The New World

The world did seem to change on September 11. America’s prosperity, its geographic isolation, and its persistent optimism led us to believe we were immune to the violence of the world. We are past that now. Many of the cars I pass on my way to and from work each day are festooned with flags, […]

A Housing Trust Fund Would Boost the Economy

Job seekers, home buyers, low- and moderate-income families, and the economy as a whole will benefit from creation of a National Housing Trust Fund, according to analysis in Home Sweet Home: Why America Needs a National Housing Trust Fund. The study was drafted by the Center for Community Change (CCC), which has provided technical assistance […]

The Evaluation Imperative

In the aftermath of September 11th, many of us felt the initial shock and sadness turn to a deeper quest to connect with those things that matter most: family, friends, freedom, community. We are also heading into a period of deep economic uncertainty. As guest editors, we’d like this issue of Shelterforce to help us […]

A Look In The Mirror

My first experience with organizational evaluation came early. I was a secretary at my local neighborhood center – known by its constituents as “the Center” – sitting in the tiny administrative office at the typewriter with my boss looking over my shoulder as I painstakingly squeezed type into the tiny boxes of a funder’s grant […]

What Makes an Evaluation Successful?

That’s one of the questions that the McAuley Institute and the Development Leadership Network asked staff of community development organizations this year in a mail survey and eight case studies examining the practice of evaluation. The staff who responded identified the following characteristics of successful program evaluations: • Staff and constituents have a high level […]

Beyond the Number of Jobs

Native tribes and people, historically the poorest of the poor in this country, “own” substantial assets but often do not control them. Many lands and natural resources are held in trust by the federal government, which has been a woefully inadequate trustee. For 20 years, First Nations Development Institute has been committed to Native-American economic […]

Getting At Impact: A Beginners Guide to Program Evaluation

In 1999 the Sacramento Mutual Housing Association (SMHA) owned and operated 492 units of democratically controlled affordable housing. It had demographic data on its low-income residents, and management data on unit turnover, budget variances, maintenance, volunteer hours, trainings, and youth programs. But when staff and residents got together to discuss how things were going, they […]

Some Tips on Collecting Data

Once you have identified indicators, you need to collect data on them on a regular basis so you can see how they are changing. Indicators are only useful to you if you can use them to show the before-and-after impact of your work. Good principles for data collection are to use the least resources to […]

Color-coding Change

In order to measure success, you need to know where you started. That may seem like a simple statement, but getting a complete picture of something even as concrete as housing quality for an entire neighborhood can be a major project. The Kansas City Neighborhood Alliance (KCNA), a metropolitan area-wide organization that promotes affordable housing […]

Roundtable on Evaluation in Community Groups

Shelterforce recently brought together a small group of practitioners, evaluators, and funders to discuss their experiences with evaluation, the strengths and weaknesses of current practice, and ideas about how it might improved: Norman J. Glickman is University Professor and former director of the Center for Policy Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Karl Hilgert […]

Evaluation Resources

The Success Measures Project, an initiative of the Development Leadership Network, has developed a set of indicators for evaluating housing, economic development, and community building programs. The website includes an on-line version of their Guidebook, plus a list of resources. Contact: 617-971-9443. The Renssalearville Institute provides templates and software for shifting management, data collection, and […]

Shifting The Balance of Power

A substantial amount of Community Development Block Grant money – at least for housing rehabilitation – was reaching the poor in Birmingham, Alabama. At least, that was the conclusion of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Abt Associates in a $12.5 million nine-city evaluation for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But […]

Vertical Integration

When Vickie Stapleton’s landlord announced his intention to terminate his project-based Section 8 contract with HUD last year, she got nervous. “A lot of people in our complex have been here for years,” she says. “We’re like a family. The uncertainty about our future really hurts us.” Between 2000 and 2005, as many as 16,000 […]

Making Use of December

There is a popular myth in fundraising circles that December is the best month to raise money. Like most myths, this one has some elements of truth. December is a great month to raise money. In this way, it is strikingly similar to the other 11 months. And some people do make most of their […]

Building Communities, Building Careers

A Guide to Careers in Community Development, by Paul C. Brophy and Alice Shabecoff. Island Press, 2001. 309 pp. $17.05. I come to this book as a veteran of the housing wars. I have been involved in community development for more than 30 years. In 1970, I was a tenant organizer in the City of […]