West Harlem Development Corporation

Contact Information

423 W 127th St., Grnd Fl, Suite A
New York, NY 10027 - 2561
FY 2015 Social Innovation Fund

Executive Summary

West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) manages a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) of cash and in-kind commitments from Columbia University (CU) to benefit the Manhattan Community District 9 (MCD9) area of West Harlem. The CBA includes $76 million in cash that is at the discretion of WHDC. WHDC achieves its mission to promote increased economic opportunities and quality of life for West Harlem residents through making grants to nonprofit organizations. Since launching grant-making activities in 2013, WHDC has made 185 awards totaling $5 million to 132 nonprofit organizations. To deepen measurable impact and address critical community needs, WHDC applies for $7 million of SIF funds over five years for youth development activities to be delivered in WHDC's geographic area of MCD9.

MCD9 is a high-poverty/in-crisis area with 41% of the employable population out of the labor force and 28% of residents receiving public income assistance. Eighty-four percent of students, almost all Black or Latino, receive free or reduced lunch. During the most recent state standardized tests, 83 percent of the area's third to eight graders failed English Language Arts and 80% failed Mathematics. Last year, the high school attendance rate was 78 percent with a 58 percent four-year completion rate and a 15 percent college readiness rate in noncharter/nonspecialized schools. In 2012, one MCD9 zip code had the highest number of youth sent to prison statewide.

WHDC proposes to replicate the Community School model as an innovative intervention to systematically address public school failure, leading to a pipeline of incarceration and unemployment in MCD9. WHDC's program is dubbed ABC 1 X 1 (ABC, one by one, with A for attendance, B for behavior, and C for course performance). It will be based on a theory of change that states by conducting both school and individual student assessments, supports can be delivered to achieve literacy, high school completion, college enrollment, positive careers -- all to contribute to thriving citizenry and communities. WHDC is being assisted in improving its measurement of impact by the TCC Group that has 35 years' experience in strategic planning, outcome designs and third-party evaluation. WHDC has a close relationship with the Superintendent of the New York City School District 5 through whom WHDC has established relations with the school principals. Similarly, WHDC expects help with conceptual design from Columbia University's Teachers College and its Campaign for Educational Equity (CFE), noted for a landmark case that defined education as a right.

The anticipated student supportive services will be delivered by nonprofit organizations through competitive request for proposals processes. The subrecipients will be partners who have demonstrated prior experience in quality programming, ability to gather and manage data for outcome measurements, willingness to work within a collective impact milieu and a commitment to the program's theory of change. Over the five-year period, WHDC will engage in at least two third-party evaluations and will have the goal of obtaining strong evidence of its interventions in the form of higher standardized test scores, higher attendance rates, higher rates of cohort graduation, college readiness, and higher college enrollment and graduation. WHDC will start with nine schools (4,000 students) of the 19 public schools in MCD9.

In the past few years, WHDC started a grant-making program from scratch and achieved community support by hosting frequent public meetings. Its executive director has experience in heading several large and international nonprofit organizations that have received millions of federal funds. The support team includes a former Ford Foundation program officer and a former journalist who ensures quality community engagements. Teachers College at Columbia University is leading the establishment of a sought-after MCD9 public school.

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