Tuesday, June 11, 2013

No New Promise Neighborhoods Grants for FY2013

On May 17, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement announced there would be no new Promise Neighborhoods grants for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 (ending September 30, 2013). Existing grants awarded in previous fiscal years will continue to be funded according to the terms of the existing grant agreements, allowing communities to continue building and implementing strategies that will improve outcomes for children and families. There are several other place-based initiatives that will continue to be funded, including the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program and Choice Neighborhoods. Furthermore, in President Obama’s FY2014 budget he requested funds for both Promise Neighborhoods and a new program under the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative: Promise Zones. Located in high poverty neighborhoods throughout the nation, federal agencies will engage directly with local leaders within “Promise Zones” in an effort to break down barriers and help them access and coordinate the resources and expertise neighborhoods need to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, reduce violence and improve educational opportunities.

Place-based initiatives, like Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods and the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, are important investments in community change because they allow for innovative practices that are responsive to the unique context of each community. The traditional model for delivering services to high-poverty communities has been siloed and fragmented, with implementation of evidence-based practices that do not always fit the needs of the community.  The community contexts in which local initiatives are implemented will have a significant effect on their ability to achieve the desired results. For example, residential mobility, student mobility within and among schools, community safety, unemployment, degree of concentrated poverty, housing insecurity—all these factors directly affect child/family well-being and thus are likely to affect the success of any local initiative. Although these factors may not themselves be core results that the local initiative seeks to change, these factors must be known and taken into account when designing place-based strategies.  

Although new Promise Neighborhoods will not be funded in FY2013, there are many ways policymakers can continue to combat intergenerational poverty in their states by following the theory of change that is the foundation of Promise Neighborhoods.  For example, the California Assembly is discussing legislation modeled after the federal Promise Neighborhoods program.

Regardless of whether or not your state is in a position to create legislation funding Promise Neighborhoods, utilizing a results framework is an effective strategy in bringing about community change. Identifying results can serve as a “pathway” to achieving children’s healthy development and academic success. And, these four overarching results communicate simply and clearly what Promise Neighborhoods strives to achieve—assuring that;
  • Children are healthy and prepared for school entry
  • Children and youth are healthy and succeed in school
  • Youth graduate from high school and college, and
  • Families and neighborhoods support the healthy development, academic success and well-being of their children.
Promise Neighborhoods’ theory of change is rooted in the importance of gathering information from the community about their needs and desired outcomes.  This can inform the way governments direct funds to target those specific needs, thereby ensuring that communities have the resources they need to effectively serve the children and families in these community. This increased capacity along with building accountable community partnerships will help to ensure fidelity to financial investments and more effectively lead to improved outcomes for children and families. Though the Promise Neighborhoods program is a major investment of federal dollars, a combination of public and private funding has also been shown to support place-based efforts.  In practice, the best outcomes are built on sustainable financing strategies which often include a mixture of funds that local partners have aligned with their results framework.

State policymakers can take steps to transform high-poverty neighborhoods beginning with engaging community members and bringing multiple stakeholders together, such as human service organizations, schools, child welfare agencies, and businesses. These entities can then work together to come up with a shared set of priority results—policymakers can encourage innovation in achieving these results by allowing for flexibility while at the same time requiring evidence of a strategy’s effectiveness. For more on achieving results through public policy strategies, visit  To learn more about the continuing work of Promise Neighborhoods visit the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink and for information and tools that are useful for undergoing place-based efforts in your community visit CSSP’s Investing in Community blog.  

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