Targeted Neighborhood Strategy (Idea #3*)

Feb 28, 2012

The Annie Casey Foundation's Annual Kids Count Data book for 2011 is out.

And in what should be no surprise for anyone and a giant disappointment for everyone, childhood poverty is up, again.

"[O]ver the last decade there has been a significant decline in economic
well-being for low income children and families. Data also reveals the
impact of the job and foreclosure crisis on children. In 2010, 11
percent of children had at least one unemployed parent and 4 percent
have been affected by foreclosure since 2007."

Go ahead and see for yourself—here's the book.

What to do?

In Georgia, the number of kids living in high-poverty areas has increased by 81 percent over the past decade.

One in four children in Georgia lives in poverty, the highest rate the state has seen in 40 years. one in ten young Georgians is growing up in an area where at least 30 percent of neighbors live below the federal poverty line—about $22,000 per year for a family of four.

And this story is not Georgia's alone.

But many Georgia communities are trying something new—community partnerships (collaboratives) that target the highest poverty neighborhoods with an array services intended to increase incomes, improve health, raise skill levels, and help families achieve higher levels of economic security (two of these partnerships are Promise Neighborhood efforts).

So what about this kind of approach to workforce development? We saw a taste of it a decade ago with the Youth Opportunity Movement, but the work Georgia is doing targets the community as a whole, not just one demographic group.

What if communities (even wealthier ones) targeted their most in-need neighborhoods? Workforce agencies could serve as "backbone organizations" that support partners acting in alignment ot achieve shared goals. This is sometimes called a collective impact approach, and some workforce agencies use it already—like Worksystems, the Workforce Board in Portland, Oregon, which is organizing youth services in this way. (This approach is also covered in The WEadership Guide.)

There are really two complementary ideas (but we'll count it as one in keeping with the one-idea-per-post approach we've take here):

  • Targeting communities in need and redesign intervientions and services to meet those needs more effectively (a deep but narrow approach)
  • Aligning multiple organizations around a set of shared goals and developed a collaborative strategy for change

Either or both are worthy of trying given myriad of workforce challenges our communities are facing.

How about it?

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.