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VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 5

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PROJECT DESCRIPTION


URBAN INSTITUTE/NNIP
SUPPORT FOR THE SUSTAINABLE
COMMUNITIES EVALUATION
October 2008




INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE

This document describes a project being implemented by Urban Institute (UI), in
collaboration with the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP). The project
is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and will operate over a
two year period from October 2008 through September 2010.

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has mounted a new Sustainable
Communities Initiative, involving strategic programs of action to transform communities
in 10 demonstration sites. The Initiative, modeled after LISC Chicago’s New
Communities Program, has five core objectives: (1) Expanding capital investment in
housing and other real estate; (2) Building family income and wealth, including improving
residents’ skills and access to living-wage jobs; (3) Stimulation of local economic activity,
including connecting targeted neighborhoods and their residents to the regional
economy and beyond; (4) Improving residents’ access to quality education; and (5)
Developing healthy environments and lifestyles, including safe streets and recreational
amenities, community health clinics, and environmentally sound design.

LISC has already developed a careful plan for evaluating the Initiative, and taken steps
to implement a number of its components. This project is designed, consistent with that
plan, to provide supporting services to further advance its goals and those of the
Initiative more broadly. The services to be provided by UI and NNIP include:

   1. Providing NNIP partner evaluation support in 6 demonstration sites.
   2. Developing NNIP capacity and providing evaluation support in the 4 remaining
      demonstration sites.
   3. Developing and operating an interactive web-capacity (wiki) to support
      information sharing by the LISC evaluation team.
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   4. Making regularly updated excerpts from national data sets available to NNIP
      partners in the demonstration sites.
   5. Convening forums for joint LISC/NNIP reviews of the progress of the initiative
      and the evaluation.
   6. Drawing lessons from the Casey Making Connections initiative and other national
      research to benefit the LISC evaluation.
   7. Disseminating and promoting the adoption of Sustainable Communities best
      practices in other U.S. cities.
   8. Preparing Cross-Site Neighborhood Change Analysis for Chicago and the 10
      Sustainable Communities Cities.

The UI and NNIP are well suited to provide these services. UI has a strong national
reputation for high-quality urban research and program evaluation. It also serves as the
coordinating secretariat for the NNIP, a network of local civic groups and university
institutes in 31 cities that operate neighborhood-level data systems and conduct action-
oriented research. The Sustainable Communities evaluation requires access to both
local indicators and local professionals with practical knowledge of neighborhoods to
assess change in the Initiative’s selected neighborhoods. Therefore, NNIP partners are
ideally positioned to provide local support to LISC in the evaluation. Indeed, LISC is
already contracting with 4 of them to play that role (NNIP partner organizations exist in 6
of the 10 LISC demonstration sites and NNIP hopes to promote the development of
similar capacities in the remaining 4 sites.



TASK DESCRIPTIONS AND SCHEDULE

1. Providing NNIP partner evaluation support in 6 demonstration sites. As noted,
NNIP partners already exist in 6 of the LISC demonstration sites. These are:
Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Providence, Twin Cities, the Bay Area and Washington, DC.
The first 4 of these organizations have a direct role in the evaluation under contract to
LISC. This task will cover additional work beyond the LISC scope that the NNIP
partners may perform to support the evaluation more generally. Examples include
convening forums, preparing reports and news releases and taking other steps to
explain and promote the Sustainable Communities Initiative and evaluation with a broad
range of local agencies and interest groups. More particularly, this work will include
conducting limited special studies based on local and national data sources that, while
not a part of the evaluation, are supportive of it (see list of deliverables below - specific
content of the reports below will be worked out ahead of time with LISC and Foundation
staff).
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2. Developing NNIP capacity and providing evaluation support in the 4 remaining
demonstration sites. Local intermediaries that assemble and update neighborhood
level data are critical to the success of the LISC evaluation, but such entities do not now
exist in 4 of the selected sites: Detroit, Duluth, Kansas City, and Rural Pennsylvania. In
this task, UI/NNIP will contact local civic leaders and facilitate the development of such
capacities in those sites – a basic service that NNIP has provided in a number of other
cities in the past. NNIP is already assisting a group attempting to structure an NNIP
partner organization in Detroit and knows of a group that appears to have many of the
relevant skills in Kansas City. New contacts would have to be made to do something
similar in Duluth. It seems likely that for Rural Pennsylvania, NNIP would try to work out
an arrangement with several (county and state) data providers rather than to establish a
single entity, but the specific approach to that site would be worked out with the LISC
team. While we cannot guarantee that local leaders will establish and continue to
support new intermediaries in these sites, our experience suggests there are good
prospects for it. Where we are able to see new intermediaries established, this task will
also cover the types of additional assignments noted under Task 1 for these areas
during the second year.

3. Developing and operating an interactive web-capacity (wiki) to support
information sharing by the LISC evaluation team. The many professionals
participating in the LISC evaluation need a mechanism to allow them to communicate
with each other effectively, beyond their infrequent in-person meetings. A wiki should be
ideal for these purposes since it not only allows the posting of guidance from LISC-
central, but also allows all of the other participants to communicate with each other
interactively, sharing resources and lessons as the work proceeds. In this task, NNIP
(under the leadership of its Milwaukee partner) will develop and maintain a wiki for these
purposes.

