Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood: On Partnership

The Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood (SPPN) is very pleased to team up with other initiatives working to improve academic achievement for children in poverty and children of color – including the Northside Achievement Zone and Generation Next.  I’d like to talk about how the SPPN is aligned with other initiatives and also mention some things that make our work unique, including:

  • Collective Impact
  • Aligned work carried out by partners
  • Attention to culture as a hallmark of everything we do

The SPPN is a cross-sector collaborative of organizations working together to improve educational outcomes in a 250-block area in St. Paul’s Frogtown and Summit University neighborhoods.

Incredible Years

This 250-block area in the heart of St. Paul is one of Minnesota’s most culturally diverse areas, with people of color comprising 78 percent of the SPPN, compared to 17 percent of the state as a whole. The two largest cultural communities in the neighborhood are African American (39%) and Asian (26%) – the vast majority of which are Hmong. Other groups in the neighborhood include Somali, Oromo, Karen, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Latinos, Whites, and others.  More than one-third of students at the SPPN partner schools speak a language other than English in their homes.  The SPPN focuses on families with children attending three partner schools – Maxfield Magnet Elementary, Jackson Preparatory Magnet and the St. Paul City School, a charter school in the SPPN.

With the Wilder Foundation serving as fiscal sponsor and “backbone organization” of the initiative, the SPPN is a “Collective Impact” model – a collaboration among institutions and nonprofit organizations that are embedded in the community we serve. In all, nine Anchor Partners have come together to engage the community and align and deliver services. They include, in addition to Wilder: The City of Saint Paul, the Cultural Wellness Center, Hmong American Partnership, Network for the Development of Children of African Descent, Ramsey County, Saint Paul College, the Saint Paul Public Schools, and the YWCA of Saint Paul.

We are pleased to partner with Generation Next in a number of ways, including as part of the Generation Next Action Networks and learning community, as well as being one of a six-member cohort of Social Innovation Fund (SIF) sub-grantees that are working to test ways to achieve Generation Next’s goals “on the ground.”

Muneer pic 1

We specifically are interested in testing how a cultural approach to disparities can more effectively eliminate them. Our “Theory of Change” is that working with children and families through their own “cultural lens” and providing social and academic supports that are culturally-based is the “missing piece” in many efforts working on the achievement gap. And, we are concerned not only with the disparities, but with the inequities that foster disparities in the first place, and must be addressed at a systems level.

Certainly our work can have a positive effect on the children and families we serve in the neighborhood – we also believe our work could be adapted and replicated by other efforts around the state and across the country.



muneer-karcher-ramosMuneer Karcher-Ramos is the Director of the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. Click here to learn more about the initiative.

SIF 2015