Friday, May 04, 2007

Faced With Economic, Social And Cultural Development Setbacks In Three Poor Districts Of San Francisco Bay, Major Foundation Takes Hard Look In Mirror

"In 1996, the Hewlett Foundation embarked upon an ambitious, multiyear, multimillion dollar initiative designed to improve the lives of residents in three disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Ten years and $20 million later, the Neighborhood Improvement Initiative, as it came to be known, is an acknowledged disappointment. While the initiative did improve life in the three neighborhoods, its impact did not reflect the large investments of financial and human resources.

What went wrong? How can the Hewlett Foundation and its colleagues in the community and philanthropy learn from the experience of the Neighborhood Improvement Initiative? Those are the central questions the Hewlett Foundation sought to answer in a new report called Hard Lessons about Philanthropy and Community Change from the Neighborhood Improvement Initiative, by researchers Prudence Brown and Leila Fiester.

The Hewlett Foundation turned to Ms. Brown and Ms. Fiester, who are acknowledged experts in the field of community development, to interview some two dozen individuals inside and outside the Foundation to undertake a frank assessment of what went right, what went wrong, and to provide lessons to others who choose to participate in initiatives like this.

“The report is humbling, but not necessarily surprising,” said Paul Brest, President of the Hewlett Foundation. “It reminds us what happens when a foundation and its partners fail to achieve clarity about goals, strategies and how to measure progress. As the funder, it was our responsibility to find effective and respectful ways to make sure that the initiative stayed on track. As we continue to make grants to address the needs of disadvantaged communities in the Bay Area, the specific lessons we learned through this initiative and this report will be particularly important.”

Hard Lessons examines the Neighborhood Improvement Initiative’s efforts in its three community sites – East Palo Alto, the Mayfair area of San Jose, and West Oakland – and provides a wealth of suggestions about how others can learn from the Hewlett Foundation’s experience. The sixty four page report can be downloaded from the Hewlett Foundation’s website here.

'New Report from the Hewlett Foundation Reveals “Hard Lessons” about Philanthropy,' Press Release [Eric Brown Hewlett Foundation Communications Director] March 29, 2007

7th Street, West Oakland, California, 1890

'Immediately following the Civil War, Oakland was chosen as the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, an engineering accomplishment that continues to rank as one of the greatest technological achievements in human history. The coming of the railroad in 1869 brought rapid growth in population and led to the construction of a large terminal at the foot of Seventh Street in West Oakland, shown here in 1890. Oakland hailed itself as "The Athens of the West," pointing to its cosmopolitan nature, its Mediterranean climate and its deep commitment to the arts, culture and democracy.' ...

'The sudden and huge demand for fighting vessels, military equipment, materials and supplies triggered by Japan's air attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 triggered an equally large and sudden demand for workers to metropolitan Oakland. A great migration of men, women and families, many from the southern and southwestern states, arrived to meet that need. Many of the newcomers were African-Americans, who were welcomed in West Oakland, near their jobs along the waterfront.'

Oakland Public Library

Oakland Museum of California

Chabot Space and Science Center

Oakland East Bay Symphony

Oakland Youth Orchestra - The Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Performing Arts

Photo and caption(s) credit: Oakland Public Library With thanks.


Post a Comment

<< Home