Revisiting the Critical Elements
of Comprehensive Community Initiatives
A Study Conducted by Staff of
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning
United States Department of Health and Human
The ASPE Study Team included Kathleen Bond, Disability, the Office of Disability,
Aging and Long-Term Care Policy, Barbara Broman, the Office of Human Services
Policy, Angela Duran, the Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary, Bruce
Gray, the Office of Human Services Policy, on detail from the Health Resources
and Services Administration, Emily Novick, the Office of Human Services Policy,
Ann Segal, Team Leader, the Office of Human Services Policy, Richard Silva,
the Office Human Services Policy, Carolyn Taplin, the Office of Health Policy,
and Hal Wolman, the Office of Program Systems.
We would like to thank the administrators, board members, and staff of the
following organizations, as well as those residents and administrators from
collaborating institutions with whom we met. Visiting the initiatives and
meeting with such a committed, wise set of people humbles and enriches those
of us involved in policy development. We are extremely grateful for their
participation, enthusiasm and honesty. We offer the cross-initiative lessons
and insights that they shared with us in the hope that such information will
prove valuable to the field.
Center for Family Life in Sunset Park
345 43rd St.
Brooklyn, NY 11232
Sister Mary Paul, Director of Clinical Services
Codman Square Health Center
6 Norfolk St.
Dorchester, MA 02124
Bill Walczack, Executive Director
Dudley St. Neighborhood Initiative
513 Dudley St.
Roxbury, MA 02119
Greg Watson, Executive Director
Eastside Community Investments, Inc.
26 North Arsenal Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46201
Dennis West, President
Greater Germantown Housing Development Corporation/Germantown Settlement/Wister
48 East Penn St.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Stephen Kazanjian, Executive Director/CEO (GGHDC)
Emanuel Freeman, Executive Director (GS)
2600 Hadley St.
St. Louis, MO 63106
George Eberle, Jr., President
211 South Fourth St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Luis Garden Acosta, President and Founder
Local Investment Commission
3100 Broadway, Suite 226
Kansas City, MO 64111
Gayle Hobbs, Executive Director
Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, Inc.
3917 Minnesota Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20019
Lloyd Smith, President and CEO
Department of Social Services, Room 843
1255 Imperial Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
Connie Roberts, Director
New Community Corporation
233 West Market St.
Newark, NJ 07103
Monsignor William Linder, Founder
Sandtown-Winchester Community Center
1114 North Mount St.
Baltimore, MD 21217
Ronica Houston, Executive Director
Swope Parkway Health Center
3801 Blue Parkway
Kansas City, MO 64130
E. Frank Ellis, President
The Walbridge Caring Communities Program
5019 Alcott Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63120
Khatib Waheed, Director
A special thanks to Anita Miller, Program Director, Comprehensive Community
Revitalization Program (New York), Mitchell Sviridoff, Professor Emeritus
and Senior Fellow in Urban Policy at The New School for Social Research (New
York), and Bob Bolter, President, Jubilee Enterprise of Greater Washington
(D.C.), for their advice and assistance.
Initial Project Development
Principal Reasons Why Initiatives Have "Survived"
This report is based on a study of a set of comprehensive community initiatives
(CCIs) from across the nation. Those CCIs chosen were subjectively judged
to be successful in moving toward their goals by informed experts and met
the following criteria: they have been operational for at least the past
five years; they are focused on improving the status of children and families;
they use multiple funding sources; they provide multiple services and supports;
and they are large enough to have the potential for significant impact in
The study focuses on the lessons and insights gained through the experiences
of these initiatives. Project analysts first reviewed the conventional wisdom
concerning elements necessary for such efforts to survive (used as a proxy
for success), then conducted site visits that involved extensive discussions
with executive directors, staff, board members, community residents, and
partner agency administrators. The wisdom offered during these discussions
is distilled here in the hope of informing the field and guiding federal
The study was conducted by staff of the Office of the Assistant Secretary
for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. The office is responsible for policy development, policy analysis,
planning, and evaluation and research related to all issues of concern to
the Department, including linkages of Department programs to other public
and private sector services and supports.
For many years, experts in the field of child and family services have encouraged
the development of comprehensive support strategies. This approach reflects
the understanding that the needs of children and families vary
greatly--individually, as a family unit, and over time--and that a number
of children and families have a multiple set of needs that must be met in
order to move toward self-sufficiency. No one service or support can be expected
to yield significant results if a child or family is overwhelmed by unaddressed
problems. In recent years, many experts in the field of child and family
services have broadened their vision to include a stronger focus on community
development and employment as crucial to achieving their goals.
Experts in the field of economic development have also come to recognize
that their success depends on broadening their strategy. Until the early
1990s, these experts had largely focused on reclaiming a neighborhood through
improved housing and employment opportunities. They have subsequently begun
to include a wide variety of health and social services for the community
in their plans, recognizing that many people need such supports to achieve
and maintain self-sufficiency.
As those from various fields have moved closer toward adopting a shared view
of what is needed to gain positive outcomes for children, families, and
communities, numerous articles and books have articulated the principles
and steps believed most important to building comprehensive support systems.
These lessons were culled from observations of the early initiatives, which
were most often funded by foundations or government grants. Perhaps the most
frequently identified lessons have been that making significant changes in
service systems and revitalizing communities is extremely hard and often
frustrating work and that each effort is idiosyncratic, formed by the
circumstances of the community and the resources available.
Those who believe in comprehensive change strategies and recognize the difficulty
of achieving them have long advocated rigorous evaluation to prove its value.
In a day of cynicism about interventions for vulnerable populations and a
day in which evaluation has become an increasingly influential part of the
budget decision process, having proof of success can be essential. However,
few experts in the field would argue that there is a reliable evaluation
design for the type of community-wide initiatives that feature multiple
intervention strategies. Consequently, though evaluators are making progress
in this area, it remains difficult at this time to document success or test
the elements of success for CCIs.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)
in the United States Department of Health and Human Services has long maintained
a commitment to encourage the creation of comprehensive, community strategies
for assisting low-income children and families. This commitment has led the
Office over time to support related policy analyses, planning grants, case
studies, technical assistance materials, and evaluations, as well as to support
the development of new evaluation strategies and related legislative and
As the Federal Government, states, and communities undertake significant
changes in the way they do business, it is unclear to what extent communities
will take advantage of this shift in decision-making authority to the local
level by restructuring their services and support systems. As decisions are
made, it is important for all those involved in policymaking, and in the
creation and support of comprehensive initiatives, to re-examine the early
lessons found in existing literature. How have those lessons held up over
time? What revisions or expansions to the lessons are required?
