Representatives of the California Promise Neighborhoods Network (CPNN) were honored to share their work with StriveTogether communities at the ninth annual Cradle to Career Network convening in Seattle from October 10-12. With a theme of “Go Far, Go Together: Uniting in Pursuit of Equity for Every Child,” CPNN was ready to discuss lessons learned around the creation of a statewide collaborative of Promise Neighborhoods.
StriveTogether’s Vice President of External Affairs Josh Davis (photo, left) recently sat down to conduct a Q&A with two of CPNN’s leaders, Iris Zuniga (photo, right) of the Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood, and Jillian Spindle (photo, center) of San Francisco’s Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN). The aim was to delve into the importance of creating a culture based on results and fostering collective impact.
JD: How did your individual Promise Neighborhoods pivot from revolving around programs to focusing on results?
IZ: Youth Policy Institute (YPI), which oversees the Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood, had been involved in placed-based work for a bit of time prior to Promise Neighborhood, but it wasn’t until we were in the implementation of Promise Neighborhood that we were able to strengthen our approach and become much more intentional on being results driven and impact driven. I will say that the Promise Neighborhood Planning Grant allowed us to think outside the box, and take inventory of existing best practices and strategies. This pause allowed us to ask the difficult questions, and to re-center our approach of being results driven. This framework was something that we had to push not just with external partners, but also internally.
JS: A crucial shift for the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) was when we participated in the Skills To Accelerate Results (STAR) program, led by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink. Over the course of about 18 months, they introduced our team to the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) method of implementing collective impact. Back in 2013 when we launched MPN, the Promise Neighborhoods model was new and there were limited examples to follow regarding data, results and effective collective impact. In so many ways, the STAR program provided a road map for us in implementing MPN, and also bringing these learnings back to our organization’s other areas of work, from affordable housing and asset building to policy and small-business lending.
JD: What were the steps to internally create a culture based on results? What did that look like in practice?
IZ: We began working toward a culture of results first with the team that was leading the work for the Promise Neighborhood, and that quickly evolved to bring in other key departments within the organization around the RBA framework. The next step was working with our organization’s leadership to adopt RBA, and eventually transitioning to trainings and tools for all staff. Given the size and composition of our agency, we had to do a stagger approach. We are at over 137 sites throughout the city of Los Angeles, with 1,000 part-time employees and 500 full-time staff. Along the way of RBA implementation, we realized that we needed to update our “roadmap.” We then kicked off our Strategic Planning process. The Strategic Planning process at YPI helped us define our work, but, more importantly, called out the road on which we would all travel for the next three years. This plan specifically called out the work that needed to be done with external partners in terms of systems-level change, but also internal capacity building that would need to be strengthened to sustain agency growth.
JS: At the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), the backbone agency for MPN, we made an intentional decision to implement RBA both with the Mission Promise Neighborhood and its partners, and across our entire organization. In practice, that meant offering internal trainings to all staff plus trainings and “turn the curve” sessions with our 20+ MPN partners. In 2017, MEDA finalized our current Strategic Plan 2017-2020 based on five results aligned with our mission to achieve economic equity and social justice for Latinos in San Francisco. We now have a performance management system organization-wide that measures impact and is aligned between individual work plans, department action plans and our five strategic population-level results. We continue to build skills and refine our approach as we learn more about creating a culture of results — and understanding and measuring our role in population-level change.
JD: Graduation rates have seen dramatic increases across the five Promise Neighborhoods of CPNN, ranging up to 18 percent increase overall, with even greater rates of increase for African American and Latino students. What are the common best practices that achieved these results?
IZ: Our results have been achieved through offering quality wraparound services and moving the bar at all LAPN schools from high school graduation to post-secondary completion. Wraparound services include resources based on need — such as mental health resources, enrichment activities, college access and mentorship — brought to schools through a strong community schools model with a highly effective community school coordinator. Additionally, tutors support students to reach academic proficiency and family advocates ensure that all parents and guardians are clear on college readiness and how they can support their children in being ready for high school graduation and beyond. Our college and career program brings qualified college advisors — as well as Americorps college ambassadors — to campuses to ensure all students are prepared to apply to college by the beginning of their senior year. Every student is supported to complete a postsecondary plan, prepared with resources such as transcript evaluation, SAT and ACT preparation, college application support, financial aid support for both documented and undocumented students, and coaching and advising. This focus on postsecondary success raises the bar beyond the goal of high school graduation, and led to strong growth in both high school graduation and college and career readiness.
