New Report Captures Local Perspectives on Making Connections

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

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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