In 1996, then-Assistant Secretary Peter Edelman approved a plan to have ASPE
staff conduct such an analysis. In an ideal situation, the analysis would
have assessed both successful and failed initiatives. However, ASPE was faced
with limited resources for such a study, as well as with an inability to
interview a wide range of participants in initiatives that had failed. In
addition, the absence of strong evaluation findings made it difficult to
identify successful initiatives. Consequently, this Office decided to use
two tests as proxy measures of success: (1) "survivability," defined as being
operational for at least five years and having multiple funding sources (so
that one, single source of funding does not explain survival) and (2) the
judgment of a number of experts in the field that they believe an initiative
is having a real impact on its community. The decision to select this proxy
was based on the idea that for a comprehensive initiative to survive over
time in a community and to garner the resources needed to survive, it must
be perceived as having significant value for that community.
Once a proxy for success was developed, a study team of ASPE health and human
services analysts was recruited, under the direction of Ann Segal, Deputy
to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Services Policy, to reassess
the elements of success. The team began by defining broad eligibility criteria
for the initiatives to be studied. (See Introduction) The
team then reviewed the literature and interviewed a set of experts to identify
both those elements cited as essential for success and candidate initiatives
that met the established criteria.
The team ultimately selected a set of fourteen initiatives representing varied
developmental paths and origins (e.g., health, community development, education,
social services), and identified five areas in which they sought to test
the conventional wisdom as to what makes a CCI program succeed:
leadership/management, comprehensiveness, community participation, collaboration
among community partners, a family-centered orientation, and financing. It
was initially assumed that these terms and phrases would prove useful in
grouping the information gathered. For the most part, they serve as subject
headings in Section VI below.
In two cases, however, the initial labels proved inappropriate. Contrary
to our assumption, "comprehensiveness" was rarely mentioned; it apparently
connoted too great a focus on a possible end result of community change,
rather than the process itself. Consequently, it was replaced with the concept
of "responsiveness," which better embodies the respondents' belief in the
importance of an organic growth process related to community needs. Secondly,
the concept of a "family-centered approach" was identified only by some of
the front-line human service workers, and therefore, it did not prove to
be a useful organizing principle for this study of broader, comprehensive
The final result is that the data from our interviews and observations are
organized around the following themes:
During the summer of 1996, project analysts visited the selected initiatives
and interviewed a variety of people--executive directors, staff, board members,
community residents, and partner agency administrators--working with and
served by each initiative. Project staff consistently sought to meet with
individuals from various professional levels and perspectives. Interviews
tended to last from one to two hours and were loosely based on a discussion
guide developed by project members and field tested at one site.
The intent of this study was not to develop case studies or to profile the
initiatives. The intent instead was to gather together lessons and insights
that could be shared with those in the field striving for similar results.
Interviewees were guaranteed confidentiality, unless they wished otherwise,
and were assured that the findings would not be used in any program audits.
After the visits were completed, all findings were discussed with the entire
team and a draft report was prepared. That draft was reviewed by all team
members, selected experts, and various initiative representatives.
Four additional caveats should be stated at the outset.
There is no single template, or limited set of models, for such initiatives.
Project members never assumed or claimed as much, nor did those interviewed.
Context largely dictated the decisions and actions of each initiative.
Consequently, the lessons learned from the projects profiled in this report
may not be applicable to other communities.
Project staff recognize that our selection criteria eliminated from consideration
many initiatives whose directors, staff, and residents would have provided
valuable advice on community revitalization. Even among those eligible, moreover,
selection was not random, but based on considerations of initiative origins,
geographic balance, and project logistics, to name but a few. What we present
in the following pages is representative only of those initiatives visited,
if even that much may be claimed.
Project staff decided not to define terms such as "resident" and "community"
in advance, but rather to accept the operational definitions applied at each
site. Consequently, the meaning of such terms varied widely not only from
site to site, but among interviewees at a single site. Project staff made
every reasonable effort to probe interviewees for specific meanings when
such terms were used.
Many of the sites acknowledge that they are still far from where they would
like to be in terms of initiative "success." As one board chair put it, "we
don't think we have anything more than a start."
The following are, in essence, those primary lessons learned from those
interviewed concerning the survival and success of their community-change
Most of the sites took advantage of a catalytic event early in their
development. Several grew out of street riots and subsequent business
closures in their communities. According to one executive director, the planned
closing of the only branch bank in the community "initiated the hell out
of people." Other initiatives formed in the wake of tragic deaths and general
gang violence, or were galvanized by city planning processes which largely
ignored local input.
The sites tended to expand organically as needs arose and related
opportunities were identified or developed. While most initiatives
had a strategic planning process and document, these provided general parameters
rather than a rigid guide. "It's more like improvisational jazz," explained
one interviewee. "There's no 'score' available." This flexibility applied
to both strategies and tactics. According to one staff member, a successful
initiative "has to live with a lot of ambiguity and tension." How initiatives
chose to deal with such tension played a significant role in their survival.
A sustained and visible signature development or effort is apparently
critical to initiative success. Housing development is perhaps the
most notable example of such an effort. One executive director noted that
"people like to see well-maintained buildings," particularly homes. Other
signature efforts include a shopping mall, open space development, and weekly
drug marches. Each of these visible improvements apparently persuaded residents
that the initiative could produce results and was there "to stay." Such obvious
benefits, in the form of "small steps," are also needed early on to create
and sustain momentum.
Most initiatives studied had charismatic leaders with either an
entrepreneurial bent or an ability and willingness to hire such
individuals. Many of the initiative administrators visited spoke
of developing for-profit affiliates and running their organizations like
a business, with an eye on bottom-lines and self-supporting service programs.
Descriptions of what "collaboration" entails varied widely among sites.
If defined as a joint governance structure, collaboration is rare
and not a priority for most of the sites visited. Forming alliances
between autonomous organizations, however, was frequently cited as a key
element of success and growth.
The presence of a solid working-class population base in the community
is crucial to leveraging outside resources. Without even a modest
base of economic clout, it is extremely difficult to leverage such resources.
Those interviewed stressed the importance of adequate, stable, and flexible
financing. Decategorization of funding was acknowledged as an "enabling
or facilitating" trend. It was not generally cited, however, as a "necessary
condition" for change.
