The U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods program provides support to communities that are working to build cradle-to-career pipelines, also known as continuums of solutions, for their children and youth. While their specific strategies may vary, all Promise Neighborhoods are working to achieve a set of 10 results, such as students entering school ready to succeed, by making improvements on 15 associated indicators, including school attendance and graduation rates. (Learn more about the Promise Neighborhoods results framework and specific indicators here.) In addition to their work to develop, implement and connect the programs, services and supports that make up a cradle-to-career pipeline and help to improve the child and family well-being indicators, Promise Neighborhoods are also working to build and strengthen the infrastructure necessary for the type of results-driven collaboration that this model requires.
One aspect of this infrastructure is described as a "culture of results." To share emerging strategies and tools employed by selected implementation grantees, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), one of the technical assistance providers for the federal Promise Neighborhoods program, has just published a new guidebook titled "Building a Culture of Results: A Guide to Emerging Practices in Promise Neighborhoods." This resource features numerous examples of how Promise Neighborhoods are beginning to develop elements of a culture of results and offers easy access to concrete tools that other Promise Neighborhoods or related place-based community initiatives can use or adapt.
What is a "culture of results"?
In the context of Promise Neighborhoods and for the purposes of this guidebook, a culture of results is defined as the values, processes and systems that Promise Neighborhoods site leaders use to ensure effective solutions are launched, tracked, improved and sustained with shared accountability among staff, partners and the wider community to make a positive difference in the lives of neighborhood children and families. The Promise Neighborhoods approach requires a relentless focus on results and, in many cases, developing new ways for partner organizations to work together and hold each other accountable for making progress in their shared work.
What types of strategies are highlighted in this guidebook?
This resource includes strategies and tools related to several key elements of a culture of results:
- Working with Data The first section of the guide calls attention to data collection and reporting as central to building a culture of results. It briefly describes the work that Promise Neighborhoods are undertaking to build shared data and individual case management systems that allow for tracking and improving performance over time. The section also highlights a number of key documents related to collecting and using data that were developed by technical assistance partner the Urban Institute for Promise Neighborhoods grantees.
- Establishing Shared Accountability Among Many Stakeholders: The next section of the guide looks at processes by which Promise Neighborhoods orient a network of partners around results-driven work and introduce the notion of shared accountability. Examples of strategies for establishing shared accountability include the Northside Achievement Zone's (Minneapolis, MN) Seal of Effectiveness and Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood's (Chula Vista, CA) Pay for Performance Contracts. This part of the guide also describes how the Mission Promise Neighborhood (San Francisco, CA) developed a process for assessing and strengthening the data capacity of partner organizations.
- Maintaining Accountability in the Operation of the Continuum: The third section of the guidebook provides examples of how Promise Neighborhoods leaders and stakeholders monitor their progress over time with an eye to continuous improvement. This section includes a description of the Indianola Promise Community's (Indianola, MS) Staff Accountability Meetings as well as a guiding document and checklist that staff and managers use to prepare for and structure the conversations and track action commitments. Another featured resource is a set of Monitoring Protocols that the Hayward Promise Neighborhood (Hayward, CA) uses to ensure that its services are of high quality. Family and Community Engagement in a Culture of Results.
- The final section of the guide identifies strategies that help ensure that the focus on children's success is a broadly shared, neighborhood-wide commitment. An examples of a featured resource includes a Data Sharing and Disclosure Agreement that the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (San Antonio, TX) and related efforts, like the local Choice Neighborhoods initiative, use to obtain consent from parents and guardians for the collection of data and explain how data will be protected and used to improve services and outcomes for children.
While Promise Neighborhoods leaders were willing to share their materials in this guidebook, it is important to note that none of them feels that their community has yet fully developed a culture of results. This publication reflects work in progress and the examples and tools shared here are part of a broader learning process among the Promise Neighborhoods communities that is still under way. We hope that other community leaders establishing a cradle-to-career continuum will be able to grasp why these experiences and resources are useful and then adopt or adapt them for their own organization or community. To learn more about how Promise Neighborhoods are building a culture of results in their communities, please check out the guide here.