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By Abha Thakkar
Northside Planning Council

With wages stagnating and real costs like housing and health care on the rise every year, more and more families struggle to make ends meet. Once they start falling behind, they are often buried under an avalanche of challenges related to housing, health, educational achievement, food access and job retention. When our families are insecure, our whole community feels the effects.

A new collaborative initiative on the Northside is focused on finding tangible ways to make it easier for families to thrive. Named “Stable Families, Strong Community,” the collaboration is being developed by key stakeholders, residents and Northside organizations and will be hiring Neighborhood Navigators to play a pivotal role.

This concept started in the fall 0f 2016 with the announcement by the Rennebohm Foundation of a public/private partnership around developing a Northside Early Childhood Zone (NECZ). The NECZ is the latest iteration of a wrap-around service model that seeks to meet families right where they are and provide them personalized support. It involves home visitation services -— up to twice a week — for families with newborn babies whose births were covered by Medicaid or BadgerCare. It follows the families until the child is four years old and ready to enter school.

The Northside zone is piloting some features that haven’t been tried before: a focus on maternal mental health; the inclusion of support systems around housing, employment and transportation; and the integration of Neighborhood Navigators, neighborhood residents who are hired to help identify and connect families to the Zone. Other partners of the NECZ include the City of Madison, Dane County, United Way and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD).

Also in the fall of 2016, the City received a youth violence prevention grant through the Office of Juvenile Justice and

Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The program is called, “Madison’s Northside: a Safe and Thriving Community.” The City was awarded this grant with its partner, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, a child and family advocacy organization that authored the 2013 Race to Equity Report. Possible activities of this program include resident engagement around restorative justice practices, youth internship and vocational training opportunities, and other youth programming.

Also at the same time, Mendota Elementary School was selected by MMSD to become a Community School. According to an MMSD website, “Community Schools integrate programming and services that student, families and community members feel are needed — health care, academic tutoring, mentoring, food access, parent leadership opportunities and more —
directly into schools, making them hubs of coordinated support.” Stacy Broach was hired to coordinate the program.

Finally, several entities, including the Brentwood Village Neighborhood Association, the Northside Neighborhood Resource Team (made up of City staff and Northside agency liaisons), the Northside Planning Council (NPC) and others have been working to find ways to serve the Brentwood neighborhood apartment buildings, an isolated concentration of families without access to services or support.

Early in 2017, city staff convened a meeting of representatives from the various initiatives to determine where the goals of each program intersected and whether coordination was possible.

This “Northside Initiatives” collaboration turned to the Collective Impact model as a structure for cross-sector collaboration. Collective Impact lays out five key attributes for collaboration: a common agenda, a shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and a backbone organization.

As this collaborative group met, it became clear that while each initiative had its distinct goals, they came together around the idea of family stability: stability in housing, employment, education and community connection. When those stability indicators are enhanced, families are much more likely to thrive and the community is strengthened. “Stable Families, Strong Community” came out of these discussions as a point of intersection and coordination for the different initatives, with the Northside Planning Council acting as a backbone organization.

At the heart of this collaboration are the Neighborhood Navigators, a new employment opportunity created specifically for Northside residents from historically underserved communities. The Navigators, employed by the Northside Planning Council (NPC), will work across the “Stable Families, Strong Community” collaboration, helping build relationships and helping us identify needs and the many assets that already exist in our neighborhoods. Navigators will also be critical in program evaluation and design. See page 4 for details about this opportunity.

The hope is to connect more Northside organizations, businesses and neighborhoods to this collaboration. Please contact NPC at office@northsideplanningcouncil.org if you would like to schedule a presentation.