THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY INDEX: MEASURING CHANGE
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
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
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
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.
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
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
To be effective at benchmarking for the purposes of community and
economic development follow these guidelines.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
Laboratory for Community and Economic Development
University of Illinois
222 Bevier Hall, 905 S. Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801
Visit the COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TOOLBOX