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A Twenty-First Century Approach to Community ChangePartnering to Improve Life Outcomes for Youth and Families in Under-Served Neighborhoods$

Paula Allen-Meares, Tina R. Shanks, Larry M. Gant, Leslie Hollingsworth, and Patricia L. Miller

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190463311

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190463311.001.0001

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Introduction to Good Neighborhoods

Introduction to Good Neighborhoods

1 Introduction to Good Neighborhoods
A Twenty-First Century Approach to Community Change

Paula Allen-Meares

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This introductory chapter describes the Skillman Foundation’s vision for the Good Neighborhoods program and introduces the six communities that were the target of the Foundation’s work for change and the theories of change. The chapter further addresses the emergence and development of the partnership between an embedded foundation and the University of Michigan School of Social Work, which led to the creation, organization, and funding of the Technical Assistance Center (TAC). The organization, processes, and planning required for the implementation of the change process is described. The chapter provides a context for the process that evolved during the economic and social catastrophes that impacted Detroit.

Keywords:   neighborhood missions, Skillman Foundation, theory of change, partnership, University of Michigan, Technical Assistance Center, embedded

(p.1) The community really got to know and trust the Foundation because they were a part of community. They weren’t doing it to the community. They were doing it with the community, and that's a really important lessons for any foundation that wants to work in tandem with the community and be very transparent … They have to do that with their feet.

—K. GULLEY (personal communication, February 10, 2016; National Community Development Institute Planning Team, 2005)

The other thing, the last thing I have to speak to Skillman and the amazing job that they did in building relationship in a community.

—K. GULLEY (personal communication, February 10, 2016; National Community Development Institute Planning Team, 2005)


The book contains 12 chapters. This chapter provides an overview of the Skillman Foundation’s collaboration with the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, which resulted in the creation, organization, and funding of the Technical Assistance Center (TAC) for Skillman’s Good Neighborhoods work. This chapter introduces the Skillman Foundation, its goals for Good Neighborhoods, and its partnership with the University of Michigan School of Social Work, TAC (UMSSW/TAC). Chapter 2 describes the history and evolution of the city of Detroit and the select social, economic, and political forces and demographic changes the city has experienced in its history. Chapter 3 describes community development as a distinct model of community practice and its role in the Foundation’s change strategy. Chapter 4 introduces the six neighborhoods and provides an in-depth profile of the assets possessed and challenges faced by each. Maps and data illustrate unique community elements.1

Although this chapter discusses the Skillman Foundation and TAC theories of change that drove Good Neighborhoods’ early planning phase, Chapter 5 examines how these dynamic theories changed over time in response to new knowledge coming both from evidence and from being grounded in “doing.” Chapter 6 focuses on the planning phase of Good Neighborhoods, the purpose of which was to engage the residents and stakeholders in a community-wide process to determine goals and an action plan.

(p.2) Capacity-building within the six communities was one of the foundational and essential ingredients that ensured the success of Good Neighborhoods. The Skillman Foundation and the UMSSW/TAC co-designed a unique approach to organizational capacity-building that involved a number of collaborators and organizations; this approach is presented in Chapter 7. The development of leadership, both informal (organic) and formal, by both adults and youth, was at the top of the Skillman Foundation’s aspirational list. Chapter 8 details the creation and deployment of the Leadership Academy that UMSSW/TAC co-designed, the Community Connections small-grants resident decision-making panel, and learning communities, which all served as tools to train and support residents.

The development of community governance structures and an analysis of initial bylaws is presented in Chapter 9. This chapter explores approaches used to create structures and opportunities that empowered community residents so that they could act on their aspirations and develop effective partnerships to catalyze change—not via community councils, but through residents’ voices.

