Monday, July 28, 2014

New KIDS COUNT Data Highlights the Importance of Equity-Focused Work

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, marks the 25th edition of the report that details how children are faring, both at the state and national level. Born as a CSSP project in 1990, the national KIDS COUNT initiative was conceptualized as a way to help local communities, states and national leaders make better informed policy and practice decisions in order to improve the economic, health, educational, family and community well-being of America’s children. The data book continues to use an index of key indicators, allowing for the tracking of trends over time.

National data from before and after the recession indicate that while children experienced across-the-board gains in the areas of education and health, they did experience some setbacks in the domains of economic well-being and family/community factors. Broadly speaking, more children today are living in poor, single-parent families in areas of concentrated poverty, where parents lack secure employment while experiencing higher housing costs than in past years.

In addition to national data, the new KIDS COUNT report provides state profiles which detail how a state has done on each of the 16 indicators and provides domain-specific ranks in addition to how the state ranks in overall child well-being. There is, of course, variety both between states and even within the different domains for a single state as resources, policies and funding priorities vary considerably across the country. Massachusetts, for example, who ranks first in terms of overall well-being, is ranked first in education indicators, second on health indicators, eighth in the family and community domain and drops to thirteenth in terms of economic well-being.

Unfortunately, even within the areas of improvement, a concerning amount of racial inequity remains. On more than half of the indicators examined, African American, American Indian and Latino children continue to experience negative outcomes at rates that are higher than the national average. In addition, these children fare worse than their white peers on 75 percent of indicators. The area in which they are keeping pace are the indicators surrounding health, indicating that recent policy efforts to increase access to health insurance, prenatal care and combat substance use have been effective.

Given the dramatic shift in the ethnic composition of children in the U.S., these trends are disturbing. The percentage of white children dropped from 69 percent in 1990 to 53 percent in 2012 while the percentage of Latino children doubled, from 12 to 24 percent during the same period. In fact, it is estimated that by 2018, children of color will be the majority. If racial inequities continue to exist at current levels, a distressing picture of our long-term economic and social future begins to emerge. In order to change the trajectory, we have to address the reality that too many children of color begin life with multiple disadvantages.

Data sources like the annual KIDS COUNT report provide an invaluable resource that can help galvanize and inform effective solutions at the community level. Comparing local data to state and national indicators enables communities to understand the nature and extent of both assets and challenges. Disaggregating data based on variables such as race, ethnicity, gender and age provides an even more nuanced picture of how different populations are faring, offering critical information to community change actors working to address disparities and target strategies to create better results for all children and families.

For more information on CSSP’s organizational commitment to equity, see our 2013 Annual Report: Equity and Social Change. For tools on how to use data in your community change efforts, see the Building Neighborhood Capacity Resource Center.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Connecting Communities: Improving Transportation Connections in Small and Mid-sized Cities

According to the Center for Transit Oriented Development, nine percent of U.S. households do not own a car, and among households earning less than $35,000 a year, this figure rises to 18 percent. Clearly, it is essential for neighborhoods with low- and moderate-income households to have easy access to a wide breadth of transportation choices. And connected communities that offer residents housing that provides transportation options such as walking, biking, and public transportation, can also connect community members to better job opportunities, facilitate upward mobility, and can benefit residents by promoting health and safety.

Small and mid-sized cities often find themselves with a number of challenges in creating accessible transportation options that their larger counterparts don’t face. For example, small to mid-sized cities often have fewer transit options, limited to regional bus systems and on-demand shuttles, and their financial resources are often spread thin. Recognizing the need for guidance and strategies tailored specifically to smaller cities, the Center for Transit Oriented Development created a guidebook for these cities on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The guidebook offers case studies from mid-size and small cities across the country, including cities ranging from small cities like Gonzales, California, to larger regional hubs like Portland, Maine.
One of the key takeaways is that communities must work with system leaders and policy makers at the local and regional level to influence policy in a way that opens up opportunities for new transit options in neighborhoods that are often underserved and overlooked. The guidebook points to a numbe rof strategies for connecting communities, many of which fall under the category or goal of convening decision makers. The following strategies are some ways that the guide identifies to bring transportation connections to your communities:
  • Align city departments around the shared goal of linking transportation and housing policy, planning, and investment decisions
  • Make housing and transportation integration “business as usual
  • Convene community, local, state, regional, and federal partners

For more guidance and tools related to influencing policy decisions around public transportation and other changes relevant to your community’s agenda, visit the Policy Influence section under "Tools and Templates" on our Building Neighborhood Capacity Program’s Resource Center.

Creative Investing to Make a Difference: Finance Strategies for Community Change

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is hosting a webinar titled Creative Investing to Make a Difference: Finance Strategies for Community Change. The webinar, which will take place on Tuesday, July 29th at 2pm ET, is the latest in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Community Matters webinar series.

While there are several capacities needed to transform communities and improve outcomes for children and families, developing a long-term financing strategy that includes a mix of public, private and philanthropic support is both critical and challenging. Join the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Calvert Foundation for a presentation on how to use unconventional and innovative financing strategies to target investments that can transform your community.

Panelists will include:
  • Ryan Chao, vice president for civic sites and community change, the Annie E. Casey Foundation (moderator)
  • Beth Bafford, senior officer for strategic initiatives, Calvert Foundation
  • Tracy Kartye, director of social investments, the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Click here to register for the webinar.

