Why are we asking?
Capacity has been a long-standing topic in the community development field, warranting debate over its definition among funders, researchers, policymakers, and community-based practitioners. A key challenge, especially in place-based initiatives, is that capacity appears abstract because it can refer to several types of activities at the organizational and neighborhood level, including: a community organization’s ability to deliver high-quality and coordinated services, an organization or neighborhood’s ability to use data to monitor and improve service provision, or a neighborhood’s ability to respond to local challenges collectively. As a result, there have been varied efforts to understand and measure community capacity.
MDRC’s recent work brings a structural perspective and sharper focus on new data techniques to advance how the community development field measures capacity and offers insights about how place-based initiatives can build community capacity.