Innovative approaches to field instruction and educational priorities that leveraged the aspirations of the Foundation and the UMSSW/TAC creatively integrated student classroom learning with on-the-ground action and problem-solving. Chapter 10 discusses how students were deeply engaged in community action-based learning. Chapter 11 reviews the measurable results of Good Neighborhoods activities. It summarizes progress made toward Skillman goals and offers updates on what each community accomplished over the 10-year period studied. Chapter 12 presents a series of lessons learned from the almost decade-long commitment to six neighborhoods and to a partnership that shared the same aspirations for the community and its children: better developmental achievement.

The Skillman Foundation Vision

The Skillman Foundation’s neighborhood strategy aimed to “transform communities with children in the most need with the least resources into healthy, safe, and supportive neighborhoods for children, youth, and their families in the city of Detroit and its surrounding communities” (Allen, 2005).

The Skillman Foundation Mission

The Skillman Foundation requested technical assistance from the University of Michigan to support community-building in six Detroit neighborhoods. The University responded with a grant proposal. This Skillman initiative fell under its Home and Community program area, which was designed to address the inherent connection between children and their surroundings. Projects within this program area worked to increase the number of healthy, safe, and supportive neighborhoods that support the (p.3) full development of children and youth. (Appendix A details the Skillman Foundation’s Theory of Philanthropy.)

Identifying Good Neighborhoods

In 2005, the Skillman Foundation committed its resources over a 10-year period to help improve the developmental outcomes of children in six of the city’s most child-populated neighborhoods. The city’s total population was approximately 951,000 in 2000 (US Census Bureau, 2000). Of Detroit residents, 205,000 lived in the six targeted neighborhoods, and 36.7 percent were under 18 years of age.

Detroit is unique among US metropolitan communities. In its early history, it had a large ethnic minority population, high resident achievement, active community participation, strong political involvement, and immense civic pride. As discussed in the Foreword and in Chapter 2, Detroit’s history and its recent difficulties made the Skillman Foundation’s vision deeply salient to residents and stakeholders.

The resources Skillman committed to Good Neighborhoods included funding ($100 million over the 10-year period), the time and expertise of its staff, and its reputation and influence as a local and state civic leader. Good Neighborhoods was specifically designed to attract a critical mass of other interested investors, thus facilitating community change at the system and institutional levels and individual change at the child level, with an ultimate goal of “making Detroit work for children” through improved developmental and well-being outcomes in the areas of safety, health, education, and preparation for adulthood (see Figure 1.1).

Introduction to Good Neighborhoods

Figure 1.1 Theory of Change: Changing the odds for chidren, not just beating the odds.

Skillman ranked the neighborhoods in three tiers: (1) Stop the Decline: These neighborhoods were previously stable, but factors such as poverty had increased; strategic investment could reverse the decline. The level of need was lower than the other two tiers, and the primary strategy was prevention. (2) Tipping Point: These neighborhoods had experienced some decline, but also showed progress. Strategic investment could tip the community toward permanent, increasing improvement. The level of need here was medium, and the primary strategy was remediation. And (3) Rebuild Community: These neighborhoods had a significant level of need; residents’ housing situation was poor; and there were a large number of children. Strategic investment would help those in need and provide a foundation for continued improvements. The level of need here was high, and intervention was required.

Using these tiers, the Foundation selected six neighborhoods, two in each tier, to be the focus of Good Neighborhoods: using these tiers, the Foundation classified the six child-populated neighborhoods that became the focus of Good Neighborhoods. The six neighborhoods were ranked as follows:

  • Stop the Decline: Cody/Rouge, Osborn

  • Tipping Point: Chadsey/Condon, Vernor

  • Re-build Community: Brightmoor, Central

(p.4) The core Good Neighborhoods goals were:

  1. 1. Community Assets and Initiatives: Maximize the assets, capacity, and impact of resources and institutions in targeted communities.

  2. 2. Natural Helpers: Enable a cadre of “natural helpers” committed to providing services or support for children.

  3. 3. Neighborhood-Based Human Delivery System: Establish effective neighborhood-based human service delivery systems for children, youth, and families. (p.5)

  4. 4. Child-Friendly Spaces: Improve the availability of child-friendly spaces and the physical infrastructure of neighborhoods with large concentrations of children.