Want to learn more about how your community can develop innovative approaches to financing? Check out the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program Resource Center.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Be Sure to Register for the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference

The 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference is a week away! There is still time to register – be sure to do so online by Monday, July 21. Hosted by the Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Alliance for Children and Families, the 2014 conference will take place July 24-25 in Washington, DC.

This year’s conference is full of sessions designed to address some of the most complex challenges in place-based revitalization. Join fellow practitioners, policymakers, private sector leaders and funders to network and explore together how to tackle the most pressing concerns in our communities.

On Thursday, July 24th, participants will have the opportunity to hear from federal and philanthropic partners in the opening plenary: Federal and Philanthropic Investments to Catalyze Sustainable Local Efforts. This session will focus on federal and philanthropic efforts designed to support neighborhood revitalization and will include discussions about how to link national and local efforts, as well as how to use a results-driven approach focused on sustainability. Panelists will include:
  • Tonya Allen, Present & CEO, Skillman Foundation
  • Don Chen, Senior Program Officer, Ford Foundation
  • Jim Keddy, Vice Present & Chief Learning Officer, The California Endowment
  • Karol Mason, Assistant Attorney General for Justice Programs
  • Patrick McCarthy, President & CEO, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Luke Tate, Senior Policy Advisor, White House Domestic Policy Council 
Throughout the conference, participants will have the opportunity to explore a number of issues and initiatives, including the federal Promise Zones initiative, as well as how communities can promote the healthy development and well-being of children and families living in our nation’s most distressed neighborhoods.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2014 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Center for the Study of Social Policy's 2013 Annual Report

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is proud to release its 2013 annual report, focused on equity.

CSSP believes that all children – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status or the neighborhood in which they live – deserve to be healthy, to enter school ready to learn and to become young adults who are prepared to succeed in life and in the world. Growing up in safe, supportive, nurturing and economically secure families and in communities that can provide them and their families with access to the resources and opportunities they need, puts all children on the path to success. Yet, good outcomes for children, families and communities can only be achieved if we're aware of, attuned to and have the knowledge and skills to tackle inequity.

Equity – equality in opportunity and in what it takes to achieve good outcomes – has been part of CSSP’s mission from its earliest days. Achieving equity in opportunity and outcomes is core to social and economic success. If the current disparities in education, health, employment and social and economic mobility continue we will lose the opportunity to capitalize on the advantages of our increasingly diverse population. To ensure the social and economic growth of our country – and to improve outcomes for our children and families – the public, private and nonprofit sectors must advance equity at every level. 

The 2013 annual report highlights how critical attention to equity and the persistent gaps in achievement and outcomes shows up in all of CSSP’s work. Whether working with a public system, a federal policymaker or in a local community, CSSP examines the issues with an equity perspective and articulates policy and program solutions that seek to close the gaps and produce better results for all.

Want to learn more about CSSP’s efforts to advance equity? Check out the 2013 annual report.

Bridges to Economic Opportunity: Using Transportation to Connect People to Work

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity will be hosting an audio conference on Thursday, August 7, 2014 from 3-4 pm EST titled Bridges to Economic Opportunity: Using Transportation to Connect People to Work.

The audio conference will discuss the importance of affordable and accessible transportation in connecting people to jobs, housing, and other basic necessities. The conference will also discuss recent legislation proposed by the Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding the transit challenges of urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Speakers include:
  • Shiela Williams; Memphis Bus Riders Union 
  • Shefali Ranganathan; Transportation Choices Coalition 
  • Anita Hairston; Transportation Equity Caucus 
The speakers will present on several examples of nationwide and local action on the issue of transportation, including barriers to expanding transportation options for disadvantaged workers, an innovative program to reduce transportation fares, and how organizations are advocating for more equitable outcomes in affordable public transportation.

To register for the audio conference, click here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Access Training and Resources for Financing Your Community Change Work

Financing can be one of the most challenging and complicated elements of community change work. When considering financing options, it is important to incorporate a robust variety of funding streams as well as use funds that exist as leverage to stretch funding and achieve more impactful results. Building the capacity to understand one’s own costs of achieving community change, identifying funds that are already available, and then identifying potential other funding streams and leveraging or partnership opportunities is the key in creating a financing system that can be both successful and long-term.

But often, it’s difficult to even know how to access the funding sources out there. Creating a financing plan to support a community change project or entire nonprofit organization requires in-depth of skills and knowledge around how to craft grant proposals, build and sustain an effective board, and how to craft a budget.

Luckily, Grant SpaceSM, a service provided by The Foundation Center, offers a number of resources that can assist nonprofit organizations in securing funding and establishing strong boards and organizational structure. The service offers many free webinars as well as in-person training sessions in New York, Atlanta, Washington DC, Cleveland and San Francisco on fundamental topics that nonprofit organizations need to continue and grow their work. The most popular webinars or courses they offer are:
  •          Proposal Writing
  •          Proposal Budgeting Basics
  •          Grant Seeking Basics
  •          Before You Seek a Grant
  •          Finding Foundation Support for Your Organization

Check out their training calendar for the opportunity to attend these or any of the many classes they offer. Can’t make it to any of these scheduled events? You can also browse through past recordings of their webinars, attend live discussions with funders, and listen to their podcasts featuring experts in the field of non-profit development.

Want more specific tools related to financing community change work? Be sure to visit the financing section of the tools and templates in our online Building Neighborhood Capacity Resource Center