Building Neighborhood Capacity Program

The Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP) is designed to help low income neighborhoods build the capacity and resources needed to ensure residents experience better results around education, employment, safety, housing and other key areas. BNCP is intended to create community driven change in neighborhoods that have historically faced barriers to revitalization.

About CSSP
The Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP) is designed to help low-income neighborhoods build the infrastructure and resources needed to ensure families experience better results around education, employment, safety, housing and other key areas. Established in 2011 as part of the federal Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), BNCP is intended to catalyze community-driven change in neighborhoods that have historically faced barriers to revitalization.

While situations vary locally, persistently distressed neighborhoods often have a history of low or poorly targeted investments from the public and private sectors, may not be well-connected with institutions such as universities and hospitals, are far from economic vitality, experience high rates of crime and may have experienced racial or class segregation that severely limits opportunities.

As these issues are interrelated, they must be addressed holistically. The goal of BNCP is to help neighborhoods develop the knowledge, skills, relationships, interactions and organizational resources that enable residents, civic leaders, the public and private sectors and local organizations to create comprehensive neighborhood revitalization plans.

With this goal in mind, the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program Resource Center provides neighborhoods with tools, best practices and strategies aimed at building capacity.

With funding from the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development and Justice, BNCP was launched in August 2012 to provide targeted technical assistance to eight neighborhoods in four cities. The following neighborhoods were selected competitively based on their levels of distress and commitment to building capacity. Click on each neighborhood to learn more about how they plan to build capacity.

Flint, Michigan
Ward 1
Ward 3

Fresno, California
El Dorado Park

Memphis, Tennessee
Greater Binghampton

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Metcalfe Park

BNCP support will help the neighborhoods, and the cross-sector partnerships working with them, to (1) create and implement comprehensive revitalization plans and (2) make effective use of and attract a range of federal, state and local resources.

Who Is Involved?
BNCP is a key program of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), an interagency strategy launched in 2010 by the Obama Administration. NRI engages the Urban Affairs and Economic Mobility office of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Treasury. NRI aligns federal investments in neighborhoods that struggle with the interrelated challenges of concentrated poverty, high rates of crime, low-performing schools, inadequate access to housing and healthcare and the absence of economic vitality.
In an effort to tackle these challenges, NRI has aligned several new centerpiece programs, including Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program, and engaged the existing Health Center program. With coordination and support from the participating federal agencies, these programs, BNCP and other NRI efforts make it easier for communities to access the tools and resources they need to transform neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity that support the optimal development and well-being of children and families.

The Department of Education
The Department of Education promotes student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

The Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.

The Department of Justice
The Department of Justice’s mission is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans. BNCP is specifically supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) within the Department of Justice. BJA shares knowledge and best practices at the national, state, local and tribal levels and funds the implementation of crime-fighting strategies in an effort to make our nation’s communities safer.

The Department of the Treasury
The mission of the Department of the Treasury is to maintain a strong economy and create economic and job opportunities by promoting the conditions that enable economic growth and stability at home and abroad, strengthen national security by combating threats and protecting the integrity of the financial system, and manage the U.S. Government’s finances and resources effectively.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) was selected as the technical assistance provider for the BNCP by the U.S. Department of Justice. With nearly 30 years of experience in public policy, research and providing technical assistance, CSSP will offer the training needed to help the BNCP neighborhoods develop and begin to pursue results-driven revitalization plans. This work will be guided by what CSSP has learned over the last decade through various efforts, including Making Connections, a 10-year, 10-city place-based project, and Strengthening Families, an abuse and neglect prevention approach that is used by more than 30 states.

CSSP has partnered with the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change, the Institute for Community Peace and the Institute for Youth, Education and Families at the National League of Cities to provide customized technical assistance to the BNCP neighborhoods

Click here to view the BNCP PSA Video:  Building Neighborhood Capacity Program PSA – Ward 3

What is Community Capacity?
Community Capacity can be defined as the combination of knowledge, skills, relationships, interactions and organizational resources that enable residents, civic leaders, the public and private sectors and local organizations to transform neighborhoods into places of opportunity.  An equitable approach to building strong neighborhoods where all children and families succeed requires intentional efforts to build and sustain this capacity.

BNCP partners have used nearly 30 years of work in communities, as well as research and literature from the field, to develop a framework of capacities that are essential to creating successful and sustainable neighborhood transformation. They are:

1. Managing a community process to achieve results
2. Resident engagement
3. Creating accountable partnerships
4. Using data
5. Designing and implementing effective solutions
6. Financing
7. Organizational and leadership capacity
8. Policy influence
9. Communications strategies to build public will

Why is Capacity Building Important?
Building neighborhood capacity is important because it helps communities develop, implement and sustain plans that make them successful, vibrant and high-functioning places to live. The BNCP approach to building strong neighborhoods is based on lessons from past initiatives and includes nine capacities. Each capacity is critical for a different reason, and it is our theory that the combination of these capacities leads to effective and sustainable neighborhood change.

Managing a Community Process to Achieve Results
Resident Engagement
What is it?  Resident engagement is the core element of community-based work. Engaging residents in meaningful relationships as owners, leaders, implementers and experts throughout the community change process means building on where the energy of the community is, allowing residents to use their experiences to define the community’s results agenda and leveraging their relationships with other residents to help engage the community to ensure everyone has a stake in achieving in the desired results.

Why is it important?  Residents are experts about their community. Their well-being ultimately depends on the opportunities available in their communities. Engaging all residents – community leaders, ordinary residents, young people, elders, longtime residents, those with diverse backgrounds and immigrants – ensures that the community change efforts meet the needs of everyone living in the community. Engaging residents in any of many ways throughout the implementation of community change efforts can build a sense of ownership that empowers residents to advocate for what they need. Engagement builds the interest, knowledge and momentum needed to sustain efforts into the future.