  5. 5. Youth Development Programs: Increase opportunities for quality out-of-school time and youth development programs available to children and youth.

  6. 6. Public/Private Investments: Increase public and private investments in neighborhoods to strengthen service and impact.

  7. 7. Income- and Wealth-Building Strategies: Build the resilience of children and families through income- and wealth-building strategies.


In order to reach these goals, the Good Neighborhoods project began by employing a participatory process in each neighborhood. This process was designed to involve neighborhood residents and stakeholders with the Skillman Foundation and its partners—the UMSSW/TAC, the National Community Development Institute (NCDI), Berg Muirhead and Associates, and the Detroit Youth Foundation—in planning and implementing Good Neighborhoods. Activities launching the initiative in each neighborhood included:

  1. 1. Community-based focus groups

  2. 2. Competitive grants

  3. 3. Large competitive grants to promote learning

  4. 4. Stakeholder meetings that expanded voices at the table (see Appendix B)

  5. 5. Five large community meetings (see Appendix B)

  6. 6. Small community engagement meetings

Neighborhoods: Theories of Change

The Skillman Foundation based the Good Neighborhoods project on research demonstrating that children need supportive families to succeed, and families need supportive neighborhoods and public institutions. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Rebuilding Communities Initiative worked from a similar perspective, adopting a theory of change for community-building that was grounded in the following core beliefs:

  1. 1. Both capacity development and systematic reforms at the government and neighborhood levels are necessary to provide opportunities and resources for community-rebuilding.

  2. 2. A viable neighborhood governance structure is necessary for community leaders to emerge around the community-rebuilding agenda.

  3. 3. Sustainability of community-rebuilding is dependent on neighborhood groups taking ownership of the process and working with both public and private stakeholders to respond to the neighborhood’s needs, priorities, and conditions.

(p.6) When it established Good Neighborhoods, the Skillman Foundation adapted the Casey Foundation approach to begin the collaborative process of rebuilding Detroit neighborhoods. It also incorporated lessons learned from similar initiatives to devise a program that engaged community residents, stakeholders, and service providers in a way that addressed each neighborhood’s needs and tapped into each community’s assets.

Skillman: The Embedded Foundation

A growing subset of hometown and place-based foundations in the United States deploy and learn from an operating style of embedded philanthropy (Karlström, Brown, Chaskin, & Richman, 2009, pp. 51). This embedded philanthropic approach, in which funders “dig in” and “dig deeper” into the life of communities, is characterized by (1) long-term regional, neighborhood, or city commitment; (2) continuous relationship-building and engagement with community residents, institutions, and organizations; (3) community engagement and efforts beyond grant-making; and (4) use of relationships and partnerships as critical components of community work (Karlström et al., 2009, pp. 52–53). Embedded philanthropy is one of several contemporary strategies designed to extend the grant period of comprehensive programs and enhance the community-building aspect of comprehensive community development initiatives (Mossberger, 2010). Indeed, “embedded philanthropy and embedded funders may change the landscape of community-building efforts in significant ways” (Allen-Meares, Gant, & Shanks, 2010).

Grantees and support staff collaborating with embedded foundations see foundation staff not as just grant-makers, but as conveners, brokers, data gatherers, innovators, and organizers. The primary objective of these roles is to build relationships that support the desired change. Also central to embedded philanthropy are asset and economic development. This place-based philanthropy isn’t easy; it often requires a long-term common interest, considerable public exposure, and accountability. In other words, it is risky. Explicit in the place-based approach is that community change takes time and that a participatory process is required to achieve change.

In the case of the Skillman Foundation, staff—including its president and senior program officers—were active in evening and weekend meetings with neighborhood residents and partners. Residents knew the names, and in some instances the roles, of each staff member. Thus the “they” versus “we” that often characterizes a typical grantor–grantee or agency–resident relationship was minimized.

