New Report Captures Local Perspectives on Making Connections

Posted August 19, 2014, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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Local Voices: On-the-Ground Perspectives on Driving Community Change in the Making Connections Sites, a new report produced in partnership with Community Science, examines the contributions of Casey’s signature community change initiative, Making Connections, in building community capacities and achieving local results. Written by Scott Hebert, the report is based on interviews with 19 local stakeholders deeply involved in the initiative, including residents, public officials, site leaders, nonprofit partners and business leaders.

Local Voices follows Casey’s long tradition of publishing the reflections of local leaders who lived the experience of our ideas and investments, capturing their perspectives on what did and didn’t work as part of our commitment to evaluation and learning. Interestingly, it echoes many of the same principles and practices outlined in last year’s Community Change: Lessons from Making Connections, which highlighted the Foundation’s top six lessons from the initiative to help inform future community change efforts.

Strengthening low-income neighborhoods is a key component of Casey’s strategy for improving outcomes for children and families, going back to the New Futures and Rebuilding Communities initiatives of the 1980s and 1990s. Even our human service and economic opportunity investments — Plain Talk, Urban Children's Mental Health and the Jobs Initiative — required neighborhood engagement.

Why? We believe that neighborhood environments of support, trust and opportunity are important in fostering the well-being of children and families — not just increased access to better services. Today, our community change work is focused in Baltimore and Atlanta and in three cities that are part of our Family-Centered Community Change strategy.

Making Connections was our major community change initiative in the 2000s. Initially launched in 22 cities and fully implemented in seven, the initiative aimed to forge better connections between families in tough neighborhoods and improved economic opportunities, social networks and quality human services. Our mantra: “Kids do better in strong families, and families do better when supported by their communities.”

Local Voices is an important source of reflections on Making Connections and community change in general and features local stakeholders’ views on: 

  • the contribution the initiative made to their communities in terms of collaboration, use of data and results accountability and resident engagement;
  • community improvements resulting from the initiative; and
  • challenges they encountered in implementing the initiative and achieving their desired results.

In addition, in the spirit of good partnership, the interviewees offer honest feedback on their so-called do-overs — what they would have done differently.

Community change requires ongoing learning, evaluation and adaptation if it is to fulfill its ambition of improving results for children, families and communities. Local Voices shows how community capacity is built and how foundations and other investors can work in partnership with local stakeholders. We hope our colleagues in this field will find the report useful in their own work.

Read Local Voices: On-the-Ground Perspectives on Driving Community Change in the Making Connections Sites.

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