Bringing Promise to Camden, New Jersey

Metis grant writers won over $30 million to help a broad coalition of cross-sector partners transform one of the most challenged cities in the US into a place of opportunity and promise.

Camden Mayor Dana Redd with Promise Neighborhoods children. Photo Courtesy of Center For Family Services.

Camden City, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, is consistently deemed among the most dangerous cities in the United States. In 2009, then-Mayor Dana Redd set a vision to transform Camden into a city of opportunity. Metis has played an integral role in leveraging millions in federal grant dollars to support this vision.

 It Began with a Promise

 In 2012, Metis was engaged by Center For Family Services (CFS), an anchor social service nonprofit in the community, to support the development of a yearlong Promise Neighborhoods planning grant.  This initiative of the Obama administration was designed to provide residents of distressed communities with access to high-quality schools and robust systems of family and community support. Together, these will prepare students to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and careers. 

Awarded by the US Department of Education, the $500,000 Promise planning grant helped the lead agency, CFS, and a broad coalition of partners conduct a neighborhood assessment.  This assessment focused on assets and needs, spanned health, education, childcare and early learning, safety, and food security, and culminated in the development of a data-informed continuum of solutions for target children, youth, and families.

In 2016, Metis grant writers worked with this same coalition of partners led by CFS to leverage the Metis-led community assessment and develop a winning Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant.  This multi-year, $30 million grant uses evidence-based solutions and authentic community engagement to implement a comprehensive Camden Promise Neighborhoods service delivery model for four contiguous neighborhoods in the city. 

From Promise Neighborhood to Promise Zone

Building on the momentum of Promise Neighborhoods, the Camden Mayor’s Office and CFS re-engaged the Metis grant writing team to pursue Urban Promise Zone status for Camden. For this engagement, we worked on behalf of a broader, citywide partnership to compete for the highly coveted Urban Promise Zone designation.  This application was successful, with Camden one of only eight such awards in the country from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in April 2015. Notably, just one month later, President Obama recognized Camden “as a symbol of promise to the nation.”

The Camden Urban Promise Zone represents a 10-year shared vision and cross-sector collaborative roadmap for transformative change across the City’s most distressed sectors (housing, education, economic opportunity, public safety, and child health).