4. Making regularly updated excerpts from national data sets available to NNIP
partners in the demonstration sites. One of the advantages of UI involvement noted
earlier is its ability (through its work in DataPlace) to provide NNIP partners with local
excerpts of regularly updated national datasets that should be valuable for the LISC
evaluation. Examples of the datasets that would be included are: Home Mortgage
Disclosure Act (HMDA) data on mortgage market activity, zip-code level IRS data on
household incomes, zip-level data from the County Business Patterns survey, several
files on assisted housing projects, National Committee on Education Statistics (NCES)
data on public school trends. The data sets that are provided are accompanied by
related documentation. In this task, we will provide guidance to LISC and its local
evaluation teams in the use of the data and respond to questions as needed to help
them use the data effectively. The UI team will also be doing nation-wide analyses of
some of these files that will help put the local story in perspective. For example, this will
enable us to show how the incidence of sub-prime lending in a particular Sustainable
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Communities neighborhood relates to the spectrum of experience in the nation’s large
metro areas (analytic work to be covered under Task 1 above).

5. Convening forums for joint LISC/NNIP reviews of the progress of the initiative
and the evaluation. While written communication will be helpful, perhaps the most
fruitful contributions of the UI/NNIP teams will be in convening sessions where
participants in the LISC evaluation, substantive experts and practitioners from other
cities can review results, raise questions and jointly consider ideas to enhance the LISC
program. NNIP holds three-day business meetings twice each year, and it may be most
beneficial to hold the LISC sessions in or adjacent to those meetings since most of the
desired participants will already be attending. In addition to the UI staff, other funders
and outside experts on urban change normally attend these meetings. More important
are the representatives from the 30 local NNIP partner institutions. These include
groups with lead local evaluation responsibilities in most of the 10 Casey sites and, as
noted above, 6 from the Sustainable Communities sites (hopefully a number that will
expand over the coming year). NNIP partners from other cities not directly involved in
these programs also have deep experience in community development and program
evaluation and will also be able to make useful contributions to LISC’s interests.

6. Drawing lessons from the Casey Making Connections initiative and other
national research to benefit the LISC evaluation. The UI team will make all of its
analytic reports on Making Connections and related topics available to all participants in
the LISC evaluation. Further we will write two separate and detailed reports entitled
“Lessons from Making Connections Research for the LISC Evaluation” in which we draw
implications explicitly for the LISC demonstration sites, taking into account our
advancing knowledge about them. Finally, we will present and discuss these reports
during the NNIP/LISC Forums (discussed under Task 5).

7. Disseminating and promoting the adoption of Sustainable Communities best
practices in other U.S. cities. LISC will be developing its own campaigns and
mechanisms for these purposes, and anything NNIP can do toward these ends will be
coordinated with the LISC agenda and be recognized as supplementary. Nonetheless,
NNIP has developed its own methods and channels of communication that should be
helpful in this regard. This ranges from releasing information (news articles, guidebooks,
reports, etc.) to the list-serve subscribers of NNIP itself (610 names) and those of UI’s
Metro Center (over 3,000 names), to making presentations at conferences and meetings
of relevant interest groups, to site visits where UI staff and selected NNIP partners visit
new cities directly to inform and promote new approaches. With its long experience as a
peer-network of professionals using data to drive change, NNIP has substantial
credibility when it works directly with peers in other cities.
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8. Preparing Cross-Site Neighborhood Change Analysis for Chicago and the 10
Sustainable Communities Cities. This will be a comparative analysis of background
conditions and trends in the neighborhoods that are a part of the New Communities
Program in Chicago and the LISC Sustainable Communities Program in 10 cities. The
analysis will focus on data available for the period from 2003 through 2010, but it will
also selectively examine change for the 1990-2003 period to provide an understanding
of earlier trends. Topics of the neighborhood analyses will include all of those for which
neighborhood data are being collected as a part of the MDRC and LISC evaluations of
these initiatives, except that information on local institutions and their performance will
not be included.

The research will predominantly address change in the selected neighborhoods but it will
also include analysis of trends and conditions in the 11 metropolitan areas in which
these neighborhoods are located (in relation to those in the 100 largest U.S.
metropolitan areas) to gain understanding of contextual forces at work and their potential
influence. To conduct this work, the UI team will primarily rely on data at the
neighborhood level being assembled in the MDRC and LISC evaluations, but UI will also
utilize a number of national datasets it has developed and updated for other purposes.

The products from this work will be of two types: First, we will compile two or more
Interim Data Reports. These will contain tables, graphs and maps as needed to
describe all relevant conditions and trends at both the neighborhood and metropolitan
levels. They will also contain a Data Scan memo which will be composed of limited
interpretation based on a scan of the statistical information prepared (covering highlights
and main findings).

We will also produce a Final Report which will also contain tables, graphs and maps as
needed to describe all relevant conditions and trends at both the neighborhood and
metropolitan levels. This report, however, will contain much more thorough and
comprehensive interpretation of the data in all areas. While it will not be possible to
explain the causes of the changes that are observed definitively, this interpretation will
identify forces at work and examine possible patterns of influence. More sophisticated
quantitative analysis of relationships will be employed as appropriate.

								
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