Enhancing Quality of Life in Communities

Vision: Communities become their own “agents of change” with building and mobilizing resources to improve residents’ quality of life
Mission: Communities become active and effective partners with state and federal agencies whose missions are meeting residents’ basic needs and encouraging their self-sufficiency

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In communities large and small in urban and rural areas, elected representatives, government employees, nonprofit directors, business leaders, and committed individuals join daily to improve quality of life for residents. While some efforts have demonstrated indicators of success, others work on a leap of faith that good intentions and collaborative planning will work. Studies of community development show that commitment and planning can be effective in changing root causes of socioeconomic problems, but they are not guarantees of favorable results. CHI-Research and Evaluation follows the field of community development and can offer lessons learned and best practices that will magnify local efforts. CHI can back up its recommendations with field-tested methods showing whether community investments are giving their hoped-for returns to residents.

CHI offers research and evaluation strategies designed specifically for application to this topic:

 

Research and Evaluation Approaches:

Community Approaches to Improving Housing and Employment

Problem: Investments to improve housing, parks, employment usually have direct benefits to those who are economically disadvantaged. Some of these investments have secondary benefits, e.g., improving quality of life, self-sufficiency, and individual and group initiative to “give back” to the neighborhood. The combined benefits often reduce significantly the true cost of the projects, though these are seldom calculated.

Challenge: Develop measurements that capture secondary benefits of community development and employment projects.

Promise: Research and evaluation, at a low cost relative to the initial investment, can identify and measure the socio-economic “ripple effects.”
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Collaborative Impact Approaches to Health, Social, and Educational Issues

Problem: Many social, health, and educational problems require multiple, simultaneous interventions to make a significant difference. Often more than one organization or department must be involved. Yet, measurement of combined efforts is seldom available.

Challenge: Find methods for showing how the results of separate efforts addressing complex problems can be both measured separately and then combined.

Promise: Research and program evaluation have developed new techniques called “collective impact” that will show the contribution of individual organizations or departments and then assemble an “impact analysis” that presents the results of the combined effort.
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Optimizing Complex Strategies to Improve Cost-Effectiveness

Problem: Many organizations have developed complex approaches to solving social, health, or educational problems. Whether these “strategies” are integrated with one another and understood and applied equally well by all staff members is hoped for, but often unknown. Cost and efficiency may be sacrificed when organization strategies are not aligned and applied as created.

Challenge: Optimizing strategies from within an organization is difficult as reviewing individuals may themselves be contributing to lack of clarity.

Promise: Research-evaluation offers the field of “strategy evaluation” that reveals organization approaches from an independent perspective, identifies inconsistencies in the organization, and makes recommendations and facilitates a congruence of approaches.
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