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Funders tour the West Philadelphia Promise Zone

Tuesday, July 7, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Amy Seasholtz
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The West Philadelphia Promise Zone, designated in January of 2014, was targeted in accordance with the White House’s pledge that everyone should have equal access to opportunity no matter where they live. While the Promise Zone designation does not include any direct funding, it does include preference on many federal funding opportunities, the result of which has helped to secure approximately $30 million in federal investments in the first year. In addition, five AmeriCorps VISTA members are placed with The Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO), the lead agency in the Promise Zone initiative, to provide administrative and backbone support. 

In order to effectively provide opportunity to Promise Zone residents, CEO leverages a collective impact model to organize the expertise, resources and agendas of over 100 partners who are actively engaged in work in the Promise Zone. Partners include public, private, nonprofit and academic organizations, and are organized into six committees, which work to identify and implement anti-poverty strategies in Economic Opportunity, Education, Health and Wellness, Housing, Public Safety and Workforce Development. Collaboration also happens across all committees to advance resident engagement and growth in arts and culture.

In addition to support from federal and public funding streams, the Promise Zone has worked to leverage private and philanthropic funding sources.

In April 2015, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia’s Place-Based Funders Group hosted a session for members to learn about the Promise Zone, hear from key stakeholders and staff, and learn about opportunities for investment.  Based on the interest generated at this initial gathering, the Network worked with CEO and Place-Based Funders co-chairs ANDY FRISKOFF, LISC Philadelphia, and KIMBERLY ALLEN, Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, to design a funder tour of the Promise Zone.

On June 10, 30 philanthropists convened at 30th Street Station and began their tour with a first-hand look at the massive economic growth and opportunity that has taken hold in University City. The group then traveled into nearby neighborhoods to meet with Promise Zone partners and residents to learn about the work currently being done, the contrast between the high need and high opportunity areas, and identify opportunities for investments. Members learned from partners including Mount Vernon Manor, Drexel, People’s Emergency Center, the Belmont Civic Alliance and University City District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. During lunch at the Drexel Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, attendees heard from CEO Executive Director EVA GLADSTEIN, Promise Zone Director OWEN FRANKLIN, and the Deputy Regional Administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), RICHARD M. OTT about the Promise Zone’s strategic plan and its sustainability, and had an informal dialogue with partners and community organizations.

Kimberly Allen, Andy FrishkoffFollowing the tour, Place-Based Funders Group co-chair Kimberly Allen commented, “The tour made clear the critical importance of funder collaboration and co-funding in places where plans are in place, supporting nonprofits that have strong track records, and ensuring the flow of resources from federal, state and local public funders, as well as from foundations and anchor institutions like Drexel.”

The Promise Zone and its partners have identified a range of opportunities for investment for funders, both in matching funds to federal programs and in specific targeted programs and needs. Recently, the DOUTY FOUNDATION contributed to the Promise Zone ACT Mini Grant program, a fund designed to provide capacity building grants to small nonprofits and community organizations working in and serving Promise Zone residents. As the Promise Zone moves into its second year, partners are enthusiastically working to identify opportunities to engage with and increase the involvement of philanthropy to address poverty in West Philadelphia.

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» To learn more about the work being done in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone, please visit the Promise Zone page of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia’s website.


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