Various interviewees made the following points regarding the mission, vision,
and philosophy of their initiatives:
The vision and mission are clear, well-understood, and shared by
the executive director, staff, board, partners and community alike.
The leader has a clear sense of what is needed, as well as the ability to
pursue a vision faithfully but with flexibility and responsiveness to
opportunities. Various executive directors spoke of "keeping the vision in
the details" and sticking to concrete service needs. One interviewee quoted
a Sufi proverb: "Look to the stars, but first, tether your camel."
The initiative's desired goals and outcomes are whatever the community
wants them to be. For some initiatives, the philosophy is to facilitate
empowerment, even to the extent that there are no right or wrong outcomes.
One initiative staff member maintained that "the neighborhood council is
the hub organization and we're all the spokes."
The mission is sustained and frequently revitalized. Various
interviewees mentioned the need periodically to renew an initiative's sense
of purpose. One director of a community health center argued that many centers
have gotten away from their original mission: "We've forgotten how to advocate
and agitate. We've forgotten how to make a ruckus." Others spoke of the need
to nurture new leadership in order to sustain mission.
Leverage of existing resources and programs is the primary operational
principle for survival and growth. As one administrator said, "It
is important to keep building on what we do well." The director of finance
for the same site elaborated on this theme: "Everything we do here feeds
off other things." This notion of leverage is consistent with the incremental,
organic growth process advocated by most of those interviewed.
Almost every site mentioned strong leadership and management as a reason
why its organization has survived as long as it has. Below, we describe some
of the specific points about leadership and management that were made by
The leader and staff have the ability to develop and maintain a sense
of hope and momentum, as well as to choose and pursue resonant issues
and themes. In one community, the smell from illegal garbage dumping
was so bad that children were vomiting just from walking outside. Tired of
surveys and inaction, residents began a campaign titled "Don't Dump on Us";
the phrase clearly implied far more than just garbage and effectively galvanized
the community. Another initiative managed to "keep the mythology (of its
success) going" beyond an initial housing redevelopment; in the three years
after the renovation was completed, 38 businesses started up in the community.
Both initiatives used the media effectively. "If people think things can
get better," the administrator of the latter initiative argued, "they will
Planning and action are blended and balanced. "Plan and
do simultaneously," counseled one administrator. Don't wait for that elusive
"comprehensive planning moment," when everything comes together, but rather
find workable points of entry into even the most significant problems. Most
interviewees warned against initial comprehensive planning without quick,
tangible results (e.g. "we didn't need a plan to tell us we had no doctors
or supermarkets"). Others, however, argued that initial planning should be
conducted as "total, unlimited, unrestricted dreaming" and that participants
should not focus on specific strategies until an adequate level of "commonality"
has been achieved among those involved. Both positions, however, tended to
advance planning first and foremost as an opportunity to "build neighborhood
ownership" and to achieve consensus around a plan of action.
At almost every CCI, interviewees spoke of the importance of a strong, caring,
and committed leader. Below are some of the descriptions commonly heard and
The leader is "charismatic." He or she is able to inspire
commitment and confidence from those around him or her, especially residents
of the community. The descriptions heard from staff, residents and board
were essentially consistent: "he still has fire in the belly...she sees the
future . . . he's for the neighbors . . . he's down to earth." Specific styles,
though, understandably differed. Leaders developed trust and demonstrated
commitment to residents by such actions as living in the community, maintaining
an open door policy, and taking "the time to know people's names and how
old their kids are."
The leader is willing to hire staff who are "smarter" than himself
or herself. Strong leaders bring in staff who add to what they know
and who aren't afraid to either take initiative or disagree when appropriate.
"You always hire people that are brighter than you," noted one administrator,
only partly in jest. The leader also develops leadership throughout the
organization by extending appropriate authority and autonomy.
The leader and/or the board are able to develop buy-in from at least
one significant political player or level of government. Strong
leaders have an easier time developing political access if they can offer
legitimate quid pro quos, such as community support. The leaders generally
demonstrated an ability to work effectively at both the grassroots level
and upper political and corporate echelons. One executive director was described
as "an interesting combination of 1960's grass-roots activist and experienced
'player' within the state and city power structure."
The leader is there long enough to create "buy-in." Effective
founding administrators are there long enough to develop stability and
organizational momentum. They tend to create continuity through members of
the board and the residents, to develop strong external supporters, and to
introduce solid management and fiscal practices. Integrating all these pieces
takes time, sometimes perhaps a decade or more. A stable second level of
implementers is critical, especially when the leadership does change.
The leader is bold and willing to take risks. One executive
director held a press conference in 1979 condemning the incumbent mayor for
neglecting his community. This resulted in a dialogue which ultimately led
to formal mayoral dedication of a new facility 3 days before the 1980 election.
The same administrator also successfully solicited the chair of a citywide
bank to lead his organization's capital campaign. As a young banker, the
chair had served for two months in a branch located in the initiative community.
Based on this knowledge, the administrator sent an unsolicited promotional
package--complete with balloons--to the chair extolling the business
opportunities available in the community, then followed up with a phone call
and request that they meet.
Many of the sites visited have engaged in extremely ambitious undertakings.
One offered to build a road abutting its facility if the city would agree
and allow it to issue a bond. The initiative had a track-record of such
undertakings; several years earlier, it had raised the ground for its new
center by 40 feet. Another site, a community health center, purchased a former
nursing home. At the time, the center had very little cash to invest in
renovation and faced grim fundraising prospects. The purchase energized the
community, however; funds were eventually secured, and today, the health
center is located in the renovated space. "Be bold," counseled one director
of finance. "Don't take no for an answer."
The leader owns his or her mistakes and learns from them.
One executive director argued that "you have to be willing to eat crow" at
times. Another spoke of recognizing one's own limits: "I back off when I
see myself as a problem." Initiative leaders also tended to support the need
for staff and residents to make, and learn from, mistakes. At one site, various
members interviewed echoed what would appear to be a well-established initiative
"mantra": "Our mistakes are our greatest learning opportunities."
The leader is patient. Community process takes a long time.
It took four years for one initiative to arrange for appropriate funding
to move forward on a housing development project. Early on, the city had
accepted the neighborhood plan and offered funds, prompting residents to
demand why the initiative was "dragging its feet." Initiative administrators,
however, continued to hold off closing on a significant loan because they
felt the issue of affordability had not been adequately addressed. They needed
time--and more funding than then available--to narrow the gap between the
estimated price of the housing and what staff considered an affordable price
for area residents.
