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  3. Promise Neighborhoods: A Federal and Local Level Collaborative Effort

Promise Neighborhoods: A Federal and Local Level Collaborative Effort

Collaboration Structure

Federal Level Collaboration

The federal level Promise Neighborhoods structure models the importance of working with a variety of partners to implement and manage a complex program. The federal collaboration is supported by the following:

Coordinated efforts across Department of Education (ED) programs

The Promise Neighborhoods program supports intra-agency collaboration by bringing together strategies from programs across ED. For example, one of the competitive priorities included in the Promise Neighborhood application is a Comprehensive Early Learning Network. In the 2011 competition the majority of planning and implementation applicants responded to this competitive priority. This connection with early learning work was supported through collaboration with the Race to the Top early learning challenge fund. A workgroup of staff tasked on both initiatives met weekly as the notice inviting applications for 2011 was developed.

Race to the Top – District (RTT–D) integrates many place-based principles through a Competitive Preference Priority for cradle-to-career results, resource alignment, and integrated services. The RTT-D competitive preference priority focuses on an applicant’s partnerships to identify and improve results from cradle to career; its strategy to target resources to improve the results and integrate education and other services; and plan to build the capacity of school staff and families to take this approach, from identifying needs and assets to routinely assessing implementation progress. Whereas the Promise Neighborhoods program expects strong partnerships with schools and districts in a place-based strategy, RTT-D will support districts in taking a more central leadership role in place-based solutions to improve student achievement. The Promise Neighborhoods program also works with the Investing in Innovation grants, the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, and other ED programs to support the multifaceted aspects of the Promise Neighborhoods program.

ED recently released a report describing the key elements of a place-based theory of action and how the Department is implementing place-based strategies, including the Promise Neighborhoods program. The report, titled “Impact In Place: A Progress Report on the Department of Education’s Place-Based Strategy,” assesses the progress that has been made as a result of the Department’s place-based approach. It also describes how communities around the country have adopted a place-based model to direct resources more effectively. The report highlights the unique role of federal agencies in catalyzing place-based approaches and the value proposition of a place-based strategy in the education sector. Learn more and read the entire report on ED’s website.

Coordinated efforts across federal agencies and involvement in the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI)

In addition to ED, a number of federal agencies support place-based programs, including Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The White House NRI was established to coordinate work at the neighborhood level across agencies, to understand the intersections between the place-based programs being developed (e.g., Choice Neighborhoods, Promise Neighborhoods), to build capacity at the neighborhood level, and to identify and share best practices.

The NRI includes the following:

  • The White House Domestic Policy Council
  • The White House Office of Urban Affairs
  • HUD
  • ED
  • DOJ
  • HHS
  • The Department of the Treasury

Coordinating funding applications is one mechanism that has been used to coordinate place-based programs. For example, the Promise Neighborhoods planning and implementation applications included a competitive preference for neighborhoods that were the subject of an affordable housing transformation pursuant to a Choice Neighborhoods or HOPE IV grant during Fiscal Year 2009 or later years. The Choice Neighborhoods planning grant application also included a set-aside for organizations receiving a Promise Neighborhoods planning grant. As of Spring 2012, there are six Promise Neighborhoods grantees that also have a Choice Neighborhood grant—Little Rock, AR; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Tulsa, OK; and San Antonio, TX. Learn more about some of the programs with overlapping Choice and Promise Neighborhoods grants.

Another example of coordination stemming from the NRI work is the establishment of an interagency agreement through which DOJ transferred $1.6 million to the Promise Neighborhoods program to fund Public Safety Enhancements among the 2011 Promise Neighborhoods implementation grantees. These funds will be distributed to the grantees as award supplements. DOJ and ED jointly hosted an interactive technical assistance webinar session to answer questions from grantees interested in applying for the supplementary funds. The agencies will also work together to review proposals, make awards, and guide grantees in the implementation of their Public Safety Enhancements.

In addition, the NRI aims to learn what works for community-owned revitalization and develop best practices, elicit feedback from communities and experts on how federal government agencies can work better together at the community level, and assess how policies and programs can be aligned and integrated (e.g., through common metrics, definitions, and monitoring) to help streamline work at the local level.

The coordination and integration of programs at the federal level helps to model the collaborative work needed at the local level in order to plan for, implement and manage Promise Neighborhoods.

Learn more about the importance of modeling collaboration and integrating the Promise Neighborhood program with other initiatives.  

