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February 4, 2010; Catalyst Chicago | How many nonprofits are gearing up to compete for the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program, slated to receive $210 million in President Obama’s FY 2011 budget? In Chicago, there are three neighborhoods prepared to join the Promise Neighborhoods scrum as one of 20 neighborhood replications of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The Woodlawn Children’s Promise Zone has emerged from Woodlawn’s New Communities Program, a coalition funded by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) involving the Southside YMCA, the Woodlawn Organization, and other nonprofits. In Logan Square’s incipient Promise Neighborhoods program, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association is the lead organization. Chicago Lawn’s Promise Neighborhoods plan will be the product of the Southwest Organizing Project in partnership with the Consortium on Chicago School Research. What’s distinctive about these programs? Reflecting perhaps the involvement of LISC and its housing development expertise, the Woodlawn plan offers foreclosure assistance to help prevent families from having to move from one school to another. Logan Square’s thinking includes expanded after-school programs and “literacy ambassadors” who would hold house parties to promote reading for kids. True to its organizing roots, SWOP’s thinking for Chicago Lawn includes the possibility of expanding a program at Gage Park High School, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) that recruits young people to campaign for improvements in school achievement. Every budding Promise Neighborhoods applicant is going to be searching for program elements or twists to catch the attention of DOE’s Promise Neighborhoods decision-makers. One wonders which elements will be compulsory on the DOE checklist—such as a commitment to create charter schools—and which will be electives.—Rick Cohen