The leader and staff generally have a good sense of humor and a keen
understanding of its uses. Humor can diffuse many tense situations
and create unexpected opportunities. One initiative sought eminent domain
over a particularly distressed portion of its neighborhood. When initiative
administrators first met with city officials to make their case, the tension
was palpable. To diffuse the situation, the initiative director started his
presentation by announcing that he and his fellow residents sought eminent
domain over the following geographic area. He then proceeded to unfurl a
map of Planet Earth. The initiative was eventually successful in its quest.
Solid leadership capacity was not limited to the executive staff of those
initiatives visited, but was well-cultivated throughout the organization.
Interviewees revealed the following characteristics of staff as similarly
crucial to initiative success.
Staff are committed and consistent. Many staff revealed
"a real desire to affect people's lives" and a deep-seated commitment to
the communities in which they work. (See the Community
Participation section for specific examples.) They also tended to
acknowledge that "there is no finish line" and that "you can't fix the system
with a career."
Staff are both well-trained for specific responsibilities and
cross-trained for others. The extent and quality of such training
varied dramatically even among this small and selective sample of initiatives.
Where valued, however, such training contributed greatly to staff morale
and efficiency. At one site, staff are eligible after six months for considerable
support should they decide to pursue additional training or education. "At
other agencies," a staffer explained, "you have to beg to go to conferences,
and even then you often end up paying some out of your own pocket." Staff
are also often cross-trained to take on each other's responsibilities.
Initiatives use a range of board and governance structures to get people
from the entire community involved in making decisions. On the one hand,
they may have an executive board with a range of members including residents,
service providers, philanthropists, and business, civic, community and political
leaders. On the other hand, they may have smaller neighborhood advisory bodies
comprised of just community leaders and residents and a separate board strictly
for fund-raising purposes.
The range of decision-making authority also varies. Boards may just provide
a rubber stamp approval of staff or community proposals or actually develop
ideas and implementation plans and present them for a vote. In one example,
neighborhood advisory groups develop proposals which are then sent to an
overarching board for approval.
While the structures and decision-making may vary, there are nonetheless
certain lessons to share regarding such bodies:
Boards are made up of people with a range of expertise.
One executive director spoke of tapping into "different types of prestige,"
from community activism to high-level politics. Several administrators maintained
that "(residents) are your best advocates when you need help from the city."
Others argued that you need talented members who understand "the business"
and have the right "skill sets." One initiative has quite consciously cultivated
power brokers who do business in or live in the city and the surrounding
area, while several others have formed separate boards to give technical
advice or to help raise money. Establishing such a board, if it is to be
effective, requires adequate political clout and savvy.
The board is informed, functional, and relevant. Some boards
lapse into a small circle of decision-makers, due either to unlimited terms
and little rotation or an overly dominant core group. One administrator realized
the latter was a problem when board members who were relatively quiet during
monthly board meetings subsequently approached her to complain that certain
issues had not been brought up. It is also important to keep all board members
informed and committees functional.
Board members are aware of their role as representatives.
Elected officials around the country often talk about the "them" they are
representing. The attitude at many of the sites visited is significantly
different. One initiative board member summed it up nicely: "I was elected
to represent us."
By definition, all the initiatives visited were "comprehensive," yet as
previously mentioned, few of those interviewed, without being prompted, described
their initiatives as "comprehensive" or claimed that they offered "comprehensive"
services. "The goal of the initiative is to meet the diverse needs of the
population," one executive director told us. "It isn't to be comprehensive
in some abstract way." Most, however, did speak in terms of strategies of
incremental growth and of being responsive to community and individual needs.
Consequently, study team opted for the concept of "responsiveness" as a more
appropriate heading for this section.
Interviewees made the following main points about responsiveness:
The initiatives visited tended to expand organically as needs arose
and related opportunities were identified or developed. One health
center, for example, got into housing development after community residents
initially opposed the construction of its proposed new substance abuse treatment
facility; the community already had enough urban problems, the residents
explained. Through a number of following meetings, however, eventually a
compromise was reached: in exchange for the neighborhood's support of a zoning
change needed to build the facility, the center committed itself to assisting
in neighborhood revitalization. This commitment resulted in the birth of
an affiliated community development corporation.
An organic, incremental growth process focuses attention on the
importance of small steps. "Small steps should mean a lot," one
administrator explained, "because there aren't going to be any giant leaps."
Another administrator voiced a related concern: "If you don't stand for the
little things, then the big things will overwhelm you." Examples of such
"small steps" include getting the commuter rail to stop at a nearby station
that it traditionally bypassed and organizing a group of adults to applaud
and cheer on kids each morning as they arrived at school and got off the
Being "responsive" to community and individual needs requires a balance
between inclusiveness and pragmatism. The sites generally saw this
tension as beneficial. At most sites, services and activities were not limited
to a subgroup of the community or even to residents; individuals were helped
no matter what their place of residence. The general approach was to be
all-inclusive with respect to services offered, if not necessarily outreach.
"When somebody comes with a problem," staff at one initiative explained,
"you need to be part of the solution."
Most administrators, however, stressed the importance of knowing when you
are taking on more than you can reasonably and effectively handle. One executive
director claimed that "the way in which we fulfill our mission is to recognize
that we can't be all things to all people. We have to maximize our resources
by collaborating with others."
Most of the initiatives also appeared to be very adaptable.
Sites generally handled the "tension" incumbent with growth and survival
using flexible tactics. For example, one human service initiative branched
temporarily into housing development and management. "We can step into
development, then out," claimed a staff member, "and feel no need to call
ourselves a community development corporation." Staff, though, were quick
to point out that they stopped "building homes" when a more appropriate agent
agreed to assume the responsibility.
Initiative administrators would like to focus more on prevention,
but responsiveness leads instead to addressing problems. It is the
problems that generate community involvement and community support. One
administrator wryly noted, "We all give lip service to prevention."
A sustained and visible signature development or effort is apparently
critical to initiative success. As noted in
Section V, the majority of initiatives visited took advantage of
an initial catalytic event and subsequently developed a successful, signature
effort. Though housing is perhaps the most notable example, the variety of
alternative efforts is in itself remarkable.
For many initiatives, economic development has been the most difficult
"piece" in the community revitalization puzzle. Those initiatives
with human services origins in particular have struggled to incorporate economic
development strategies. Some interviewees maintain that this is due to an
organizational culture leery of private sector entrepreneurship.
In contrast, those initiatives that began as community development corporations
have made the most progress in pursuing economic development. As one
administrator put it, "the best base (for such development) is...with CDCs
because they're entrepreneurial; they know how to do deals." One CDC-based
initiative persuaded a grocery store chain not only to open a supermarket
in the community but also to delegate much of its hiring to the initiative.
As the director of finance for the initiative noted, "everything we do now
is economic development and community development."
Even the most enthusiastic advocates of pursuing economic development, though,
counseled realism. One administrator put it bluntly: "We know we're not going
to get a Bloomingdale's here."
Job creation, training, and placement were routinely cited as the
most important next step. "The most important services we provide,"
explained one executive director, "are those that directly assist people
in the development of the financial capacity to sustain themselves
job creation, training and development." However, many noted that a job
training/creation/placement effort must be comprehensive and well-integrated;
otherwise, individuals are "just locked into a job."
Success itself introduces a new set of opportunities and
obstacles. "Everybody loves a success story," we were told on more
than one occasion. Successful initiatives, however, risk losing their focus
and spreading their efforts too thin by responding to outside requests or
overextending their resources. They also sometimes face the unintended
consequences of their efforts. Success in housing rehabilitation, for example,
can lead to gentrification and rising property values, which in turn may
force out current and long-time residents.
Even the most successful initiatives are subject to broader
socio-economic changes largely beyond their control. Many administrators
spoke of the need to keep abreast of such changes, to plan accordingly, and
to advocate where appropriate. The impact of welfare reform and health care
systems changes, for example, will be significant. One executive director
argued that if an initiative cannot, over time, successfully address the
consequences of such factors as crime and unemployment, it will lose broad
resident support no matter how effective it may be in other ventures.
Resident involvement was universally cited as a key element of initiative
survival. However, staff, administrators and residents alike offered important
qualifications to this position. The following section is organized into
three subsections: Effective Community Outreach, Sustained Resident Involvement,
and Primary Challenges to Community Participation.
Effective Community Outreach
To survive, various staff and administrators argued, initiatives must use
effective outreach and provide for substantive, beneficial, and enjoyable
resident involvement. Those interviewed offered useful advice on soliciting
and maintaining such involvement.
Initiative staff and others involved in community revitalization,
either directly or indirectly, should be realistic about the time and interest
people may have to participate. "Somehow," cautioned one administrator,
"we have an assumption that community residents have the time and see a reason
to be involved because we think it's good for them to do it. I'm not involved,
though, in my own neighborhood efforts either." It is important to recognize
that residents being paid minimum wage often must work 2-3 jobs and simply
do not have enough time to get involved in the ways people with more resources
may be able to do. Any time volunteering, moreover, is likely time not spent
with their families.
"People don't resist change," one board committee chair argued, "they
resist being changed." A common assumption worth careful review
is that individuals tend to resist change. Various interviewees refocused
the issue to be one of who is initiating and controlling that change.
All sites recognized that it is not simply a question of stepping
aside to let residents lead. Resident involvement is often difficult
to solicit, much less to sustain. The more successful initiatives consequently
tended to pursue active outreach strategies that are both imaginative and
persistent. "The idea," admitted one executive director, "is to truly understand
what the interests and needs of the community are." One site sponsors an
annual "State of the Village" stage presentation at which skits are delivered
trilingually in alternating phrases. At another site, outreach workers make
presentations and hold discussions in widely-used communal locations such
as laundromats. A third initiative uses its primary mission--health care--to
launch additional service programs, specifically by leafleting or mailing
out a packet of health care materials prior to the arrival of new residents.
One common outreach theme is patience and a long-term
perspective. A client at one initiative was offered a gauze-and-iodine
sterilization kit for his injury. When he offered to pay the director for
the kit, the director suggested instead that he come in and share some time.
If one individual gets involved, various staff argued, then others may become
curious. Another effective approach is encouraging neighbor interaction.
"The more people you know in your neighborhood," argued one executive director,
"the stronger you tend to be as a neighbor." One initiative even requires
car pooling to its various awards ceremonies.
Another crucial theme is recognizing the importance of, and incorporating
where appropriate, community ritual and tradition. One executive
director emphasized the "role of ritual" in rebuilding communities and lamented
its general absence in most distressed areas. During the past summer, his
organization funded 150 block parties at $300 for each party. Such gatherings,
particularly when thematic (e.g. Jamaican Independence Day), often lead to
a stronger social infrastructure.
Two qualities of staff seemed to contribute most in attracting resident
Commitment. In one community, a family's house was firebombed
because of their active opposition to local drug activity. Staff of the
initiative in question provided counseling, overnight security for the next
two weeks, clothes, and food. Several years earlier, after a child was killed
by gunfire, many of the same staff helped to organize a vigil, made the funeral
arrangements, and generally assisted in whatever way needed. "We practice
what we preach," explained one of the staff members.
Compassion. Staff involved in the drug marches at one initiative
have made great efforts to involve drug dealers and users in developing
solutions. "A lot of them want to go straight," said one staff member, "but
what do we have to offer them? Yet we tell them, 'We're not here to judge
you; we're here to help you.'"
Sustained Resident Involvement
Staff should strive for resident involvement that is worthwhile,
easy, and fun. "Making it worthwhile" refers to offering
not only substantive roles for residents, but, on a limited basis, material
incentives as well. One initiative offers residents free
bowling in the basement of a church, a refurbished gym, and $25 to attend
their basic "citizen involvement" training. Staff are quick to point out,
however, that while the stipend works well to bring neighbors in, it should
not be used more than once; only the strength and relevance of the program
or class will ensure continued involvement.
"Making it easy" has two primary facets: 1) providing multiple "entry
points" for initiative services and activities, and 2) recognizing that many
residents, particularly those with very low self-esteem, will be extremely
apprehensive about getting involved.
As for the third criteria for "Making it Fun," one administrator
put it nicely: "People get together to have fun and to do things that will
benefit them...If you tell them it's work, they won't come." Unfortunately,
the importance of making it fun is often overlooked in the rush to "design
and implement programs."
Many staff spoke of the need for residents to overcome their sense
of "reliance." Making involvement worthwhile to residents requires
a quid pro quo on more than a material basis: residents must understand and
accept their responsibilities, and staff must allow for genuine resident
leadership. One executive director noted that "no matter how well we do our
job, we can't create real change without changing the environment."
