The Excitement and Pain of Competing for Promise Neighborhoods Money

Print More

With President Obama’s Promise Neighborhoods Initiative (PNI) generating enormous excitement – 339 applications were filed in June for just 20 grants – a new report gives people in the youth field an unusually in-depth look at the frantic process that organizations went through in trying to win a share of the money.

The multi-part online report by the United Neighborhood Centers of America paints a picture of aspiration, frustration and tension over the federal process for replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone in 20 communities around the country. Last year, Congress approved $10 million for PNI planning grants; the winners are to be announced soon.

Based on surveys and interviews of several dozen PNI hopefuls, the project examines why so many organizations applied when the initial funding was relatively small for the mission; illustrates the time, personnel and money that organizations put into the process on a tight deadline, often at the expense of other tasks; shows how applicants formed partnerships (or failed to); and discusses the role of politics and political connections both nationally and locally.

“At its most fundamental,” the report says, the process “was about relationships, people, politics and money.”

The nonprofit United Neighborhood Centers is an advocate for PNI and set out to assess the experience of those vying to run PNI programs.

As reported recently, the initiative has hit a fiscal stumbling block, as Congress appears set to fund PNI at between $20 million to $60 million next year, rather than the $210 million that Obama requested. The 2011 funding would be for implementation and additional planning grants.