Skip to main content

Lessons from the Implementation of the Neighborhood and Family Initiative

The Neighborhood and Family Initiative (NFI) was one of the earliest incarnations of comprehensive community development and has helped inform a generation of other efforts. This 10-year endeavor sought to strengthen a single target neighborhood in each of four cities (Memphis, Hartford, Detroit and Milwaukee) and to improve the quality of life for the families who lived in them.

Launched in 1990 by The Ford Foundation, The Neighborhood and Family Initiative (NFI) was one of the earliest incarnations of comprehensive community development and has helped inform a generation of other efforts developed since its inception.  This 10-year endeavor sought to strengthen a single target neighborhood in each of four cities (Memphis, Hartford, Detroit and Milwaukee) and to improve the quality of life for the families who lived in them. The Ford Foundation played a large role in the authorization and planning stages of the project, but used community foundations in the four cities to administer funds and oversee practices at the neighborhood level.

The author of this 2000 report, Robert Chaskin of The Chapin Hall Center for Children at The University of Chicago, assesses the way NFI was implemented by reviewing the following strategic components:

  • Comprehensiveness and the Integration of Strategies
  • Organizational Collaboration and Resident Participation
  • Funding, Sponsorship and Support (from the Ford Foundation, four community foundations and technical assistance partners)
  • Outputs and Outcomes (services, jobs, physical revitalization, resources, organizational capacity, leadership and relationships)
  • Evaluation (using both localized and cross-site strategies)

“NFI drove toward change by negotiating among a range of tensions and contradictions — a dynamic push-and-pull between democracy and bureaucracy, top-down and bottom-up, inside and outside, long-term and short-term," Chaskin writes. "In some cases, these tensions were productively negotiated; in others, they were not overcome. We have learned more about implementation issues than fundamental principles; hopefully these findings can be applied to future work in fruitful ways.”

See also the related 2000 report, Moving Beyond the Neighborhood and Family Initiative: The Final Phase and Lessons Learned, and the 1997 interim report: The Ford Foundation's Neighborhood and Family Initiative – The Challenge of Sustainability: An Interim Report

Download the full report.

Posted in Comprehensive Community Development: An Intro

Stay connected

Stay up to date with news and events related to the Institute:

Facebook
Flickr