Thursday, December 3, 2009

Promise Building Blocks

"So, the most wrenching challenge for the Promise Neighborhoods selection process will be to identify those neighborhoods where the level of poverty and the strength of the sponsoring organization justify the investment...A Promising Neighborhood will not succeed without a lead organization,empoweredand accountable,that is deeply rooted in the community."

Dan Howard and Nan Stone, Realizing the Promise of Promise Neighborhoods, The Bridgespan Group, November 2009.

This paper offers great advice for the Feds, investors and local applicants for Promise Neighborhoods. Adopt common outcomes, use evidence-based programs, pick the right neighborhood size and boundaries, require "common foundational strategy" that enables learning across sites and pick strong lead organizations.

I have two questions and one observation. The questions relate to references in the paper about changing family and neighborhood conditions. HCZ isn't focused on many aspects of family well-being; nor is it a community change initiative in the broadest sense. Are these important? Or are these the kinds of local "experimentation" that need to be minimized-- or treated as "means?"

My observation is about the stunning silence of the paper about the capacity of local schools and educational partners. It seems to me that the success of Promise Neighborhoods will depend upon jumping on the bandwagon of promising change efforts already underway, adding some elements and strengthening others. Starting from scratch seems to me like a low probability path to success. The Feds should ask: What parts of the HCZ "conveyor" belt should already be in place?

No comments: