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Michael McAfee Profiled in Vancouver Sun

Michael McAfee, Director, Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink

Promise Neighborhoods in Canada? Why not?!

Daphne Bramham’s profile of Michael McAfee in the Vancouver Sun today shows that reducing poverty is simple, though it does require hard work.

“‘Poverty is a big problem. We’re not going to solve it with $10,000 and $15,000 grants. It requires big leadership and we can’t shy away from the fact that it also costs big dollars.’

But, he says, it doesn’t take any more community effort or money than it does to build sports stadiums.”

Can it be done? Read the full article, and leave a comment here or in the article’s comment section to share your thoughts.


Michael McAfee: Reflections on Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference

“Wow! The Promise Neighborhoods Network is a collective force for children and families!

During our gathering last week, I was amazed to witness leaders’ unremitting commitment to achieving results on a large scale in their neighborhoods. Equally important, I felt great pride in watching how open everyone was to sharing best practices and lessons learned. The Promise Neighborhoods movement is creating something very special–a learning community that can accelerate local leaders’ ability to transform lives and neighborhoods. Promise Neighborhoods leaders are focused on people, results and execution. They are making the world a better place!”

Michael McAfee, Director of the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink

Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and You

by Michael McAfee and Adam Luecking

Bill Gates and Barack Obama both encourage a focus on measurement and data to solve problems

Bill Gates and Barack Obama have the right idea.

Gates’ recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, My Plan to Fix the World’s Greatest Problems, highlights the need to set clear goals, use measures to drive progress, and analyze results in a feedback loop.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Obama introduced a College Scorecard to help students choose colleges based on information related to size, cost, location, graduation rate, employment, and how many students are able to repay student loans after graduation. This scorecard was part of an overall emphasis in his speech on early education-to-career support for children to gain the skills necessary to get good jobs and climb a ladder of opportunity into the middle class.

Both Gates and President Obama are focusing on measurement and data in order to help children and families in distressed neighborhoods succeed. This is exactly the focus of Mark Friedman’s book, Trying Hard is Not Good Enough: How to Produce Measurable Improvements for Customers and Communities—the focus we maintain in our work to support Promise Neighborhoods.

The most effective way to get population-level results is to use Results-Based Accountability (RBA) to create measurable impact on community indicators like obesity rates, high school graduation rates, median incomes, and the air quality index—and we’ve got a scorecard of our own to help Promise Neighborhoods serve the children and families in their communities.

Promise Neighborhoods, which build a continuum of education, health, and social supports from the cradle to college to career, were created by President Obama in 2010 in order to replicate the successful model of the Harlem Children’s Zone. They work on common indicators to achieve a shared set of results, and use our Promise Scorecard to rigorously measure data, assess progress, and continuously improve and connect services to help children succeed.

Across the country, over 60 Promise Neighborhoods are scaling up to serve over 200,000 children. Because their efforts address the interconnected challenges of poverty, this movement has the ability to reverse the cycle of generational poverty, ultimately creating an equitable society in which all children can learn, participate, and prosper.

This methodology is applicable in many different fields. As Bill Gates notes, “from the fight against polio to fixing education, what’s missing is often good measurement and a commitment to follow the data. We can do better. We have the tools at hand.”

No matter what change you want to see in the world, you can use data for learning, continuous improvement, and shared accountability to achieve real results. To start, here are seven simple questions to ask yourself, courtesy of Mark Friedman:

  1. Results: What are the quality of life conditions we want for the children, adults, and families who live in our community?
  2. Experience:  What would these conditions look like if we could see, feel, and experience them?
  3. Indicators:  How can we measure these conditions?
  4. Trendline:  How are we doing on the most important of these measures?
  5. Partners: Who are the partners that have a role to play in doing better?
  6. What Works:  What works, and what would it take to do better? What low-cost or no-cost actions could we take?
  7. Action Plan:  What do we propose to do?

