Results-Based Leadership Development Helps Promise Neighborhoods Deliver Results in Mississippi

Posted November 22, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog rblhelpspromiseneighborhoods 2016

Schools can’t do it alone when it comes to help­ing chil­dren live up to their promise – by enter­ing their first class­room ready to learn, by keep­ing up with class­work and grad­u­at­ing from high school to pre­pare for suc­cess­ful careers. This holds espe­cial­ly true in impov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties with a his­to­ry of racial dis­par­i­ties not only in edu­ca­tion, but also in income, hous­ing and key health measures.

That real­i­ty under­lies the ambi­tious fed­er­al­ly fund­ed Promise Neigh­bor­hoods effort to tap schools, tutor­ing pro­grams, par­ent sup­port, com­mu­ni­ty men­tor­ing, health, child wel­fare and social ser­vices agen­cies and, at times, the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem to improve the odds for kids. For four years, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has played a key role in nine Promise Neigh­bor­hoods efforts – from the Mis­sis­sip­pi Delta to Min­neapo­lis to Los Ange­les — by pro­vid­ing its sig­na­ture results-based lead­er­ship to assist these com­mu­ni­ties in achiev­ing results for chil­dren from cra­dle to career. The Foun­da­tion is cur­rent­ly work­ing with Promise Neigh­bor­hoods lead­ers in Min­neapo­lis and in Indi­anola, Miss., a rur­al town of about 11,000.

In Indi­anola, where half the chil­dren live in pover­ty and only about half the adults have grad­u­at­ed from high school, lead­ers have been work­ing to make up for a long­stand­ing lack of coor­di­na­tion among the vast array of agen­cies and oth­er stake­hold­ers in children’s lives to bring about the best out­comes for kids and their families.

This lead­er­ship work is impor­tant because there are mil­lions of chil­dren in this coun­try who lack oppor­tu­ni­ties and are with­out clear path­ways to suc­cess. Path­ways to high school grad­u­a­tion, to col­lege edu­ca­tion and well-pay­ing jobs,” says Ash­ley B. Stew­art, a Casey senior asso­ciate on the lead­er­ship devel­op­ment team. The work that these Promise Neigh­bor­hoods orga­ni­za­tions are try­ing to do is help­ing pro­vide not only the resources and pro­grams, but also the pol­i­cy and sys­tems shifts nec­es­sary to help mit­i­gate racial bias and inequities that are root­ed in our country’s his­to­ry of entrenched pover­ty and racial seg­re­ga­tion. This requires exam­in­ing dis­ag­gre­gat­ed data and cur­rent efforts to see who is suc­ceed­ing and who is not – and to have the hard con­ver­sa­tions about why that is.”

The lead­er­ship pro­gram in Indi­anola has helped to con­tribute to impres­sive results. Kinder­garten­ers’ readi­ness to learn, a key pre­dic­tor of lat­er school per­for­mance, increased from 25% in 2013 to 52% last year. The pass rate for third-grade read­ers, anoth­er key indi­ca­tor of school suc­cess, rose from 36% last year to 59% this year, and the high school grad­u­a­tion rate climbed from 61% in the 2013 – 14 school year to 71% in 2014 – 15.

Casey’s work with Indi­anola stake­hold­ers focus­es not on tech­ni­cal train­ing such as devel­op­ment or man­age­ment, but on bring­ing togeth­er key play­ers to coor­di­nate resources and apply the com­pe­ten­cies of results-based lead­er­ship in ser­vice of a com­mon goal.

The Foun­da­tion con­ducts sev­en inten­sive sem­i­nars with Promise lead­ers, stress­ing work­ing close­ly and col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with col­leagues to achieve high action and high align­ment. That’s a key tenet of results-based lead­er­ship devel­op­ment in which lead­ers’ efforts com­ple­ment and build on those of col­leagues to achieve the best out­comes. Lead­ers work with data to deter­mine which cur­rent strate­gies are con­tribut­ing to improved out­comes and to togeth­er adopt new strate­gies that will accel­er­ate the achieve­ment of their results.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion are espe­cial­ly crit­i­cal in a broad effort like Promise Neigh­bor­hoods, Stew­art says. No one insti­tu­tion, no one agency actu­al­ly owns the rights to par­tic­u­lar results; it takes many dif­fer­ent actors in many dif­fer­ent sys­tems in the com­mu­ni­ty to ensure that kids become successful.”

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