by the latest ideology and toward holistic, long-term commitments better informed by the unique needs of neighborhoods.

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by Dr. Radut