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THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY INDEX: MEASURING CHANGE

www.communitydevelopment.uiuc.edu/surveys

Growth and development cannot always be measured by traditional economic indicators. The COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY INDEX (CDCI) is an assessment tool that provides a framework for communities to benchmark or evaluate the impact of community development initiatives. It can be used to assess progress toward meeting community development goals by measuring change in both organizational and financial resources.
The CDCI looks at community characteristics that are reflected in statistics that economic development practitioners have traditionally examined. More importantly, the CDCI explores characteristics of the community related to their community and economic development practices.
This assessment includes items that are clearly measurable such as the total assessed value of property in the community, the size and extent of medical services, the size of municipal services, number of law enforcement personnel, fire fighting personnel, recreation facilities, numbers of banks, membership to the local Chamber of Commerce, number of employees of the largest employers, etc. To measure the more intangible activities related to community and economic development, the CDCI includes a series of yes, no or don’t know questions about the status of community development initiatives and practices. For example, does the community have an economic development organization? Does that organization partner with other local and regional development groups? Does the mission of the organization encompass more than economic development goals, but includes goals related to quality of life, recreation, housing etc.? Does the organization have a paid director? Does staff in the organization participate in professional association activities?
An index value is assigned to the questions related to community development practices. Although these questions have no correct answer, a value or score was attached to each item in the inventory of yes/no/don’t know questions. The total score is used to create a measurement index which is multiplied by a factor related to the size of the community. The smaller the community, the larger the multiplier. We know that large communities should be better able to manage initiatives because they tend to have paid staff to fulfill many of the jobs related to community development; and conversely, it takes relatively more organizational capacity in a smaller community to undertake community and economic development strategies.
The numbers themselves may not truly be indicative of capacity in a community to undertake community or economic development; however, looking at the index over time allows us to measure change and progress toward community-driven goals. In this capacity, the CDCI becomes an effective benchmarking tool.

Why Benchmark?

In the private sector, the primary rationale for benchmarking is the need to maintain or regain a competitive market position. While many public departments and agencies do not actively compete for market share, there are other equally valid reasons to consider benchmarking as a public sector management improvement technique.
The most effective benchmarking tool is not just dispassionate examination of numbers, but rather a tool that encompasses an evaluation of the processes in the organization (is there an economic development plan?) that achieve results as well as set outcome indicators (annual property values).
To be effective at benchmarking for the purposes of community and economic development follow these guidelines.

  1. Understand your community. Know what community and economic development activities are underway. Understand who is responsible for the different development initiatives — local government, the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Organization.
  2. Involve all stakeholders. The comparative nature of benchmarking and the likelihood that no single person can know about all the activities in the community makes it important to include stakeholders in the benchmarking process. Furthermore, involving stakeholders can expand their understanding of how they fit
  3. Evaluate/Assess both results and processes. Don’t just look at the numbers, sales tax revenue, employment, and income, evaluate the organizational infrastructure of the community.
  4. Develop appropriate performance indicators. Look at only those development activities that matter. Not everything, in the CDCI is applicable to every community; more likely, there are many activities that are not included in the CDCI, but are important to the development practices in your community.
  5. Benchmark appropriate partners. Benchmarking compares performance to that community which is considered to be doing very well at community and economic development. It is important to choose a like community, that is doing very well and then investigate what factors contribute to their success.
  6. Promote a new culture. For benchmarking to be successful, community leaders need to promote a climate which is comfortable with the notion of comparison. It is important for community leaders to not feel threatened by communities that are doing better then they. The information gathered from this tool cannot focus on inferior performance, but rather on issues related to innovative practices. The challenge is to create a culture where benchmarking is integrated into community development.

Accessing the CDCI

To login to the CDCI, go to http://www.communitydevelopment.edu/surveys/ Once at the Internet site, l login with an easy to remember User ID. Select COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY INDEX and begin to enter your information. Once completed, print the form and seek out others in your community that may be able to help answer those questions where you were not sure or did not know the answer. Once you are satisfied with how you have completed the survey, then enter your information one more time. When done, click on 'Calculate' near the bottom of the page to see your results. Select 'submit' to save your information. It is important that you use the same User ID each time you submit information. As you re-enter your community information over time, select “view previous results” to compare your current score with past scores.
Although the CDCI is intended to measure change in your community over time, the Laboratory for Community and Economic Development at the University of Illinois can assist you with comparisons to other communities participating in the program.
Start Now!
Complete the CDCI now to create a baseline measure of your community’s preparedness to undertake community and economic development activities. Use this tool again in six months, in one year and in two years to measure progress toward meeting your local community goals.

For More Information:

Julie Fesenmaier
Laboratory for Community and Economic Development
University of Illinois
222 Bevier Hall, 905 S. Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801
fesenmai@uiuc.edu
217.333.8232

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