Measurement and data analysis are critical to building successful Promise Neighborhoods and other comprehensive community change efforts, though they’re not useful in a vacuum. We also need supportive public policies, sufficient funding, and targeted technical assistance to allow measurement and data-informed action. With the leadership of Bill Gates, President Obama, and other public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders at the national and local levels to support the necessary tools and training, our neighborhoods can make and keep their promises to children. Let’s remain focused so that all children can grow up in a society in which they can participate and prosper.

Michael McAfee is Director of the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink. Adam Luecking is CEO of the Results Leadership Group, creators of the Results Scorecard software. He is also past president of the Community Indicators Consortium, an international non-profit focused on helping local communities use better data in decision-making.

Michael McAfee on Bill Gates’ Wish for Measurement: Check out Promise Neighborhoods!

Did you see this article in the Wall Street Journal by Bill Gates? He’s hoping for better measurement, clear goal-setting, stakeholder buy-in, feedback loops, and accountability to solve the world’s problems.

Sound familar?

Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

“If I could wave a wand,” Gates writes, “I’d love to have a way to measure how exposure to risks like disease, infection, malnutrition and problem pregnancies impact children’s potential—their ability to learn and contribute to society. Measuring that could help us quantify the broader impact of those risks and help us tackle them.”

Michael McAfee, director of the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink, has this to say in response:

“I’m so glad Mr. Gates is bringing attention to the need to set clear goals, use measures to drive progress, and analyze results in a feedback loop. Since he’s interested in measuring risks impacting children’s potential, I’m pleased to report that we are already doing that. Promise Neighborhoods, which build a continuum of education, health, and social supports from the cradle to college to career based on the successful model of the Harlem Children’s Zone, work on common indicators to achieve a shared set of results. They rigorously measure data, assess progress, and continuously improve and connect services to help children succeed.

Across the country, over 60 Promise Neighborhoods are scaling up to serve over 200,000 children. Because their efforts address the interconnected challenges of poverty, this movement has the ability to collectively measure and erode systemic barriers together, ultimately creating a just and fair society in which all children can learn, participate, and prosper.”

What do you think?


Webinar This Thurs! Strive + PNI = Infrastructure Alignment

Our own director, Michael McAfee, will be presenting on a webinar this Thursday with Strive and a few community leaders building Promise Neighborhoods and regional cradle to career infrastructures to talk about how our efforts can complement each other.

Will you join us?

Aligning for Impact: Connecting Promise Neighborhoods and Cradle to Career Civic Infrastructure
Thursday, November 29, 1-2 p.m. ET
Register for the webinar

Panelists for the webinar include:

Jeff Edmondson, Strive
Michael McAfee, Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink
Agnes Chiao, United Way of Salt Lake City
Bill Crim, United Way of Salt Lake City
Kelli Parmley, Bridging Richmond
Gwen Corley-Creighton, Richmond Promise Neighborhood

Hope you can make it!


Did We Win? Why Yes, We Did!

Congratulations to our very own director, Michael McAfee, for his Community Indicators Consortium Leadership award! He’s been named an Emerging Leader, which is a leader under the age of 45 that has “demonstrated extraordinary contribution to the indicators field with cutting-edge approaches to improving community conditions and well-being.”

Woo hoo!

We’re so proud of him, and pleased he’s been recognized for the work he does every day to support Promise Neighborhoods.

Join us in giving him a hand!

My Inspiration for Graduates: Jeremy Lin

Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink Director Michael McAfee had a few words of inspiration for graduates in the Huffington Post:

Need Inspiration for Your Graduate? Start With the Time 100 List

We all need a little graduation inspiration, especially when it can feel like we’re sending our graduates off on ice floes. So let me share my inspiration: the Time100 list.

Jeremy Lin made the list this year, and from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s comments about him, it’s clear that Mr. Duncan and I see the same spark. It’s not just Lin’s moves on the court that inspire us; it’s what he represents.

“I don’t care whether you are an Asian-American kid, white, black, or Hispanic,” Duncan wrote inTime, “Jeremy’s story tells you that if you show grit, discipline and integrity, you too can get an opportunity to overcome the odds.”

Duncan should know about opportunity. The US Department of Education is entering its third year of the Promise Neighborhoods program, which uses the principles of the successful Harlem Children’s Zone to provide comprehensive community supports to allow children of all races and income levels to learn, grow, and succeed. Jeremy Lin’s story shows us that when children get the opportunity to reach their full potential, the results can be spectacular.

Read the full article at the Huffington Post.

Michael McAfee in the Oakland Tribune: We Need to Play Moneyball

Check out this op-ed from PNI Director Michael McAfee, hot off the presses of the Oakland Tribune! It’s a great look at how Promise Neighborhoods use some of the same methods Billy Beane used to revive the Oakland A’s, do more with the resources they had, and encourage the talent in all players–even those who had been consistently overlooked.

A’s aren’t the only ones who need to play Moneyball

I’ll admit — I was hoping “Moneyball” would win an Oscar.

If you haven’t seen the hit movie “Moneyball,” it’s the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, portrayed by Brad Pitt. He figured out how to make the 2002 A’s, with about $41 million in salaries (the lowest in the league), competitive with wealthier teams who spent more than $125 million on payroll.

He found value in undervalued players — putting a catcher with a bad elbow at first base, bringing back an older player to help lead the team — to make the best use of the team’s smaller revenues and get to the championship.

Just as Beane made smart investments in the A’s with talented players who had been overlooked, we need to make smart investments in the overlooked people whose talents are key to the success of our country.

Read the rest at the Oakland Tribune!

Jan 24 Urban Institute Event With PNI’s Michael McAfee! Don’t Miss Out!

Sign up now for the Urban Institute’s panel discussion on the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative and the entire Promise Neighborhood movement! Our own Michael McAfee will be on the panel.

Michael McAfee, Director of PNI

If you can’t attend in person in DC, watch the webcast. Details below!

You are cordially invited to attend

DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative: Supporting Cradle-to-College Success

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 • 9:00-10:30 a.m. ET

To attend in person in Washington, D.C., register at: (Registration is required.)

To watch the video webcast or a recording, go to (No registration is necessary.)

The DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) chose the Urban Institute in 2010 to evaluate its plan to help children reach their full potential through intensive, cradle-to-college support. Later that year, DCPNI became one of 21 recipients of a Promise Neighborhood planning grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

DCPNI was launched in 2008 in the city’s Parkside-Kenilworth community, where approximately half of all DCPNI residents live below the federal poverty line, almost three times the citywide average. Under DCPNI, residents, school principals, health care and social service providers, and other stakeholders are developing a multilayered approach to academic and life success for children and youth that goes well beyond school hours.

Please join us for a panel discussion addressing such questions as
•     Why do Promise Neighborhoods matter?
•     What is DCPNI’s approach to making lasting change in the city?
•     What has DCPNI accomplished so far?
•     How will its impact be evaluated?
•     What challenges lie ahead?
•     What can other communities learn from DCPNI?

Moderated by Alice Rivlin, senior fellow, Brookings Institution.


  • Michael McAfee, president, Promise Neighborhoods Institute
  • Susan Popkin, senior fellow and director, Program on Neighborhoods and Youth Development, Urban Institute
  • Irasema Salcido, president, DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative; founder and CEO, Cesar Chávez Public Charter Schools
  • Sharita Slayton, advisory neighborhood commissioner, DCPNI neighborhoods, District of Columbia

To watch the video webcast or a recording, go to (No registration necessary.)

At the Urban Institute
2100 M Street N.W., 5th Floor, Washington, D.C.
Light breakfast served at 8:30 a.m.

Podcast with PNI Director Michael McAfee!

Listen to the Early Ed Watch podcast, in which Maggie Severns interviews our own Michael McAfee about the new round of Promise Neighborhood grantees and the excellent work of the previous round of grantees!

He gives a great recap of what happened last year, and what we have to look forward to this year. Give it a listen to start getting familiar with the new cohort of grantees, and what it takes to build a strong, results-driven Promise Neighborhood.

Michael McAfee, Director of the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink


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