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Evaluation of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation: Sustaining Communities Initiative - Philadelphia

Metis is evaluating the Sustainable Communities Initiative—part of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation—in Philadelphia, where community members transformed Rainbow de Colores Park.

In 2007, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national organization, launched the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) in West Philadelphia, where low-income residents had long faced crime, inadequate educational opportunities, and poor health. In 2010, SCI was expanded to Eastern North Philadelphia. SCI is part of a new generation of community development initiatives that are built on lessons from past decades' efforts to revitalize cities and overcome the effects of poverty. SCI's organizers are taking a broad view of change, deeply engaging community residents, businesses, and two universities in their holistic approach to solving neighborhood challenges. Metis Associates was selected in 2011 to conduct a three-year evaluation of SCI, in both Eastern North and West Philadelphia. For SCI, there are several important factors involved in the theory of change, but most important, the lead agencies are joining forces with other community stakeholders and residents to come to agreement on the priorities for the neighborhoods.

Metis began by helping the organizers articulate their theory of change, map out measurable indicators of progress, such as health, employment, and crime, and start to collect data on these indicators.

Metis is currently evaluating the initiative's implementation in both neighborhoods, and findings show that SCI has yielded some early successes. For example, in West Philadelphia, The Enterprise Center—one of the participating organizations—opened the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises in an abandoned supermarket to provide space for residents who wanted to launch careers in catering but had been prevented by high start-up costs from doing so. In Eastern North Philadelphia, community members rehabilitated an unsafe and underutilized park, renamed Rainbow de Colores. Now, children climb on new playground equipment and adults play handball or relax on park benches among flowers planted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. In future years, Metis will collect neighborhood data to examine progress across the community indicators defined in the theory of change.