As previously mentioned, an important aspect of this "culture change"
is a genuine willingness on the part of the initiative administrators to
follow the residents' lead. Various executive directors mentioned
the importance of not only consulting residents, but consulting them on
very specific issues. For example, residents at one initiative were
instrumental in determining, with staff help, the design of a new facility,
including whether or not to use stucco or brick, and how much glass to include.
The residents chose a design with significant quantities of glass as a statement
that they were not afraid of vandalism; to date, none has occurred.
Changing the culture necessarily involves resident
skills-building. Staff at various initiatives spoke of residents
developing a skill base and "level of engagement" that eliminates reliance
on any single individual or organization as the "solution" to their problems.
One staff member, with his thumb and forefinger almost touching, argued that
"most people are just that far away from some kind of success." Seeing even
the least skilled residents as capable of success, however modest at first,
is characteristic of the sites visited. Resident skills-building is formally
structured at some of the initiatives (e.g. a neighborhood "college" to provide
training), informally at others.
All initiatives cited the importance of hiring from within the
community. In at least one case, 75-80% of the employees are local
hires; in another, all employees--80% of whom live within the area-- are
involved in one or more local activity. One administrator has a well-known
policy that he will allow only a few senior managers to be hired from outside
the community each year. Board members, staff and volunteers who live in
a community tend to "resonate with what is happening" there. The current
director of one program moved into the area after being promoted from assistant.
Prior to his move, he placed a low priority on the problem of trash in the
streets; his perspective subsequently changed. (Others argued, however, that
limiting hiring to local residents, particularly among upper management,
can badly handicap an initiative. The disagreement is over degree; local
residency is seen as an important--if not critical--factor in all hiring.)
Primary Challenges to Effective Resident Involvement
Identification of and Outreach to Subgroups. One initiative
that had extensive community resident involvement suddenly realized that
no renters in the community were represented on their board. The definition
of "the community" has to be carefully considered.
Transiency. One community visited, for example, has a high
resident turnover rate and over 27 different languages represented in the
population. In contrast, other communities visited have a relatively stable
resident base where "people know people who will be helpful to them." One
indicator of stability is the percentage of the population who are homeowners.
Another is how long people have lived in that neighborhood.
Chronic poverty. One of the greatest challenges facing such
initiatives is getting the poorest individuals involved. As one administrator
told us, "they need to help themselves first."
Racial tensions. Though one executive director argued that
"people get sidetracked by race" when it is class that is most important,
racial strife remains a key factor in community revitalization. One community
faced a potentially violent conflict between its Hasidic and Black residents,
who did not understand each other. For example, one Black youth asked a rabbi
why owning a station wagon was part of the Hasidic faith because he did not
realize that large families, not religion, resulted in the use of large cars.
Further violence was averted through educational and trust-building activities
and by a united alliance against industrial pollution in the neighborhood.
"Spring boarding." The more talented residents often
"springboard" out of distressed communities as their skills--and job
marketability--increase. While those who mentioned this spoke of it as a
sign of success, such "spring boarding" nevertheless creates a vacuum in
skills and leadership.
The use of "experts". Many acknowledged that the "community
is a repository of experts." Most interviewees felt that while outside experts
are valuable, they should be used as resources rather than as guides and
should offer advice rather than dictate "solutions."
Unmet expectations. Residents tend to have "long memories"
and little patience for delayed results. In one community, city government
promised a great deal through sales tax revenue and conducted extensive planning
with great fanfare; nothing, however, came of the promises.
Organizational inertia. Initiatives which focus too much
on "process" risk overemphasizing planning and formal deliberation. By the
time the current administrator of one initiative had been hired, the board's
original four standing committees had mushroomed to 17. Whenever the board
reached a critical point in decision-making, they would form a subcommittee
to further review the issue. This enervated board members and led to decreasing
attendance until the situation was corrected.
Collaboration, according to one executive director , "is ultimately a question
of money, power, and control." Descriptions of what "collaboration" entails
varied widely among sites. For the purposes of this study, initiatives were
defined as "collaborative" if they involved three or more partners from separate,
independent entities/organizations and separate domains (e.g., health, education,
community development) who share responsibility for decision-making and for
providing resources through a joint governance structure. So defined,
collaboration at most of the sites visited is rare and a low priority at
best. Various administrators claimed such collaborations are too often based
on chasing money, and result in either "circus tent" situations or "shotgun
marriages." "If fees are attached," argued one collaborator, "that says this
is not a partnership."
On the other hand, forming alliances between autonomous organizations
was frequently cited as a key element of initiative survival. Alliances
offer more provisional arrangements, based on mutual benefit, that do not
formally limit an organization's autonomy. Consistency is crucial in developing
and maintaining such partnerships. "The city knows," said one interviewee,
"that (our organization) will not embarrass them." Politicians and high-level
bureaucrats also appreciate initiative administrators and staff who understand
and largely accept the constraints and culture they face. At one site, a
state agency director has occasionally taken political risks in supporting
the initiative's development. It is important, explained one interviewee,
that those in the community realize how hard it is sometimes for government
officials to respond to community requests.
Alliances take time and effort, but there is a realization that it
is crucial to success. One interviewee stated that "we just can't
go back to the old way of doing things. No one agency can achieve its mission
Many of the sites have developed innovative partnerships with government
agencies, including the police. One initiative is training the staff
of a local police station to use the site's computerized neighborhood bartering
system. Among other benefits, this will enable officers to better identify
alternatives to Child Protective Services for distressed youth. Another
initiative, whose neighborhood is traditionally a dumping ground for disgruntled
or new police officers, has worked with the city police department to change
both attitudes and staffing patterns, particularly about community policing.
Site staff successfully solicited 500 signatures to request a community
policeman. The community's anti-crime efforts are now fully linked to the
Several sites have also developed innovative partnerships with the
corporate community. Various interviewees spoke of the "need to
transfer some of the challenges from the residents onto the major institutions
in the community." Several administrators also argued that nonprofits should
stress mutual benefits, rather than moral obligation, when soliciting such
corporate involvement. For example, one site has entered into an unusual
relationship with a local bank, due in large part to a city and state initiative
offering private-sector entities state corporate income tax credits if they
partner with a community-based organization. Bank personnel are intimately
involved in site efforts: bank members sit on the site's board, the new director
of the site's housing development affiliate is a former bank executive, and
bank staff are paired with site employees to provide professional mentoring
in a variety of fields, such as finance and public relations. Another innovative
corporate-community partnership among the sites addresses unemployment. A
local Safeway looks to the initiative to recruit, hire, and counsel its
entry-level employees. The Safeway is also committed to transferring the
more successful of these hires to neighboring Safeways, thereby providing
career mobility and creating new job openings in the community.
