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Congressional Black Caucus Addresses Youth Unemployment

Title:  Congressional Black Caucus Addresses Youth Unemployment
The Congressional Black Caucus hosted a hearing entitled "Out of Work But Not Out of Hope: Addressing the Crisis of the Chronically Unemployed."
The panel brought together local and national leaders along with policy experts and practitioners to address the widespread unemployment that has been brought on by the recession. Participants included National Urban League CEO Marc H Morial, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, and Reverend Jesse Jackson.
The third of the event's four panels addressed "Strengthening the Next Generation of Workers - Summer Youth Jobs, Training and Long Term Employment." Mala Thakur of the National Youth Employment Coalition discussed the importance of summer employment in addition to year-round opportunities for youth. She emphasized the need for a focus on investments in both short-term and sustainable long-term employment prospects. Thakur also expressed support for the reauthorization and strengthening of the Workforce Investment Act in addition to more funding for a House Education & Labor Committee jobs bill. Proposed expansions in these bills would change eligibility requirements and extend support to more youth, including those out of school.
Melissa Boteach of the Half in Ten Coalition added that these initiatives are critical for increasing the long-term employment prospects of youth, as early job opportunities can foster the development of critical "soft skills." Gaining a sense of work responsibility, punctuality, and professionalism are some of the intangible, yet invaluable experiences that these programs can provide for youth.
Largely targeting communities living in urban poverty, youth employment policy is an important component of the wraparound services that Promise Neighborhoods should provide. Integrated with other social services and
educational opportunities, this piece should play an important role throughout the "cradle-to-career" pipeline in place-based efforts across the country. As Promise Neighborhoods moves forward, UNCA will work with the administration and CBC to help make sure this important piece is included.
Today the Congressional Black Caucus hosted a hearing entitled "Out of Work But Not Out of Hope: Addressing the Crisis of the Chronically Unemployed."

The panel brought together local and national leaders along with policy experts and practitioners to address the widespread unemployment that has been brought on by the recession. Participants included National Urban League CEO Marc H Morial, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, and Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The third of the event's four panels addressed "Strengthening the Next Generation of Workers - Summer Youth Jobs, Training and Long Term Employment." Mala Thakur of the National Youth Employment Coalition discussed the importance of summer employment in addition to year-round opportunities for youth. She emphasized the need for a focus on investments in both short-term and sustainable long-term employment prospects. Thakur also expressed support for the reauthorization and strengthening of the Workforce Investment Act in addition to more funding for a House Education & Labor Committee jobs bill. Proposed expansions in these bills would change eligibility requirements and extend support to more youth, including those out of school.

Melissa Boteach of the Half in Ten Coalition added that these initiatives are critical for increasing the long-term employment prospects of youth, as early job opportunities can foster the development of critical "soft skills." Gaining a sense of work responsibility, punctuality, and professionalism are some of the intangible, yet invaluable experiences that these programs can provide for youth.

Largely targeting communities living in urban poverty, youth employment policy is an important component of the wraparound services that Promise Neighborhoods should provide. Integrated with other social services and educational opportunities, this piece should play an important role throughout the "cradle-to-career" pipeline in place-based efforts across the country. As Promise Neighborhoods moves forward, UNCA will work with the administration and CBC to help make sure this important piece is included.

2009 Report Provides Case Studies for Place-Based Work

The National League of Cities’ (NLC) "The State of City Leadership for Children and Families" can serve as a resource for policymakers and practitioners interested in place-based programs for children and families.

This report, released by the NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, details a number of localized approaches and case studies that have been successful in communities across the country. Categorized as innovations, emerging trends, and established trends, the sections of the report address areas including early childhood, education, afterschool, and local infrastructure for children, youth and families.

There is an emphasis on place-based strategies throughout the paper, and the report even highlights Orlando’s Parramore Kidz Zone, an effort to replicate the HCZ that we spotlighted on the blog last year:

Modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City and part of a larger city effort to revitalize the historic Parramore neighborhood, PKZ leverages partnerships with schools, local nonprofits, churches, neighborhood associations, and recreation centers to connect a “critical mass” of children and youth living in the neighborhood to a wide range of prevention programs and opportunities. Objectives include boosting participation in pre-kindergarten, health and dental care, mentoring, afterschool, academic enrichment, arts, life skills and tutoring programs, as well as linking young people and their families to job opportunities and family economic assistance programs.