JS: When we look across CPNN, one area where we have all seen progress is in increasing graduation rates and creating a college-going culture. As Iris mentioned, it has taken a holistic approach that starts early and provides supports beyond the academic such as social emotional health and that integrate parents and families. Common strategies among the California communities have been implementing community schools models with wraparound services in our schools, working to create a college going culture, and providing strong supports around college counseling, beginning as early as elementary school. All of these strategies have been important to MPN’s work in the Mission, and implemented by our schools and nonprofit organization partners. Our CPNN members have implemented some other innovative and effective solutions. For example, Hayward Promise Neighborhood hires Promise interns who are college students and graduates of their programs to support tutoring and mentoring at partner sites with high school students. Chula Vista Promise Neighborhoods has a successful Academic Advocates program, which works with a cohort of students starting in seventh grade and following them through college. As a next step, CPNN is working together to hone in on the best practices that are getting to results, as we work toward the next phase of the Promise Neighborhoods model in California.
JD: What was the impetus for the five California Promise Neighborhoods joining together for collective impact?
IZ: You cannot claim to be results driven, and collective impact focused, if you do not push for scale and sustainability. By aligning our resources, best practices and commitment to population-level change, we are stronger together. We have been advocating at the state level to take the Promise Neighborhood Federal model and implement it statewide. The Promise Neighborhood place-based model works and is showing results across the country. It’s a cross-sector partnership, driven by local leadership, but leveraged by local public sector and philanthropy investment. Time is of the essence, and our youth cannot wait yet another generation for our leaders to make the appropriate systems-level change and necessary investments.
JS: The CPNN sites interacted over the years via the STAR program with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and at the annual Promise Neighborhood convenings. As we learned about each other’s work, we saw the similarities in our communities: strategies, challenges and successes. There was a clear opportunity to come together and address the challenge of how to sustain this important work long term and post-federal funding. Additionally, there was a common desire to accelerate the results we are seeing in our communities by continuing to share best practices as we built capacity to implement RBA.
JD: What is CPNN’s cradle-to-college-to-career vision for all California students, regardless of the ZIP code in which they are born?
IZ and JS: CPNN’s vision is that students across California are ready for kindergarten, supported throughout the K-12 continuum, successfully graduate high school and obtain a college degree or other credential, and that they and their families gain long-term financial well-being. The five CPNN backbone agencies represent a total of seven Promise Neighborhood communities across the state, but we know that there are other communities currently implementing similar models or that want to do so. CPNN looks to leverage our collective knowledge to provide technical assistance and support to ensure that by 2020 there are many more Promise Neighborhoods in California that will be supported through cross-sector braiding and investments that prioritize the needs of our youth.
JD: What statewide leadership and fiscal support is needed to institutionalize CPNN’s best practices and collective impact?
IZ and JS: CPNN’s immediate plan is for policymakers and funders to gain a comprehensive understanding of the power of our Promise Neighborhood model — and understand the work taking place in each of our respective communities. We have had the opportunity now to see the California Promise Neighborhoods in action, and there is incredible work happening that is achieving positive results in our communities. We also know that this work is long term — communities can’t build the systems to implement it overnight, and it takes time to see consistent results. There have been successful examples of the Promise Neighborhoods model being institutionalized and resourced through legislation — for example, in Minnesota through the work of the Northside Achievement Zone and the Education Partnerships Coalition — and most recently in San Diego County in collaboration with Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood. We have created a strong infrastructure, and it is imperative that it be sustained through both public funding and private investment for the long term so that equity of educational opportunity can be achieved for students in California.
About Josh Davis
At StriveTogether, Josh Davis oversees strategy for external affairs, including communications and marketing, development and fundraising, and policy, advocacy and mobilization. StriveTogether, based in Cincinnati, leads a national movement of nearly 70 communities across the country to get better results for more than 10 million children.
About Iris Zuniga
Iris Zuniga is Executive President of Youth Policy Institute, which oversees the Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood. Iris showcases a demonstrated history of working in the nonprofit organization management industry, from budgeting and youth development to grassroots organizing and acting as a government liaison.
About Jillian Spindle
Jillian Spindle has worked at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) since 2009, serving as Director of Development for seven years before becoming MEDA’s Chief Operating Officer in 2016. In her role as Director of Development, she led several large collaborative funding projects, including the Mission Promise Neighborhood education initiative, for which MEDA is the lead agency.
About California Promise Neighborhoods Network (CPNN)
CPNN believes that every child in California deserves a Promise Neighborhood. To improve the lives of children, from cradle-to-college and career, all elements of collective impact must be put into action. By having a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and a backbone organization, all children and their families will be able to live in communities of opportunity. CPNN comprises: Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood (San Diego); Everett Freeman Promise Neighborhood (Corning); Hayward Promise Neighborhood (Hayward); Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood (East Hollywood and Pacoima); and Mission Promise Neighborhood (San Francisco).