Community

Community

Promise Neighborhoods

Recently I attended the “Changing the Odds” conference put on by the Harlem Children’s Zone and PolicyLink.org. The HCZ has a storied history of helping youth with evidence-based harm reduction techniques. It has seen such success that it is currently being used as a model by the Obama Administration.

I was invited as a member of the Promise Neighborhood Research Consortium where I hold Concentric Sky’s seat on the steering board. The PNRC is an NIH funded consortium with a mandate to extend the mission of the HCZ to communities around the US. Concentric Sky is the PNRC’s primary technology partner.

The conference was well attended. There were over 1,400 people present and another 400 people on the waiting list that could not get in. 104 neighborhood organizations were present from around the country and I had the pleasure to speak to a large number of community representatives.

Several Obama Administration officials spoke at the conference, including:

  • Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
  • Melody Barnes, President’s Domestic Policy Advisor and Director of the Domestic Policy Council
  • Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Dept of Education
  • Adolfo Carrion, Jr., Director, White House Office of Urban Affairs
  • Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The presentations focused on several key themes with a central message: focus on outcomes, evaluate approaches, make continuous improvements based on real measurements, and create long lasting partnerships with communities.

The most exciting thing for me was the interest in innovation - a willingness to look beyond what has been tried before and to look forward to evidence-based outcomes. This is very much in line with the PNRC, where I’m leveraging Concentric Sky’s strong understanding of data and social relationships to create new tools for tracking metrics and increasing community involvement.

Since returning from the conference, the PNRC has connected with other Federal agencies, such as Dept. of Education and HUD, to collaborate on their Promise Neighborhoods and Choice Neighborhoods Initiatives.  We aim for our technology tools to be brought to bear on an even wider scale. Where possible, we hope to spur innovation by making some of our tools Open Source. Our collective goal is to build a successful technology model that can be extended to poverty stricken communities around the world.

With the support of the Obama Administration and the AARA, we are well on our way.

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