When city leaders launched the program, they knew they had to overcome mistrust among residents disenchanted with past efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. PKZ seeks to restore trust between city government and the neighborhood, and relies on several strategies to improve access to programs and ensure their effectiveness, including:

  • Marketing available programs and services intensively through a full-time outreach
  • and community organizing team;
  • Striving to eliminate barriers of cost, transportation and paperwork;
  • Issuing grants to attract new programs into the neighborhood and build the capacity
  • of existing grassroots programs; and
  • Employing meticulous, independent program evaluation.

Other highlights detail how cities have been working with schools, nonprofits, and other community institutions to provide an array of services to children and families. This lengthy and detailed report provides numerous examples of how social services and education can be integrated at the local level to strengthen communities.

The Role of Community Outreach in Place-Based Initiatives

In our Promise Neighborhoods How-To Planning Guide, we discuss the importance of community outreach to the success of place-based initiatives. Such outreach is particularly important when conducting needs assessments, collecting data, and examining existing services. Community outreach can be accomplished in a number of ways, including neighborhood surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
However, beyond providing critical information to help inform place-based strategy, neighborhood residents should also be tapped to play a more direct advisory role in the decision making process. Although some critics argue that previous efforts have been inadequate, federal place-based strategies have prioritized community involvement in the past. This strategy was employed by the Office of Economic Opportunity, which established Community Action Agencies (CAAs) during the Johnson Administration’s “War on Poverty.” While their efforts at community outreach and involvement were often criticized, the experience nevertheless provided many valuable lessons. These nonprofit groups were tasked with implementing community action on the local level that required “maximum feasible participation” by low-income neighborhood residents. These organizations addressed an array of social issues on the local level, ranging from pre-K and adult education to youth employment and healthcare services. Many of these services were subsequently replicated by the federal government and remain a vital part of community-based social services.
Another more recent example was the 1994 federal Empowerment Zone program, which mandated resident participation in the initial planning phases of the place-based strategy. These requirements provided for the creation of local task forces that helped provide guidance on community needs and priorities. Despite these early steps, the program was later criticized by some for the lack of sustained community participation. Although there have been divergent opinions on strategy and best practices, some practitioners still acknowledge the importance of taking a range of perspectives into consideration.
Many local place-based programs have also incorporated residents in the planning process. Through outreach meetings and planning sessions, leaders have created a space for local residents to share ideas and gain a stake in these initiatives. Besides providing useful insight, these sessions also aid place-based efforts by building trust and reducing the potential for skepticism among stakeholders. One apparent success story was the Milwaukee-based Zilber Neighborhood Initiative, where many residents were invited to meetings and visioning sessions that resulted in the initiative’s 2009 Quality of Life Plan. This plan reflects priorities that were voiced by neighborhood residents and reflected their specific concerns.
The Harlem Children’s Zone has also benefitted from this democratic approach. In various interviews, local supporters of the HCZ have shared the initial skepticism they harbored against the latest institutional “solution” to local issues. However, the HCZ seems to have gained the confidence of many stakeholders thanks to its extensive grassroots outreach and inclusionary practices.
A report published by our partner organization the Alliance for Children and Families highlights elements of this strategy, discussing ways that local nonprofits can collaborate with stakeholders as partners and present them with opportunities to shape policies that affect their communities. The report details case studies in which constituents
became familiar with the civic process;
developed strategic advocacy plans;
learned how to communicate in public settings;
organized neighborhood meetings;
met with elected representatives, public officials, and providers; and
advocated on behalf of their and their families’ needs.
Regardless of whether or not they receive federal funding, this approach to civic engagement may be a critical component of success for Promise Neighborhoods across the country.
In our Promise Neighborhoods Planning How-To Guide, we discuss the importance of community outreach to the success of place-based initiatives. Such outreach is particularly important when conducting needs assessments, collecting data, and examining existing services. Community outreach can be accomplished in a number of ways, including neighborhood surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

However, beyond providing critical information to help inform place-based strategy, neighborhood residents should also be tapped to play a more direct advisory role in the decision making process. Although some critics argue that previous efforts have been inadequate, federal place-based strategies have prioritized community involvement in the past. This strategy was employed by the Office of Economic Opportunity, which established Community Action Agencies (CAAs) during the Johnson Administration’s “War on Poverty.” While their efforts at community outreach and involvement were often criticized, the experience nevertheless provided many valuable lessons. These nonprofit groups were tasked with implementing community action on the local level that required “maximum feasible participation” by low-income neighborhood residents. These organizations addressed an array of social issues on the local level, ranging from pre-K and adult education to youth employment and healthcare services. Many of these services were subsequently replicated by the federal government and remain a vital part of community-based social services.