Creating Accountable Partnerships
What is it?  Strengthening and improving communities is a collaborative process that requires input and participation from various members and multiple sectors of the community. Building partnerships with residents, organizations, businesses, faith leaders and other stakeholders utilizes the knowledge and expertise of the community. It makes it much more likely that the resources necessary to plan, implement strategies and sustain results will be feasible.

Why is it important?  Each member of the community brings a wealth of skills, relationships and experiences that will inform community change efforts. Building intentional and collaborative partnerships is an integral part of acquiring resources that are needed to achieve results. It also ensures that there is shared accountability for making a neighborhood better. Structuring partnerships with residents is particularly important as they can often best determine the needs of their communities and the potential solutions that will have the greatest impact.

Using Data
What is it?  Data is a critical ingredient in the community change process. It helps the community validate the nature and extent of its challenges, and then tracks, informs and guides the needs of the community through the implementation process, focusing on results and impacts. Using data helps define how to target the intended results – and for whom – to learn and make on-going adjustments for improvement and accountability.

Why is it important?  Though the needs of a community may often seem obvious, data can provide a more detailed and nuanced picture of the current conditions that individuals, children, youth and families face. Data may, for example, be based on variables such as race, ethnicity, gender and age, demonstrating how different populations in the community have fared or are impacted. Gathering data and distilling it to a level that people understand and find useful creates a common language that residents and partners can use in defining the needs of the community and identifying potential solutions.

Designing and Implementing Effective Solutions
What is it?  Once local data has been analyzed to refine the understanding of community needs, the design and implementation of solutions can begin. Using the best evidence available, it will be important to choose solutions – including increased opportunities, formal services, information supports and deliberate efforts to put in place protective and promotive factors that help ensure that residents, including children, youth and families thrive. These factors must be well suited to the community’s context to have a likelihood of achieving better results.

Why is it important?  Harnessing research about how to successfully implement effective solutions that have the flexibility to match the individual needs and cultures of families and residents holds real promise of creating better life outcomes in the neighborhood and community. At the same time, this approach can also support creativity through data-driven innovations to develop new solutions.

What is it?  Financing broad-based, comprehensive community change requires a coordinated approach across a variety of issues. There are a range of potential funding streams to consider, some with one-time dollars and a need to diversity financing approaches. To be successful, the approach should focus on leveraging and co-investing resources and redeploying current funds to support services and infrastructure that will have the greatest impact and sustainability. Too often communities find themselves chasing whatever funding sources are available instead of creating plans to identify new resources – and align existing resources – with the solutions they believe will revitalize neighborhoods and improves results for residents and families. Leveraging resources creatively through financing and partnerships in addition to grants is also important to consider.

Why is it important?  The capacity to calculate the costs of achieving better results, map current resources available, develop financing strategies and identify a mix of funding and other resources – all while looking into the future – is a roadmap for success and sustainability. Most of the time innovation and revitalization only last as long as an initial funding stream is available. Communities that begin planning for financial sustainability and link their investments to the results they want to achieve from the first day forward are most likely to weather changes or a loss of financing without a loss of momentum.

Organizational and Leadership Capacity
What is it?  The notion of leadership as a key capacity in community change work is most likely self-explanatory. It’s one of the ingredients that help innovate, guide, govern, track and maintain the efforts that will bring about substantive and lasting change.

Why is it important?  The development and support of individual leadership – those who are already leaders, those who are emerging and those who have yet to step forward – and organization leadership is necessary for revitalization, transition and transformation. These leaders – individuals and organizations who are credible within their circles of influence and the community and who are motivated to be drivers of necessary change – come from diverse socio-economic, ethnic, geographic and racial backgrounds. Resident leadership, including youth, is crucial to any authentic effort to improve results for persistently distressed neighborhoods (recognizing there are numerous avenues for residents to become involved and to become leaders).

Policy Influence
What is it?  Public policies are the laws, regulations and rules governmental bodies, such as legislatures and public agencies, enact or adopt. When these policies, in whole or in part, impede outcomes for individuals, children or families using influence becomes a critical capacity for addressing these barriers. The ability to influence how policy is developed, implemented or changed can play a major role in improving outcomes for children, families and communities.

Why is it important?  While communities can make great strides in achieving desired results on their own, work often occurs in a complex environment that is created in part by public policies. Sometimes, these policies can have unintended outcomes and hinder a community’s efforts to bring about significant, sustainable change. These challenges should be carefully considered when defining results and implementing strategies that target results. By developing partnerships with system leaders, policymakers and their staff and other stakeholders, policy can be influenced in ways that either directly enhance the desired results or at least improve the ability to pursue them.

Communications Strategies to Build Public Will
What is it?  Communications are the messages and tools a community disseminates to inform and influence broader audiences, including political leaders, partner organizations and residents. Effective communications uses data about the community, its needs and the progress it’s making to motivate audiences and build public will and political support for an initiative.

Why is it important?  Generating broad public support and influencing policies and practices is critical to a community’s success. Change efforts will involve many stakeholders, who are involved in various stages of the process and to varying degrees. Effective communications not only keeps the momentum going, but helps to ensure that all members of the community are aware of, engaged in and have a deep understanding of efforts. Strong communications can also help to use the results agenda build both public and political support among community stakeholders as well as political leaders, individuals and potential financial backers who reside outside the community but who may be needed to support larger changes.

Flint MI BNCP Letter of Interest


BNCP Brouchure

BNCP Performance Agreement

BNCP Flint Survey

NAC Role

NAC Guidelines

NAC Commitment