Coordinated Technical Assistance support for grantees

OII supports Promise Neighborhoods grantees through contracts with a number of technical assistance providers. These include the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), Applied Engineering Management (AEM), and the Urban Institute.

  • CSSP, along with partners including the Promise Neighborhoods Institute (PNI)1, provides grantees with programmatic technical assistance. Its focus is on building the capacity of grantees to successfully plan for and implement cradle-to-career strategies.
  • AEM provides implementation grantees with training and technical assistance to use GRADS 360, an interactive web-based performance management tool.  
  • The Urban Institute, through a contract with the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development (OPEPD) within ED, provides technical assistance to the grantees around data collection and longitudinal data systems, key facets of the Promise Neighborhoods work.  

ED believes that this integrated system of support focused on results will help grantees achieve optimal results for their target neighborhoods and the children and families residing within them.

Local Level Collaboration

The infrastructure and organization of individual grantees vary substantially based on the needs of the community and the organization leading the grant. Some examples of the structures that support grantee work include the following:

Established partnerships with a range of entities

The partners involved in Promise Neighborhood programs vary substantially from one grantee to another, but may include local governments, local education agencies, foundations, community-based organizations, and universities.

 For example, the Promise Neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, includes partnerships with:

  • Belmont Housing Resources for Western New York
  • Bennett High School
  • Bethel Head Start
  • Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Steering Committee
  • Buffalo Public Schools
  • Buffalo Urban League
  • Catholic Charities of Buffalo
  • City of Buffalo
  • Community Health Center of Buffalo
  • Council Member Bonnie E. Russell
  • Council Member Demone A. Smith
  • EPIC (Every Person Influences Children)
  • Highgate Heights School
  • Jeremiah Partnership
  • John R. Oishei Foundation
  • M&T Bank
  • Read to Succeed Buffalo
  • United Way of Buffalo and Erie County
  • University of Buffalo
  • Westminster Community Charter School
  • Westminster Foundation2

Partnerships are cemented by establishing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs). These MOUs clarify a shared vision and theory of change that underlie the collaborative work and the roles and expectations of the partners involved. Learn more about the different Promise Neighborhoods and the partners involved. 

Multiple levels of management, including a project director and advisory board

To manage the collaboration between stakeholders and partners, grantees establish a governance structure that identifies roles and responsibilities, facilitates decision-making, and holds partners accountable. An advisory board is established to provide guidance and direction to the overall program and manage objectives.

The Berea College Promise Neighborhood, a rural Promise Neighborhood, in Clay, Jackson, and Owsley Counties (Kentucky) has a management board that contains the following representatives:

  • Berea College
  • Save the Children
  • East Kentucky Child Care
  • Cumberland Valley District Health Department
  • Jackson County Schools
  • Clay County Schools
  • Owsley County Schools
  • Three youth (age 16-24)
  • Three parent representatives with students in public schools in the counties
  • Three teachers or early child care providers
  • Three business representatives
  • Three representatives of providers serving within the area.3

In addition to the advisory board, grantees have a project director who is typically responsible for the day-to-day management of the project. Grantees may also set up working groups to lead the design and implementation of specific components of their work and establish teams for leading data and evaluation efforts (and/or bring on a local evaluator), fundraising efforts, and community engagement.

Funding from public, private, and federal sources

One of the conditions of the Promise Neighborhoods grants is that grantees must also obtain matching funds or in-kind donations from one or more entities in the public or private sector. Planning grantees must match at least 50 percent of their grant award (those working in Tribal or rural communities must match at least 25 percent of their grant award). Implementation grantees must match at least 100 percent of their grant award (those working in Tribal or rural communities must match at least 50 percent of the grant award).

Tracking progress through longitudinal databases and other mechanisms

Grantees track progress and communicate with ED program officers through various mechanisms including:

  • the GRADS 360 performance management tool;
  • longitudinal databases; 
  • Annual Performance Reports; and
  • Regular check-in calls.

This ensures that technical assistance and support can be provided as needed, and challenges and successes can be shared.

1 The Promise Neighborhoods Institute (PNI) is an independent, foundation-supported nonprofit comprised of PolicyLink, the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), and the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). PNI offers tools, information, and strategies to assist any community (not limited to grantees) interested in establishing a Promise Neighborhood as its members plan, identify quality approaches, build partnerships, and assess needs.
2 Buffalo Promise Neighborhood. (2011). Buffalo Promise Neighborhood asset report. Retrieved from
3 U.S. Department of Education. (2011). Berea College Promise Neighborhood Proposal. Retrieved from