Revisiting the Idea of Neighborhood

According to Pagano (2015), some assume that geographical boundaries help to distinguish among neighborhoods. Yet the residents who dwell in a neighborhood may define it quite differently. Is it a physical space? Is it defined by who lives there (e.g., African=American or Latino/a residents, persons with low income, etc.)? Social (p.7) scientists and planners have grappled with this issue for some time. Decades ago, I sat in a community organizing class discussion about the functional (e.g., business, Catholic, and immigrant, etc.) versus geographic (e.g., streets, railroad tracks, and governmental jurisdictions) definitions of community. This confusion continues, to some degree, in the 21st century, but conversations are ongoing about creating neighborhood change that enhances the well-being of local residents and promotes healthy communities.

Regardless of confusion about definitions, the neighborhood is an important focus of social change and advancement. And, as populations around the world continue to migrate to cities, the neighborhood and/or community concept remains vital. As a consequence, neighborhood and city infrastructures—among them transportation, education, and human service systems; water, electrical, and health care resources; and employment opportunities—must respond to increased population demands.

However, some neighborhoods and communities do not have such resources. They lack access to healthy food systems, excellent and well-funded public schools, employment opportunities for diverse youth and their families, recreational opportunities, and human service resources to support and improve the function of families and children. In other words, some neighborhoods/communities have experienced disinvestment. Why? Some blame institutional classism and racism, a focus on individualism, economic emphasis on capitalism, or a shift in our nation’s philosophy from “we” to “me.” Regardless of root cause, the result is that many in disinvested neighborhoods and communities are isolated and alienated. Thus, the Skillman Foundation’s long-term commitment to collaborative rebuilding represents a timely and needed reinvestment—a long-term approach to supplanting isolation and alienation and replacing them with community and connectedness.

University of Michigan School of Social Work Technical Assistance Center

Several faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work had a long-standing relationship with the Skillman Foundation and a deep commitment to the well-being of the Detroit community.

The UMSSW/TAC was founded on several core beliefs: (1) communities have existing assets and can develop to their full potential; (2) the TAC’s role is to identify, assess, and build on the strengths of each neighborhood; (3) local knowledge can be enhanced through education and training if the TAC engages in thoughtful, strategic information- and knowledge-sharing designed to build capacity; (4) change will occur systematically across neighborhoods if the TAC provides evidence-based technical assistance; and (5) community change requires establishing partnerships. The UMSSW/TAC was a vision of the School of Social Work’s faculty and leadership, and the vision was made clear during the TAC partnership with the Skillman Foundation.

(p.8) The Skillman Foundation did not explicitly state why it selected UMSSW/TAC to consult, facilitate, collaborate, and identify evidence-based priorities. However, it may be the TAC’s deep commitment to building on the strengths of communities; seeing opportunity where others see problems; drawing on the University of Michigan, the School of Social Work, and evidence-based knowledge to drive problem-solving; the School’s close relationship with Detroit; and the congruence between the Good Neighborhoods project objectives and the UMSSW/TAC’s purpose. The Foundation required a competent partner that embraced its core values to support implementation of the Good Neighborhoods strategy.

Theories of Change

Theories of change express an organization’s conception of what change is possible, what a change process looks like, what elements in the process are significant, and how to measure success. This knowledge can be drawn from a foundation’s historical experience and from empirical evidence, and it can be guided by the foundation’s ideology (Weiss, Coffman, & Bohan-Baker, 2002).

Frumkin (2002) outlined specific examples of what a foundation may consider when developing a theory of change: among them are training future leadership, increasing capacity in other organizations, building networks, informing policy, and exploring new theories and concepts. In an embedded foundation, a theory of change is dynamic, evolves over time, and differentiates by phases of the change process. It is a difficult balancing act, but establishing theoretical principles that evolve with the project allows for thoughtful reflection and flexible adaptation (Allen-Meares et al., 2010).

