The Impact of Data and Measurement

By Laura Choi

CI Notebook

An excerpt from Community Investments: Volume 24, Issue 1, 2012
Read the full publication 

Peter Drucker, the famous management expert, is often quoted as saying, “What gets measured gets done.” Over the years, this adage has taken on different forms, including “What gets measured gets managed,” and “What gets measured gets funded.” The fact that this statement is so easily adaptable, and appropriate in any number of contexts, reveals the power of data and measurement to drive action. Within the community development field, the implications of Mr. Drucker’s statement are all too familiar. As resources become ever more scarce, policymakers, funders, and investors are increasingly demanding data-driven evidence of “impact,” which is no easy feat for the long-term, cross-sectoral approaches of many of today’s community development interventions. It’s simple enough to count the number of affordable housing units constructed or the volume of small business lending in a distressed community, but how do you take the data to the next level, and assess the impact that these community development activities have had on the lives of the neighborhood’s residents? Despite the challenges of social impact measurement, improvements in data collection, sharing, and analysis are critical for the advancement of the community development field.

This issue of Community Investments focuses on the topic of data and measurement and its implications for community development. The articles provide an introduction to the basic concepts and challenges related to impact measurement in the field, and also explore more in-depth issues, such as the impact tensions that arise in place-based initiatives and the use of a logic model for CDFIs to conceptualize their impact. We also examine Social Impact Bonds, a new investment vehicle that reflects an important movement in the impact investing sector toward robust measurement of social progress. Our “Eye on Community Development” section features articles on new research findings from the Supplemental Poverty Measure and a new REO EQ2 lending program that meets the needs of nonprofits utilizing NSP funds for local neighborhood stabilization.

We hope that this issue of Community Investments encourages you to think critically about how you measure the impact of your own work and how the field as a whole can advance its approach to data and measurement. We hope you enjoy this issue of CI and welcome your comments and feedback.

The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Federal Reserve System.

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