Word from Lowell: Promise 2.0 How shared data and resident voice will lead the way

Lowell Perry Jr., Executive Director

Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood (CCPN) community partners, residents, and Promise team members gathered together in March as part of a collaborative think tank to discuss the evolution of the Promise mission. The strategy session focused on two key characteristics that are essential for collective impact initiatives such as Promise:

  1. A shared data system that helps to better inform decision making
  2. Significant resident integration into all aspects of the initiative

Exploring a shared system and identifying opportunities for Promise Ambassadors to have decision making power in CCPN will be a significant focus for our team this year.

Shared measurement creates bigger impact

We live in a very data driven society. Most philanthropic investors, whether government, individual, or institutional, want to see performance metrics that illustrate how their investments are making a difference. Yes, we social profit organizations still have to provide the anecdotal information that pulls at the heartstrings. However, in today’s philanthropic market, people tend to invest in outcomes, rather than programs. A collective impact endeavor, such as Promise, needs to be able to measure how the aligned organizations are moving forward together, as opposed to each entity reporting outcomes individually in their respective silos. As the backbone organization in the CCPN “cradle to career pipeline” initiative, we see it as our responsibility to drive measurement alignment among our partner organizations.

A model of a possible Promise Data Office as presented by CWRU.
A model of a possible Promise Data Office as presented by CWRU.

During the recent Promise partner think tank, our partners from Case Western Reserve University Center for Urban Poverty and Community Development outlined a model for a Promise Data Office (PDO). The vision is that this PDO will not only collect, but also analyze, relevant information in a confidential manner with the sole purpose of enhancing the cradle-to-career journey of children in CCPN. This shared information will set the foundation for a so-called early warning system which can predict the need for appropriate intervention as required to ensure no child slips through society’s cracks.

When we are successful in identifying and implementing a data platform that is beneficial to all CCPN entities, we will have a more three dimensional picture of the children and families we serve. One day perhaps, this model will form the genesis for an expanded Promise footprint. The ultimate result will be more CCPN children and families being introduced onto the world stage as college students and/or professionals, ready to make their mark!

To begin to make the PDO reality and determine the best platform, Promise is collaborating with DigitalC to begin meeting with partners to conduct a data capacity assessment. We will then reconvene in May to begin mapping out a model for the PDO.

Residents lead the change when voices have power

Perhaps the most important aspect of any successful community endeavor is that the residents are leading the change. If the people most affected by the actions of the organizations delivering services are not involved in every aspect from planning to execution, then long-term success is slim and none, and slim just left town. Over the past six years, CCPN has put resident leadership development and engagement efforts at the center of our work. Our professionally trained Promise Ambassadors serve on every standing committee, including the Advisory Council, work closely with community partners, and Ambassador input is included in every Promise solutions strategy put forth.

We recently graduated a class of nine new ambassadors this past August. Our partners, Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI) and Enlightenment Consulting, lead the training effort.  The next phase of training involves moving from engagement to integration. Ambassadors are gaining additional expertise in areas they are most passionate about.  I encourage all community partners to be intentional about integrating Promise Ambassadors into their work, including being in a position to influence services design and delivery. CCPN has arguably the best resident leader effort in the Promise Neighborhood Initiative National Network. This is a true testament to the intentionality of the Promise team and partners, and the resident leaders themselves to be engaged in the process.