Another more recent example was the 1994 federal Empowerment Zone program, which mandated resident participation in the initial planning phases of the place-based strategy. These requirements provided for the creation of local task forces that helped provide guidance on community needs and priorities. Despite these early steps, the program was later criticized by some for the lack of sustained community participation. Although there have been divergent opinions on strategy and best practices, some practitioners still acknowledge the importance of taking a range of perspectives into consideration.

Many local place-based programs have also incorporated residents in the planning process. Through outreach meetings and planning sessions, leaders have created a space for local residents to share ideas and gain a stake in these initiatives. Besides providing useful insight, these sessions also aid place-based efforts by building trust and reducing the potential for skepticism among stakeholders. One apparent success story was the Milwaukee-based Zilber Neighborhood Initiative, where many residents were invited to meetings and visioning sessions that resulted in the initiative’s 2009 Quality of Life Plan. This plan reflects priorities that were voiced by neighborhood residents and reflected their specific concerns.

The Harlem Children’s Zone has also benefitted from this democratic approach. In various interviews, local supporters of the HCZ have shared the initial skepticism they harbored against the latest institutional “solution” to local issues. However, the HCZ seems to have gained the confidence of many stakeholders thanks to its extensive grassroots outreach and inclusionary practices.

A report published by our partner organization the Alliance for Children and Families highlights elements of this strategy, discussing ways that local nonprofits can collaborate with stakeholders as partners and present them with opportunities to shape policies that affect their communities. The report details case studies in which constituents

  • became familiar with the civic process;
  • developed strategic advocacy plans;
  • learned how to communicate in public settings;
  • organized neighborhood meetings;
  • met with elected representatives, public officials, and providers; and
  • advocated on behalf of their and their families’ needs.

Regardless of whether or not they receive federal funding, this approach to civic engagement may be a critical component of success for Promise Neighborhoods across the country.

Cities Face Continued Deficits

The National League of Cities released a report last month projecting that the nation's cities will collectively face projected budget deficits of $56-83 billion from 2010-2012. The deficits will be driven by declining tax revenue, ongoing service demands, and cuts in state revenues.

According to the report, city finances typically lag the overall economy by two years. If one assumes that the economy began to rebound in late 2009, cities will reach a low point in late 2011.

States, meanwhile, are expected to face deficits of their own, peaking at $190 billion in 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Historically, many states often help close budget deficits by reducing aid to cities.

According to the report, one in seven cities (14%) have already made cuts to public safety services, such as police, fire and other emergency related services, and this is expected to get worse in the years ahead.

Category:

Ruse of the Creative Class

The American Prospect ran an interesting (and critical) article in their most recent issue about the urban policy guru, Richard Florida. Anyone with a significant urban policy background has probably heard of him. For those who haven't, his basic thesis is that cities can revive their economies by developing environments that are attractive to a creative class of urban professionals, particularly those in the high tech and arts field.

According to Florida's thesis, outlined in a 2002 book called The Rise of the Creative Class, the Youngstown, Ohios of the world can become the new Austin, Texas by making their communities more tolerant and tech-friendly. While these are worthwhile activities, their effectiveness as primary economic and anti-poverty strategies are questionable. Some important passages from The American Prospect article:

Conservatives have questioned Florida's elevation of gay-friendliness as an economic driver and noted that, by some measures, yuppie idylls like San Francisco and Boston have lagged behind unhip, low-tax bastions like Houston and Charlotte, North Carolina. Liberal critics have noted that his creative hubs suffer high inequality, and argued that other cities should develop their own human capital -- including that of the low-income minorities who have little place in Florida's universe -- instead of chasing a finite number of laptop professionals.

I suppose that puts us squarely in the second group.

Florida has most recently come under increased fire, however, because he has reportedly changed his thesis. In a forthcoming book, he apparently has decided that the current recession has rendered whole communities unsavable, and that the residents should simply pack up and move to the established creativity centers like San Francisco. In one notable example, he has reportedly distanced himself from Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm's "Cool Cities" effort, which was based largely on his earlier approach.

On this, one excerpt from the article is particularly enlightening:

More troubling, his skeptics say, is the way that Florida's embrace of the "new geography" precludes any real grappling with the factors behind the trends he describes -- say, the effect of the Chinese currency and lack of a U.S. industrial policy on American manufacturing.

We couldn't agree more. In one sense, efforts like Promise Neighborhoods, with their emphasis on education, are vulnerable because they are based on a similar premise -- that we can address inner city problems by opening doors to Florida's creative class. A better answer, though, would value work and careers more broadly and would be tied to an economic policy that created jobs for all segments of society, not just the college-educated few.

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by Dr. Radut