Skillman Foundation’s Theory of Change

The Skillman Foundation’s theory of change, explored in detail in Chapter 3, called for a partnership among the Foundation’s grant- and change-making resources; neighborhood residents, teachers, and nonprofit stakeholders; and other foundations and investors. It also called for the technical assistance of the University of Michigan and its social work faculty’s knowledge of and experience with evaluation, communities, and facilitating collaboration and systems change.

Stame (2004) suggests that theories of change can include implementation theory, forecasting intervention steps and outcomes, and program theory, looking at mechanisms that make things happen. Skillman’s theory of change, however, can be described as dynamic/complex. A logic model assuming linear evolution of a process did not apply to the vibrant, deeply engaged, place-based community strategies that the Skillman Foundation embraced. Rather, the Foundation anticipated facilitating decisions and agendas to achieve better developmental and achievement outcomes for children. It sought other investors/partners, and it leveraged resources to increase important innovations.

(p.9) Skillman articulated its theory of change in the document, “Grant Making: Making Detroit Work for Children” (Figure 1.2).2 As stated, Good Neighborhoods sought to improve the developmental and achievement outcomes for youth, and those objectives could not be realized without other Foundation teams and partners working to improve schools and create opportunities for residents, families, and resilience (see Figure 1.2).

Introduction to Good Neighborhoods

Figure 1.2 Skilman Theory of Change: Making Detroit Work for Children.

The UMSSW/TAC’s Theory of Change

Like the Skillman Foundation, UMSSW/TAC embraced a theory of change with specific outcomes, outlined in Figure 1.3. The UMSSW/TAC staff believed that change (p.10) would occur by preparing natural place-based helpers in the community and empowering them to lead change. Staff held that leadership training was essential to nurturing each neighborhood’s natural helpers—whether those helpers were adults or youth. The strategies it used to realize this theory of change varied depending on the phase of the initiative. These strategies are discussed in detail in Chapters 6, 7, and 8.

Introduction to Good NeighborhoodsIntroduction to Good Neighborhoods

Figure 1.3 University of Michigan - School of Social Work, Technical Assistance Center.

Governance and the Change Process

Neighborhood-based governance may be defined as neighborhood-level mechanisms and processes that guide planning, decision-making, coordination, and implementation of activities in the neighborhood; representation of neighborhood interests to circumstances beyond the neighborhood; and accountability and responsibility for actions (p.11) undertaken on behalf of the neighborhood (Chaskin, Joseph, & Chipenda-Dansokho, 1997). Neighborhood governance structures may provide administrative oversight and fiscal accountability for a project, as well as a way to develop collaboration and partnerships among stakeholders. How informal and formal relationships, institutional structures, and diverse stakeholders are brought together to assume leadership within an initiative is first and foremost a question of governance (Potapchuk, Crocker, & Schechter, 1999).

Developing and strengthening governance is a long-term process that may occur in phases. For example, early implementation of a larger initiative is often characterized by individual projects connected through informal linkages. However, as the work expands, issues of governance emerge: how to formally connect projects, develop community (p.12) infrastructures to manage the initiative, and coordinate efforts to strengthen the initiative within the community. As goals and objectives are achieved (or not), governance structures may change again to reflect new relationships, priorities, and needs.

Various approaches to and models of governance were used in Good Neighborhoods communities as residents, leaders, stakeholders, and partners began to think about how to lead, manage, and implement the initiative within their respective communities. These approaches and models included establishing volunteer task forces, selecting a community board via community-wide election, using existing community structures, creating and convening a collaborative board, or using an intermediary/lead agency to manage at the community level.

The Phases

Good Neighborhoods was structured in three phases: planning, readiness, and transformation. In the planning phase, residents and service providers, representing various demographic groups in each neighborhood, collaborated to identify neighborhood-specific goals that aligned with the four program-specific outcomes, identify strategies for achieving them, and draft short- and long-term action plans through which to implement strategies. Near the end of the planning phase, the plans of these action planning teams were consolidated into a single community plan for each neighborhood.

