Thursday, February 17, 2011

How the FY 2012 Budget Impacts Local Community Work

While much has been said about the specific programs in the FY 2012 budget proposal, it is also critical to examine the priorities that are advanced by the Administration. Understanding these priorities can help communities begin to position themselves for future opportunities to attain and leverage federal funding to advance their efforts locally. The President’s budget message names economic growth and job creation as the Administration’s top two priorities. According to the President, investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure are the seeds to economic growth and the future ability of the U.S. to compete in a global economy. As the message outlines, the budget decisions made in the FY 2012 proposal reflect these priorities and the Administration’s growing focus on results, accountability and innovation.

Focusing on Results

Community partners should be working together to develop clarity and consensus about what results they are pursuing and then align their strategies for what works on the ground towards a rigorous pursuit of those results. Many communities have already been working to creatively leverage federal resources to achieve results through comprehensive, integrated approaches and local partnerships. These communities have found their interventions and partnerships to be stronger when the focus from the onset is about achieving results for children and families, with or without funding.

Increasing Accountability

The Administration’s proposal also supports increased competition such as more Race to the Top models in areas outside of education and attempts to open that competition to more local organizations and partnerships. Because of the increasingly competitive nature of grants, developing accountability mechanisms is critical. To continue attracting federal dollars, communities will have to be able to evaluate and document the success of their programs through data. It is critical that communities build their capacity to collect and track data on how their interventions are impacting those served and then develop a system for using this data to evaluate their programming over time and ensure their strategies are achieving results.


Much of the innovation that is occurring at the federal level is through new partnerships that break down silos in the Administration and create a space for new ideas and ways of achieving results. The Administration has modeled this most recently in integrating health, education, housing, and transportation through grant programs such as Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, Sustainable Communities and new efforts to improve employment outcomes through the Workforce Innovation Fund. The White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, an interagency collaborative focused on place-based anti-poverty work, is also an example of coordinated federal resources and policy to support local efforts. We know that through strong partnerships, communities are able to more effectively address the often complex and deeply interconnected challenges that families face by aligning programs in new ways, creating more effective integrated strategies, and sharing resources in ways that maximize funding supports and save money. We have also seen that community-based organizations and residents are increasingly given a greater opportunity to directly apply for federal funding and take the lead in advancing solutions in grant proposals. This acknowledges the impact that local residents, who are best positioned to determine the needs of their communities, can have in helping to develop new and creative solutions to achieving better results.

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