Promise Neighborhoods, inspired by the Harlem Children's Zone, are the Obama administration's bold bid to break the vicious cycle of inner-city intergenerational poverty. If the Promise Neighborhoods succeed, they could provide compelling evidence that a holistic, integrated, education-centered approach to ending poverty can give poor children a real shot at economic opportunity.
However, creating a Promise Neighborhood will be no small task. Reaching a Promise Neighborhood's ultimate goals will take a solid plan. And while planning will no doubt be easier than doing the day-to-day work of supporting children and their communities, our experience suggests that the planning process itself can be incredibly challenging.
To help, the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink reached out to the Bridgespan Group to develop this planning guide, designed to help nonprofit organizations and their partners focus on the issues that matter most to an initiative's success by addressing five key questions:
In order to answer these questions thoughtfully and thoroughly, organizations and partners involved in the process will need to engage authentically with the residents of the communities they aspire to serve. The initiatives with the strongest chance of success embody the voices, leadership, and energy of community members, in collaboration with each of the organizations involved, including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and funders.
Promise Neighborhoods also will need to draw on relevant data from a variety of sources and conduct rigorous analysis. The process will be time-consuming but worth it because initiatives will emerge with a clear understanding of the link between aspirations (the impact a Promise Neighborhood intends to have) and the explicit steps that can be taken to achieve that impact.
Additionally, organizations and partners will be better positioned to address critical implementation issues by identifying the resources and skills they'll need, clarifying roles and expectations for all organizations involved, and thinking through the ways in which they'll fund their work over the long term. And finally, as the planning questions are answered, they will identify performance measures that will need to be tracked, and, more importantly, to understand what's working well, what's not, and why, so that an intiative can be expanded to reach more people effectively over time.
We encourage you to provide feedback on this guide at the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink website.