In the readiness phase, residents and service providers in each neighborhood acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to implement the community plan. A major element of this phase was the preparation and establishment of a governance body and process that would lead the neighborhood in implementing its community plan.

In the transformation phase, the change-facilitating function of the Foundation decreased while that of the neighborhoods increased, and neighborhoods implemented an integrated Foundation/community plan. The grant-making role of the Foundation remained, though modified, to fund the neighborhoods’ plan implementation. As neighborhoods entered the transformation phase, each was to have in place (1) a neighborhood infrastructure and system with capacity and resources to implement its plan for improving child and youth outcomes; (2) a Foundation plan for a coordinated, accessible system of supports and opportunities for children and youth connected to the neighborhood’s goals; and (3) visible physical improvements or other tangible changes linked to the long-term goals of children’s improved safety, health, education, and preparation for adulthood.

Providing Technical Assistance

The UMSSW/TAC provided technical assistance on three levels: to the Skillman Foundation and partners, to the neighborhoods, and across neighborhoods. It brought to Good Neighborhoods partners content knowledge; expertise in areas essential to (p.13) Good Neighborhoods’ success (e.g., planning; project management and training; and academic, research, and practice knowledge and experience); faculty and staff time, talent, and representation of neighborhood demographics; and forecasting informed by research and practice wisdom.

Technical assistance varied according to the needs in each phase, and the TAC provided it at multiple levels concurrently. Technical assistance to the Foundation was an ongoing and dynamic process designed to carry out the Foundation’s theory of change and the subsequent needs of Good Neighborhoods. Needs for assistance at this level were identified by the Foundation, the collaborative partner-planning process, and the UMSSW/TAC.

Technical assistance to and across neighborhoods was designed to increase the capacity of neighborhood residents and service providers and to enhance their ability to work together to meet community goals. Needs for cross-neighborhood and neighborhood-level technical assistance emerged from decisions made at neighborhood meetings, subsequent requests from residents and service providers, requests from Foundation program officers, requests from on-the-ground community liaisons employed by the NCDI, and requests from other partners.

Neighborhood-Specific Technical Assistance

Technical assistance at this level was based on specific requests from neighborhood residents, stakeholders, community groups, and nonprofit organizations engaged with Good Neighborhoods. It met specific capacity-building needs at the individual neighborhood level. Neighborhood assistance included but was not limited to individual consultation/coaching, producing and presenting reports to Good Neighborhood communities, participating in Good Neighborhood planning teams, and developing technical assistance briefs that addressed a specific neighborhood issue. It also included the Stakeholder Meetings, listed below.

  • Meeting 1: Introducing Good Neighborhoods and identifying key issues

  • Meeting 2: Crafting the vision and identifying potential goals

  • Meeting 3: Reviewing data and selecting the community goal

  • Meeting 4: Providing strategies and defining processes

  • Meeting 5: Finalizing strategies and collaborations

In these meetings and others, the TAC coordinated data presentations and collaborated with other partners. These data presentations provided information to the community to generate support for informed decision-making, discussion, and planning by participants during small-group and “tabletop” discussions. In stakeholder meetings, community members met in groups to discuss the following question: What is the main thing Good Neighborhoods should do to improve outcomes for kids? Each group was asked (p.14) to brainstorm a list of suggestions, prioritize the list, and choose three proposed community goals for Good Neighborhoods. Themes that emerged from these discussion groups include:

  1. 1. Safe/affordable housing and increased home ownership

  2. 2 Support parents; single-parent help

  3. 3. Provide after-school programs: faith-based, art, sports, music to teach children, more prevention programs

  4. 4. Better community recreational programs

  5. 5. Improved employment programs/opportunities

  6. 6. Good schools and better graduation rates

  7. 7. School buildings open after hours

  8. 8. Provision of quality child care centers

  9. 9. Better health care

  10. 10. Youth development programs

  11. 11. Gang and drug prevention

Since some of the residents did not speak English, translation services were available for many meetings. Overall, resident attendance at all meetings was very good, considering that many took place in the evening and a few on the weekends. Participation was encouraged by providing transportation, child care, and a meal. For example, stakeholder and community meetings consisted of a five-stage planning process, and agendas for each meeting were detailed and highly organized. (See Appendix B for agendas.)