The involvement of school districts in most of these initiatives
has been limited. Several executive directors spoke of bureaucratic
in-fighting and highly politicized processes as reasons why they have not
done more with the schools. In several locations, busing has restricted the
usefulness of community organizing around educational issues. This is troublesome
since the school does not necessarily serve community residents. A solid
educational system and after-school use of school facilities are routinely
mentioned as a critical component of community revitalization. In addition,
without strong schools, it is difficult to retain professionals with families.
Where successful, alliances tended to demonstrate the following
Lead personalities are compatible. "Believe me," argued
one executive director, "every bit of it (partnering) is about social
relationships." A board member from another initiative echoed this sentiment:
"It's personalities." Solid partnerships require talented administrators
smart enough to stay goal-oriented and to de-emphasize their differences.
"It's important," added one administrator, "to check your ego at the door."
Partners are established and mature. Many of the institutions
with which these initiatives partner have existed for at least ten years
and have a successful track record. As one partner stated, "nobody wants
to play with a loser." In addition to longevity, the partners are "healthy"
both in financial and staffing terms; "When you're healthy, you don't have
anything to hide. And when you don't have anything to hide, you don't mind
folks sitting with you."
Organizational clarity and tolerance are critical factors in achieving such
maturity. "You need to first clarify internally who you are and what you
are," explained one administrator. Mature partners, moreover, share the credit,
"stay out of blame," and nurture broad community support for their efforts,
since "political people," as one resident noted, "will not work with a divided
Even among mature partners, however, tensions usually exist, particularly
over funding. Such tension is beneficial, various interviewees argued, if
the partners are mature, the personalities compatible, and the mission shared.
"Where there's no confrontation or controversy," argued one partner, "there
can be no growth. Tension stretches you." Another staff member cautioned,
though, that "drive-by debates" should always be avoided.
Partners respect one another and are competent. Each
organization needs to understand that it is unacceptable to take over or
interfere with a partner's vital functions. This awareness depends on mutual
respect, which should develop naturally from each partner being skilled and
knowledgeable in their respective areas of expertise. A foundation which
provided funding to one site once invited outside "experts" to attend a joint
initiative-foundation meeting on a specific project. Though the foundation
had not told initiative administrators of the invitation, the "experts" proceeded
to offer unsolicited recommendations concerning project management. The occasion
badly damaged the sense of trust underlying this partnership.
Partners must agree to a shared mission and structure for the
partnership. The joint mission should be consistent with the respective
individual missions. Most administrators cautioned against "chasing after
the dollars." In the few sites where a separate, collaborative governing
mechanism had been established, the form and origins differed. One collaborative
had formed quickly under the direction of several lead state agencies, while
another had evolved slowly and organically. The latter involves an inter-agency
group that has been meeting for the last 3-4 years; only within the last
year, however, have the partners identified a need for some formal governance
and budget structures. The lead agency of this collaboration argues that
the early informality was necessary to build trust. Several other sites counseled
that it is always important to have written contracts where financial issues
or exchanges are involved.
Roles are clearly defined. Most importantly, there should
be a lead agency, even if that role is rotated. "I don't know what 'shared
leadership' is," noted one collaborator. "Someone has to be in charge." The
lead agency, however, must be careful not to dominate, but rather to convene
and facilitate communication. According to one administrator, "a primary
reason for our success is our role as a facilitator, which enables us to
keep a perspective that cuts across political lines." Clear roles and
communication can minimize friction. "Mistrust," argued one board member,
"might mean you just don't understand each other."
Every partner sees a benefit to itself and to the people it
serves. No one agency can achieve its mission alone. Staff can
experience a fundamental change in thinking when they work with partners.
Those interviewed stressed the importance of adequate, stable, and flexible
financing. However, as pointed out in Section V, decategorization of funding
was rarely cited as a "necessary condition" for change. Administrators appeared
to be far less unified on this issue than study team members had anticipated.
Initiatives should sustain a consistent revenue base, but not at
the expense of organizational mission. One interviewee stated nicely
what many others also mentioned: "funding has to be commensurate with the
job we are expected to do." No one interviewed questioned the value of a
consistent revenue base adequate to support initiative efforts. However,
most of those interviewed counseled against "chasing dollars"; opportunities
should be aggressively pursued only where consistent with mission, circumstances,
and timing. One administrator claimed that "we've turned down money if we
haven't liked our partner or if it didn't fit with our mission." Others spoke
of first determining needs, then finding appropriate funds, rather than
identifying available funding and subsequently making efforts "fit."
One initiative received a small foundation grant to improve the infant mortality
rate in its community. When site staff did an unscientific survey of the
community, however, they found that only 3% of the residents felt that such
an effort should be a priority. The initiative subsequently turned down the
grant, much to the admiration of foundation personnel; the two have maintained
a strong relationship ever since.
Real, sustained change in the way services and supports are provided
in a community means that government must become a funding
partner.Several of the initiatives noted that the political and
financial support of city leaders contributed substantially to their status.
The vast majority of funding in communities for services and supports for
low-income children and families is public funding; the only way to create
real systems change is to leverage some of those dollars.
Initiatives should have adequate funding for administrative
functions. This is an issue of both adequacy and flexibility.
Initiatives need a revenue stream that can support their overhead costs.
Inadequate funding often jeopardizes the administrative functions necessary
for long-term planning, growth and survival. Many funders, however, will
not allow the use of their funds for general administrative costs. United
Way funds are an exception. However, a number of initiatives reported that
United Way funding has declined over the past several years. One initiative
noted an annual 3 to 5% reduction in United Way contributions.
Initiatives may significantly benefit from developing for-profit
ventures and other sources of capital to subsidize initiative
programs. Many of the initiatives visited have developed effective
methods for raising capital, such as for-profit affiliates (e.g. real estate
development). One site receives 95% of its discretionary revenue from a community
shopping center of which it is a minority (40%) owner. Others rely on a single
program to "subsidize" other neighborhood service efforts. Diversified revenue
streams, argued one executive director, enable administrators "to pull rabbits
out of a hat when needed."
Initiatives benefit from developing corporate involvement and
understanding, rather than simply financial support. Opinions differed
dramatically over how much effort to spend on soliciting corporate support.
