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Making Connections Technical Assistance

Making Connections was a 10-year initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation designed to demonstrate how communities can improve results for vulnerable children and families living in concentrated poverty. Residents of the neighborhoods were at the center of the effort; other partners included community-based organizations, local government, businesses, social-service agencies, community foundations and other funders. Making Connections was based on a two-generation attack on poverty – assuring that children are healthy and prepared to read proficiently by third grade, and helping parents work, earn and save to achieve economic self-sufficiency. This simultaneous emphasis on families, economic opportunity and school success in the early grades, along with strengthening community capacity, represented a significant departure from previous community change initiatives sponsored by Casey and other national and local funders.

The 10 sites involved in the initiative were:  Denver, Des Moines, Hartford, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oakland, Providence, San Antonio and White Center/Seattle.  With the Casey Foundation’s longstanding investment in Making Connections winding down, these communities are working to sustain the work, focusing on the following:

  • Family Economic Success (FES) centers on two main strategies: connecting people to living-wage work to increase their earnings by building neighborhood “workforce pipelines,” and increasing families’ assets by developing an “assets pathway” that links neighborhood residents to high-quality financial services and supports.
  • Children Healthy and Prepared to Succeed in School (CHAPSS) supports community capacity and strategies that work to ensure that children are born healthy, have  access to health care, receive quality early care and education, can make a successful transition to school and ultimately succeed in the early grades (K-3). This work culminates by measuring third-grade reading proficiency, a critical indicator of future academic success. 
  • Authentic Demand for change by residents in disinvested communities involves strengthening the number, diversity and skills of local leaders. It means promoting positive social networks, supporting community organizing and increasing civic participation.  Making Connections helps communities braid these strategies together to produce more durable and powerful results. The goal is to increase the accessibility and number of opportunities for community residents and other leaders to shape and participate in a powerful, transformative community change agenda.

The 10 Making Connections communities are also investing in the infrastructure and capacity needed for success and sustainability, such as use of data for learning and accountability. The Annie E. Casey Foundation and CSSP developed the Technical Assistance Resource Center (TARC) to help connect sites to relevant knowledge, tools, promising practices and learning opportunities in the community change field.   

The Technical Assistance Resource Center’s (TARC) results-based approach to technical assistance was:

  • demand-driven – responding to requests from those on the ground in Making Connections sites to seize opportunities and address challenges.
  • co-designed with residents, site teams, local stakeholders and others requesting help. It’s tightly linked to a community capacity building agenda.

TARC served as more than a broker of information. It helped connect local and national partners working with these communities to the best ideas, practices, policies and research from around the country. TARC:

  • helped communities realize concrete results
  • was attuned to local priorities
  • emphasized the need for equity, inclusiveness and accountability

This approach to technical assistance encourages strong resident engagement and leadership development, strategic partnerships across various sectors, the ability to convene partners and conduct long-term planning and reliable community data and information systems. TARC’s approach helped build a local “support system” to assist communities in their efforts to improve outcomes for children and families.

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