Cross-Neighborhood Technical Assistance

Assistance at this level related to more than one specific neighborhood. Cross-neighborhood technical assistance met the capacity-building and learning needs common across all neighborhoods and, once met, moved Good Neighborhoods forward at the neighborhood level. This type of technical assistance included but was not limited to providing workshops, establishing learning clusters and study circles, and facilitating roundtable or panel discussions geared toward issues relevant across neighborhoods (see Figure 1.3).

Technical Assistance to the Foundation

Assistance at this level responded to specific requests from the Skillman Foundation. It met capacity-building needs related to determining appropriate strategies, future projects, and evaluation mechanisms necessary to move the entire initiative forward (p.15) in a deliberate, intentional manner. Some examples of this type of technical assistance included generating reports (qualitative analysis), technical assistance briefs, evaluations (quantitative analysis), templates/working documents, and literature reviews. It also included participation in the Good Neighborhoods Operations Team, bi-weekly conference calls, and Learning Partnership meetings (see Figure 1.3).

Although the TAC provided technical assistance at different levels (Foundation, neighborhood, and cross-neighborhood), the Foundation described the overarching plan to bring about change in terms of phases.


During the Planning Phase, UMSSW/TAC provided:

  1. 1. Needs assessment

  2. 2. Focus groups

  3. 3. Stakeholder meetings (facilitated by NCDI and including other agencies/partners)

  4. 4. Large community meetings

  5. 5. Data collection and analysis

  6. 6. Presentations that highlighted 28 indicators of child well-being in the United States and 16 indicators identified by the Skillman Foundation as Good Neighborhoods outcomes

  7. 7. Reports to each community regarding small-/large-group discussions

  8. 8. Spanish and Arabic translation services

During the Readiness Phase, UMSSW/TAC:

  1. 1. Facilitated the development ofed community work plans to guide the process for moving forward

  2. 2. Identified five focus areas across and within the six neighborhoods:

    1. a. Governance

    2. b. Partnerships

    3. c. Communication issues

    4. d. Capacity-building

    5. e. Leadership development

These focus areas provided the framework for cross-neighborhood assistance for all communities and neighborhood-specific assistance for each community. However, the UMSSW/TAC had limited human and financial resources to supply technical assistance in some of these focus areas. Thus, it prioritized some over others. It also included other (p.16) thought leaders to supplement its areas of expertise. As a consequence, the UMSSW/TAC team identified seven goals:

  1. 1. Promote neighborhood-based human service delivery system

  2. 2. Promote public–private investment

  3. 3. Create child-friendly space

  4. 4. Advise on community assets and initiatives

  5. 5. Advise on income- and wealth-building strategies

  6. 6. Use natural helpers

  7. 7. Advise on youth development programs

Together, the TAC and the Foundation developed these goals. These goals were defined by the Foundation, given its formal and informal knowledge about these neighborhoods. (See Appendix C, Neighborhood Strategy Overview.)

During the Transformation Phase, UMSSW/TAC provided support and assistance to:

  1. 1. Maintain the leadership infrastructure and training of the governance boards developed during earlier phases

  2. 2. Conduct a 2012 survey evaluation3

  3. 3. Advance the small-grant application process for the communities to support their priorities

  4. 4. Facilitate learning communities to connect common interests/issues and create synergy among stakeholders and leaders

  5. 5. Focus on youth development by creating youth leadership and employment opportunities

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. What could be some internal challenges within a school or college of social work in terms of creating a technical assistance center? Please identify at least four to five challenges and suggest possible remedies.