That issue aside, the sites that had the strongest corporate backing tended
to involve their corporate sponsors in ways far beyond simply writing a check,
and generally recognized the importance of developing
mutually-beneficial relationships. (See the example described in
Given the current funding and financing environments, initiatives
need to develop and pursue imaginative strategies to effectively benefit
their communities. Many initiatives, for example, have implemented
innovative programs to capture multiple in-kind contributions. One site has
a full-time director of volunteers; site volunteers now often come from
out-of-state to help rebuild homes.
Initiatives require early funding stability. The sites generally
were supported at the outset by an adequate, relatively long-term funding
commitment. While one site started with multiple sources, most began with
a narrower revenue stream and slowly diversified. The initial financial
commitment may come from within the community itself. At one initiative,
local board members occasionally wrote personal checks to help meet urgent
payroll costs during the early years.
Initiatives benefit greatly from on-going funding stability.
One site, for example, has received two significant ten-year grants, the
first from a national foundation, the second from a regional bank.
Needless-to-say, such support enables the initiative to pursue long-term
strategies without being pressured to demonstrate results prematurely.
Decategorization of funding is an "enabling or facilitating" tool,
though not a "necessary condition" for change. Initiatives noted
that decategorized funding rarely remained "decategorized," since every
government and private funder ultimately targets funds for particular purposes.
One interviewee noted that her initiative was not ready for decategorization:
"First we have to restructure our service system and change our culture."
Agencies are often unwilling to delegate their responsibilities to another
agency or caseworker that does not have specific expertise in their areas.
Another interviewee noted that staff and organizations have to be ready to
use decategorized funds or decategorization becomes meaningless and possibly
even detrimental to community revitalization.
Financial Planning & Management
Initiative administrators tended to demonstrate strong financial
management skills and a long-term (3 yrs. minimum) funding perspective consistent
with initiative goals, objectives, and programs. Where an executive
director did not have the requisite financial experience, he or she had often
hired an extremely capable financial director. Various administrators stressed
the importance of intimately knowing bottom-line costs, and of frequently
updating such knowledge rather than waiting until the end of the fiscal year.
Initiative administrators tended to take appropriate risk.
Site administrators often balanced shrewd financial management with appropriate
risk-taking. As previously noted, in one case, an organization purchased
a nearby nursing home with little cash left over to pursue the renovation.
Had they waited to acquire the necessary renovation funds, the opportunity
would have been lost. The momentum generated from the bold move, and skillful
fundraising, resulted in subsequent success; the former home is now the site's
Initiative administrators tended to avoid premature funding.
A state agency offered $100,000 to one site before it had worked through
certain basic operational issues. Site administrators were fortunately seasoned
enough to argue successfully for a delay.
Initiatives generally had strong and widespread community
support. According to one executive director, "if the community
presents division, the funders will walk away." Sustained community "solidarity"
is thus often an effective catalyst for additional foundation support.
Initiatives need effective evaluation tools for demonstrating
success. "It is hard to show measurable differences when the people
you serve are so needy," one interviewee pointed out. Showing such change,
however, has become progressively more critical to renewed or new funding.
One administrator put it succinctly: "To survive, we have to deal with the
evaluation question." Especially problematic is the need to show progress
toward long-term goals.
Effectively demonstrating success, however, does provide an opportunity to
shape government and foundation priorities. Thanks largely to the experiences
of one site, a regional foundation has revised grant making guidelines to
reflect the importance of community participation.
The insights from this study are presented to assist those working to create
effective, comprehensive community strategies for working with low-income
children and families. We fully recognize that there is, and should be, a
variety of strategies, and elements of strategies, that lead to positive
change. Each initiative we visited was unique, but certain shared themes
and elements did emerge during the project's numerous interviews. In general,
project visits revealed a more fluid, tactically-nimble approach to community
development than existing writings portrayed. Initiative growth tended to
be organic in response to highly contextualized needs and related opportunities.
One interviewee compared the approach to jazz improvisation, with elements
provisionally arranged based on a solid thematic foundation.
One fundamental challenge of this approach is to integrate effectively strategic
planning. Most interviewees argued that while such planning is important,
it is most useful in conjunction with quick, tangible results--"Plan and
do simultaneously"--rather than build toward a single "comprehensive planning
moment." The selected initiatives also tended to take full and timely advantage
of a catalytic event, to sustain this momentum with a visible signature
development or effort, to focus their service strategy on leveraging existing
resources and programs, and to keep the initiative's sense of mission vibrant.
This last condition--periodically revitalizing the sense of mission--has
a great deal to do with leadership. The conventional wisdom posits that
charismatic leadership is an element of success. While interviews confirmed
this, the charisma was not generally isolated in one person, but tended instead
to be found throughout the organization. Many of the executive directors
interviewed extend authority and autonomy to staff and freely recognize and
honor the skills of others. Directors and staff alike also revealed remarkable
levels of commitment and patience. Most of their initiatives, as they pointed
out, have taken years to achieve their current levels of effectiveness and
Perhaps most notably, the administrators demonstrated that the entrepreneurial
spirit is alive and well within the not-for-profit sector. The success of
these initiatives is due in large part to the entrepreneurial skills and
energy of those involved and to their willingness to make many tough business
decisions based on bottom-line accounting considerations.
Three final findings deserve special attention here. In keeping with the
theme of flexibility, the initiatives tended to shy away from formal
collaborations that involve joint governance structures, preferring instead
to form alliances as needed that do not limit organizational autonomy. The
emphasis is on partnering to achieve certain objectives, rather than on creating
additional organizational structures or true shared accountability. Second,
while it was noted as a constant challenge, the initiatives reflected a
remarkable degree of community involvement and support. This level of support,
however, is conditional; involvement of residents has to be both substantive
and sustained and initiative activities should be driven by resident-identified
community needs. Finally, contrary to expectations, decategorization of funding
was not considered a "necessary condition" for change. Many administrators
have apparently developed effective methods for minimizing the negative aspects
of categorical funding. What was clearly emphasized as more important than
decategorization was a sustained funding commitment. Genuine change takes
time. Initiatives must be accountable for their efforts from the outset,
yet must be allowed to grow organically.
The ASPE study team learned a great deal while conducting this project. We
feel privileged to have met with such a diverse, committed group of
administrators, staff, residents, and organizational partners. Their skill,
energy, and patience are remarkable. We also appreciate the added wisdom
of the recognized experts with whom we also consulted. We hope others will
benefit from the lessons and insights shared in this document, and we welcome
comments in this continuing dialogue.