USC Price School of Public Policy

Price Center chosen to help reduce LA poverty through Promise Zone program

January 10, 2014

By Megan Goulding

Gary Painter

Professor Gary Painter, center, will lead USC’s efforts in the Los Angeles Promise Zone. (Photo by Tom Queally)

Nearly a year after President Barack Obama promised in his State of the Union speech to lift the nation’s poorest neighborhoods out of poverty, the White House has designated part of Los Angeles as a “Promise Zone” — and the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation has been selected as a partner institution to help evaluate the effectiveness of spending in the Promise Zone.

Housed at the USC Price School of Public Policy, the Price Center for Social Innovation specializes in the kinds of economic and educational advancement efforts addressed by Obama’s Promise Zone initiative, said USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott. Professor Gary Painter will lead USC’s involvement in the project.

By designating Los Angeles as one of five national Promise Zone sites, the federal government will provide the city with on-the-ground federal partners, resources and grant funds to strategically execute holistic, comprehensive strategies for urban development, including creating jobs, increasing economic security, expanding educational opportunities, increasing access to quality, affordable housing, and improving public safety within particular LA communities.

The Los Angeles Promise Zone encompasses areas in Pico-Union, Westlake, Koreatown, East Hollywood and Hollywood. The selection of Los Angeles as a federal Promise Zone gives the city preferential status for federal grants, and federal money will be used to improve education, housing and public safety.

As the academic partner for this new initiative, the Price Center for Social Innovation will work with the Los Angeles Promise Zone to develop a comprehensive evaluation plan in the first year. The plan will define metrics and a strategy to measure outcomes, assess impacts and describe alternative evidence-based approaches.

In addition, the Price Center will provide data and reports to the LA Promise Zone, as well as impartial evaluation to funders and partnering entities. As the LA Promise Zone initiative grows in the coming years, USC faculty will also produce academic papers that analyze the Promise Zone approach to urban development.

“In addition to greatly contributing to urban development efforts in Los Angeles, the Price Center’s work with the LA Promise Zone will serve as an excellent platform for educating Price School students in program evaluation, data collection and methodologies for assessing program outcomes,” Knott said. “To further advance student engagement in these areas, the Price Center for Social Innovation will facilitate planning studios and other student research experiences focused on the LA Promise Zone.”

The LA Promise Zone is a collaborative effort among private business and federal, state and local officials; faith-based and nonprofit organizations; community residents; and academic institutions such as USC Price.

“It is this type of collaborative, multisector approach to problem solving that the Price School is so deeply invested in, and I am thrilled that the Price Center for Social Innovation and its affiliate faculty are able to contribute to this initiative,” Knott said.

“I congratulate Price Center Executive Director Richard Parks and Professor Gary Painter on being selected as a participant in this historic initiative,” he added. “All of us at the Price School look forward to closely following their work on this initiative in the coming years.”