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

Promise Neighborhoods: A Federal and Local Level Collaborative Effort

Promising Practices

Learn more about the practices that have helped the Promise Neighborhoods program to be successful in working collaboratively and achieving results at the federal and local levels.

Federal Level

Modeling collaboration at the federal level

Through inter- and intra-agency collaboration, the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) has been able to model the importance of establishing partnerships, working together, integrating efforts, and collaborating to support multifaceted programs. Learn more about the different types of collaborations at the federal level.

Building on past experience with federal level collaboration

OII and others in the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) have built on previous knowledge and partnerships as they develop new programs and work together at the federal level. For example, the Promise Neighborhoods program was able to draw on the experience of the Safe Schools Healthy Students grant program (SS/HS) and the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (the Council) which have supported cross agency collaboration and communication for many years.

The Council, as restructured by the 1992 amendments to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, is comprised of nine ex officio members and nine non-federal members who are juvenile justice practitioners. The ex officio members are the Attorney General; the secretaries of HHS, Labor, ED, and Housing and Urban Development; the administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; the chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service; and the assistant secretary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. The president may designate other key federal officials with significant decision-making authority to serve on the Council.

The Promise Neighborhoods program has built off relationships established by these interagency partnerships, the member experiences of individuals who participated in these programs and who continue to participate in interagency work and on the NRI, and reports developed by the collaborations detailing their experiences and history. The Promise Neighborhoods program was therefore able to continue strong interagency partnerships and utilize knowledge about how federal interagency groups have been established and maintained. 

Integrating Promise Neighborhoods work with other federal initiatives

The Promise Neighborhoods program has been able to benefit from the work of the NRI. Two example of collaborative efforts spurred from the NRI are the connections between Promise Neighborhoods and Choice Neighborhoods in the cities of San Antonio and Atlanta. These communities both received Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods planning grants.

In the City of Atlanta, the Choice Neighborhoods planning grant helps revitalize its University Homes public housing development, while the Promise Neighborhood grant utilizes the expertise of historically black colleges and universities in Atlanta to provide educational opportunities to children living in the University Center neighborhood.

In San Antonio, both the Choice and Promise Neighborhoods grants serve the Wheatley Courts public housing complex and the surrounding Eastside neighborhood. The Choice Neighborhoods project focuses on revitalizing the public housing development while the Promise Neighborhoods project focuses on improving the schools. At the federal level, these programs were designed and envisioned together in order to complement each other. At the local level, these programs have committed themselves to working together by integrating their advisory boards, planning processes, and community engagement efforts. 

The NRI has also helped some grantees make a connection between Promise Neighborhoods and the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative led by the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities. Two Promise Neighborhood planning grantees, Fresno, California and Detroit, Michigan, are working to integrate their Promise Neighborhood efforts with the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative, a new interagency pilot initiative that aims to strengthen neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions around the country by strengthening the capacity of local governments to develop and execute their economic vision and strategies. Learn about the NRI and the role of Promise Neighborhoods.

Having multiple mechanisms for ongoing and regular communication

Connecting communities and helping them learn from each other is central to the Promise Neighborhoods program. Grantees, technical assistance (TA) providers, and OII regularly communicate through a number of mechanisms. This includes annual conferences that bring together program officers, OII leadership, grantees, and TA providers, and facilitate information sharing and networking. OII program officers also hold regular calls with grantees and are able to stay aware of grantee progress, challenges, and technical assistance needs through the GRADS 360 performance management tool and annual performance reports.

In addition, a central design element of the Promise Neighborhoods program is establishing communities of practice among the grantees and the broader field of practitioners. Doing this enables the grantees, as well as organizations across the country interested in the program and strategy, to meet, discuss, and collaborate with each other regarding their projects. Learn more about the Promise Neighborhoods communities of practice effort

Reliance on data to assess the success of the work

While the Promise Neighborhoods program is still in the early stages of implementation, since its inception in 2010 there has been a strong focus on data collection so that longitudinal (long-term) data outcomes can be tracked. Some data on Promise Neighborhood grantees and applicants that is sourced from applications submitted for the program can be found at ED requires grantees to collect data on program indicators for academic results and family and community support results. Grantees may also collect data on any unique project indicators they have developed. Some examples of the required program indicators and the results that they intend to measure include:

Educational Indicators and Results1

Result Data is Intended to Measure

Children enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school

Students are proficient in core academic subjects

Students successfully transition from middle school grades to high school

Youth graduate from high school

High school graduates obtain a postsecondary degree, certification, or credential

Indicator or Data Collected

Number and percent of children, from birth to kindergarten entry, participating in center-based or formal home-based early learning settings or programs, which may include Early Head Start, Head Start, child care, or preschool

Number and percent of students at or above grade level according to state mathematics and reading or language arts assessments in at least the grades required by the ESEA (3rd through 8th and once in high school)

Attendance rate of students in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade

Graduation rate

Number and percent of Promise Neighborhood students who graduate with a regular high school diploma, and obtain postsecondary degrees, vocational certificates, or other industry-recognized certifications or credentials without the need for remediation

 Family and Community Support Indicators and Results2

Result Data is Intended to Measure

Students are healthy

Students feel safe at school and in their community

Students live in stable communities

Families and community members support learning in Promise Neighborhood schools

Students have access to 21st century learning tools

Indicator or Data Collected

Number and percent of children who participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily

Number and percent of children who consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily

Programs can select a third indicator of interest

Number and percent of students who feel safe at school and traveling to and from school, as measured by a school climate needs assessment

Programs can select a second indicator of interest

Student mobility rate

Programs can select a second indicator of interest

For children birth to kindergarten entry, the number and percent of parents or family members who report that they read to their child three or more times a week

For children in kindergarten through the eighth grade, the number and percent of parents or family members who report encouraging their child to read books outside of school

For children in the ninth through twelfth grades, the number and percent of parents or family members who report talking with their child about the importance of college and career

Programs can select a fourth indicator of interest

Number and percent of students who have school and home access (and percent of the day they have access) to a broadband Internet connection and a connected computing device

Note: For some of the results, programs are able to select additional indicators of interest to supplement those provided by ED.

Local Level

Involving the communities in planning and implementation

Promise Neighborhoods grantees benefit substantially from involving the communities they serve in the planning and implementation of the Promise Neighborhoods project. Some examples include the following:

  • Designating students, parents, teachers, and/or community residents as members of the program advisory board, working groups, and/or other bodies established to steer components of the Promise Neighborhoods work
  • Gathering resident input on neighborhood needs and assets through surveys, focus groups, and town hall meetings
  • Sharing findings from data collected and soliciting feedback from the community as part of the needs assessment and the drafting of the implementation plans
  • Hosting social events to bring the community together and cultivate a sense of shared ownership of, and excitement around, the Promise Neighborhoods work

One Promise Neighborhoods implementation grantee, the Northside Achievement Zone, uses “connectors” or trained neighborhood leaders who work one-on-one with families to connect them to the resources and supports that they need.

By involving communities, grantees ensure that the supports being planned or implemented match the needs of the community and ensure that the communities, families, youth, and children being served have buy-in for the work that is being done.

Conduct a needs assessment and asset mapping to understand the context of communities

Planning grantees are asked to conduct needs assessments and segmentation analyses to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas on which to target their efforts. The Whatever It Takes: Athens-Clarke County Promise Neighborhood, within its Promise Neighborhoods planning grant, the community conducted a needs assessment focused on family engagement, specifically, how much time families spend reading to their children. By going door-to-door throughout the community, the grantees uncovered the effects of generational poverty. For example, when one woman was asked whether she read to her child she responded that she didn’t. When looking for the underlying reason for this, they discovered that she didn’t know how to read. They were able to connect her to an adult literacy program at a local community college. As a result, she was able to set goals both for herself and her child. By setting high expectations for the community and determining the actual reasons behind community member actions, the grantees were able to recognize where efforts needed to be targeted and ensured that no one in the community was overlooked. Also, see examples of reports developed from the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood needs assessment and asset mapping.

Putting a plan in place before implementing and focusing efforts on building organizational capacity

The grant program is structured so that grantees develop a clear plan before attempting to implement supports or reforms. This may be through a Promise Neighborhood planning grant or other strategic planning methods. Creating a strong plan prior to implementation allows grantees to build capacity and community buy-in and ensures that they have an infrastructure in place to support implementation. It also provides time to identify indicators of success and set challenging but achievable targets to guide program planning and implementation and ensure accountability among all partners. By establishing a clear plan that delineates responsibilities, the collaborations are able to hold partners accountable for meeting the goals of the collaborative effort. The Comprehensive Neighborhood Revitalization Plan for the Hayward Promise Neighborhood was developed through a Promise Neighborhood planning grant funded by ED. The plan is now being used as a framework for a 2011 Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant.

The Promise Neighborhood program includes a focus on identifying and increasing the capacity of eligible organizations. Promise Neighborhood grantees use funding to support the capacity building effort by developing administrative capacity including their management team and project director, developing longitudinal data systems to support ongoing data-based decision making, investing resources in managing partnerships, and developing and integrating multiple funding sources. TA providers help grantees understand their organizational leadership’s strengths and weaknesses. The TA providers offer  support by defining a culture of accountability in the lead agency, partner organizations, and community as a whole; developing systems of support and accountability for front-line workers, managers, and leaders in the organizations that will deliver the continuum of solutions; defining the leadership characteristics, qualities, and skills needed for their approach to succeed.

1, 2 U.S. Department of Education (2012). Applications for new awards; Promise Neighborhoods program—planning grant competition. Federal Register, 77(77), 23690-23704. Retrieved from