  2. 2. Discuss why neighborhood change in diverse, economically challenged communities can be fundamentally challenging in the 21st century.

  3. 3. How does Good Neighborhoods add value to the place-based change literature?

  4. 4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an embedded foundation?

  5. 5. What social and economic issues were prevalent in Detroit between 2005 and 2015 that could have undermined the Foundation’s efforts to facilitate neighborhood change?

  6. 6. Do you think that both the Foundation and the UMSSW/TAC needed theories of change? (p.17)

  7. 7. What roles did data (collection, analysis, and presentation) play in Good Neighborhoods and in the change process? Why were data important?


(1.) Chapter 3 draws on technical assistance reports completed in 2005 and 2006 by the UM/SSWTAC.

(2.) Two additional programmatic strategies are identified in Figure 1.1: Good Schools and Good Opportunities.

(3.) Indicated that four of the six Good Neighborhoods communities received performance scores of “good” to “very good,” and two communities received ratings of “fair to average.” The survey included participants from Fall 2006 through 2013; and 270 participants as of 2012; 71 percent of residents were active in neighborhood leadership.

Additional Reading

Bibliography references:

Brown, P., Chaskin, R., Hamilton, R., & Rickman, H. (2013). Toward greater effectiveness in community change: Challenges and responses for philanthropy. New York: The Foundation Center, pp. 1–60.

Curnan, S., & Hughes, D. (2011). Resilience, resolve, results: A compilation of readiness phase studies of the Skillman Foundation’s Good Neighborhoods and Good Schools initiative. 2008–2010. Retrieved from: http://www.skillman.org/Knowledge-Center/Data-Evaluation-Reports

Fullbright-Anderson K. & Auspos, P. (Eds.). (2006). Community change: Theories, practices, and evidence. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute, Roundtable on Community Change, pp. 1–548.

Kirk, D. S., & Sampson, R. J. (2012). Juvenile arrest and collateral education damage in transition to adulthood. Sociology of Education, 85(3), 1–27.

Kneebone, E. (2014). The growth and spread of concentrated poverty, 2000 to 2008–2012. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute.

National Resource Center, & Glavin, J. C. (2010). Delivering training and technical assistance: Strengthening non-profits. Washington DC: Department of Health and Human Services, pp. 1–48.

Wodtke, G., Harding, D. J., & Elwert, F. (2011). Impact of long-term exposure to concentrated disadvantage on high school graduation. American Sociological Review, 76(5), 713–736.


Bibliography references:

Allen-Meares, P., Gant, L., & Shanks, T. (2010). Embedded foundations: Advancing community change and empowerment. The Foundation Review, 2(3), Article 7, 61–78.

Allen, T. (2005). Memorandum to Trustees: Framework for Neighborhood Strategy. Detroit: Skillman Foundation. Unpublished Internal Document.

Chaskin, R. J., Joseph, M. L., & Chipenda-Dansokho, S. (1997). Implementing comprehensive community development: Possibilities and limitations. Social Work, 42(5), 435–444.

(p.18) Frumkin, P. J. (2002). Philanthropic strategies and tactics for change: A concise framework. Washington, DC: New America Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2002/philanthropic_strategies_and_tactics_for_change_a_concise_framework.

Karlström, M., Brown, P., Chaskin, R., & Richman, H. (2009). Embedded philanthropy and the pursuit of civic engagement. The Foundation Review, 1(2), 50–64.

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(1.) Chapter 3 draws on technical assistance reports completed in 2005 and 2006 by the UM/SSWTAC.

(2.) Two additional programmatic strategies are identified in Figure 1.1: Good Schools and Good Opportunities.

(3.) Indicated that four of the six Good Neighborhoods communities received performance scores of “good” to “very good,” and two communities received ratings of “fair to average.” The survey included participants from Fall 2006 through 2013; and 270 participants as of 2012; 71 percent of residents were active in neighborhood leadership.