Progress report: our emerging North Camden Promise Zone.

At the end of 2011, we launched The Promise Academy: a new model for tackling child poverty in Camden. It was a model based on an eighteen-month step-change process which involved gathering best practice, undertaking learning and research from across the globe and restructuring the organisation.

The new model is premised on a model developed by Harlem Children’s Zone, described by a recent Save the Children and University of Manchester report as ‘doubly holistic’: a voluntary sector-led initiative working both long-term (from cradle to career) and across every area of a child’s experience (education, health, social services and so on).

In importing and developing the Harlem Children’s Zone model, it differs in a couple of central ways. Firstly, it sees us not as the sole or primary delivery agent of services but as an infrastructure and partnership-brokering organisation delivering the core cradle-to-career pipeline but focused on coordinating a wealth of service provision which does not exist in the Harlem context. Secondly, it invests a great deal more energy and thought in measuring impact, moving beyond the ‘college equals success’ formula to a deeper engagement in what success looks like, how it can be fostered and measured and how this relates to a long-term, multi-agency environment. In this respect, it could be argued to be ‘triply holistic’: adding depth, to breadth and length.

The development of our thinking from the initial launch of The Promise Academy has encouraged us to move towards an increasingly zone-focused model which is less institutional and more open to an impact-led approach. We recently established a map of the North Camden Promise Zone aligned with Lower Super Output Area boundaries (small geographical areas) to allow us to benefit from existing data and research and using this to target resources. We have overlaid this LSOA-structured ‘zone’ with local knowledge and soft data: for example the presence of dispersal zones, higher levels of anti-social behaviour, areas where young people typically gather and where we know there are much more localised ‘gaps’ in service provision. It is this area we will focus on delivering a cradle to career ‘pipeline’ drawing together a full range of partners to deliver long-term outcomes tackling child poverty.

The Winch’s new strategic plan maps out a five-year pilot for the North Camden Promise Zone which aims to engage the local authority and a range of local partners in the delivery of ‘a pipeline of wraparound, opportunity-building support and multidisciplinary care from cradle to career to support every child and young person to flourish’.

The pipeline is built on a number of modest changes around our existing infrastructure which works with children and young people from four to twenty-five years old and focuses on their educational, emotional, physical and social wellbeing and development. In addition to this, we have launched the following developments:

  • The Promise Nursery: scoping out the early years element of the pipeline, drawing together experts in early years and child development and building on successes and lessons from Sure Start centres. 
  • The enterprise programme: the post-secondary school education element of the pipeline, supporting young people who are not in education, employment or training by investing in and incubating their business ideas. 
  • The Promise Partnership: developing a local partnership of agencies and services focused on delivering shared outcomes in the Zone. We are currently completing a piece of action research around Partnership membership and working. 
  • The Promise Worker Pilot: a three-year project piloting a best practice approach to youthwork in which workers provide the central relationship-holding function of a cradle to career model. This is a casework-based approach with resource for partnership working and impact measurement which will be externally evaluated. 
  • Promise Tech: a three-part technological backroom to support the delivery of NCPZ through personalised plans, comprising: a longitudinal impact measurement application, a partnership learning and information-sharing dashboard and a number of applications to support ground level, real-time and user-led data-sharing. 
  • The Promise Research Project: a multi-disciplinary, practice-based research and development programme drawing together child development, health, sociology and social mobility to evaluate and drive impact as part of the North Camden Promise Zone model. 

These elements have completion dates ranging from December 2012 to 2014. There are a small number of other elements which are not included as they have not yet been initiated.

It sometimes feels as if 2012 has been a year in which we’ve rarely had the exposure or volume we were fortunate enough to have in 2011, but it has allowed us to focus on making good on our promise to children and young people. The model-whether Promise Academy or Promise Zone-is taking shape.

A first version of our emerging North Camden Promise Zone.
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