Center for the Study of Social Policy - 40 Years of Innovation
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Place-Based Initiatives

Research and experience shows that families do better when they live in strong and supportive communities.  In short, place matters.  Yet many communities face challenges of high poverty, unemployment, failing schools, and housing instability.  These outcomes are influenced by unequal access to opportunity and decades of disinvestment in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.  An equitable approach to ensuring that all neighborhoods become the kinds of places that enable all children and families to succeed and thrive requires intentional efforts to build, sustain and operationalize certain types of community capacity. 

This capacity is a combination of knowledge, skills, relationships, interactions and organizational resources that enable residents, civic leaders, the public and private sectors and local organizations to transform neighborhoods into places of opportunity.  Based on our experience working with communities, we believe the following types of capacity are essential for successful and sustainable neighborhood transformation:

  • Managing a broadly supported community process designed to improve results for children and families in a particular neighborhood
  • Working with neighborhood residents as leaders, “owners” and implementers of neighborhood transformation efforts
  • Creating strategic and accountable partnerships that engage multiple sectors and share accountability for results
  • Collecting, analyzing and using data for learning and accountability
  • Designing and implementing strategies based on the best available evidence of what works
  • Developing financing approaches that better align and target resources
  • Addressing policy and regulatory issues
  • Using sophisticated communications strategies to build public and political will
  • Deepening organizational and leadership capacity

Increasingly, funders and federal officials are focusing their investments on place-based efforts to improve outcomes for families.  CSSP assists with the design of place-based initiatives and provides TA in several key areas based on lessons learned from our past work, including the management of the Technical Assistance Resource Center to support the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections Initiative.  In a “co-learning” partnership with several communities that are committed to this work, we learn and disseminate information and tools about what makes a difference at the neighborhood level.  This learning informs systems reform and public policy agendas to better support community efforts to improve the well-being of families and dismantle the structures that perpetuate disparities in outcomes and opportunities.   

We are currently involved in supporting several place based efforts:

Place-Based Initiatives

Stay Informed


CSSP looks at the latest data and how that impacts three cities involved in place-based change efforts.

Promise Zones

A new brief takes a look at the Obama Administration’s latest in a continuum of place-based strategies to help transform impoverished communities.

Now Available! 

Making a Difference in Your Neighborhood: A Handbook for Using Community Decision-Making to Improve the Lives of Children, Youth and Families -This new guide builds on CSSP's six learning guides for building community capacity. It provides tools, resources and success stories from around the country to help communities make real changes.

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