Strategic Planning: Marrying Data With Street Smarts
Publication Date: April 1, 2012By Shawn McCaney and Helen Davis Picher
The Foundation’s strategic planning is well underway, and we are clarifying our goals, developing and refining grantmaking strategies, and identifying how we will track change in our areas of interest. All of these efforts have been infused with data, which we are using to understand current conditions, identify needs, and measure progress.
As an example, let's take a look at how we're thinking about the intersection of creativity and place.
There is increasing evidence through academic research and observable trends on the ground that place-based arts and cultural activities have important placemaking value and impact. Economist Ann Markusen
writes that creative placemaking generates economic returns such as increasing local expenditures, bringing vacant land and buildings back into use and productivity, providing short term construction jobs and longer term employment with arts and cultural organizations, and resulting increases in sales, income, and property taxes.
Current data from Penn’s Social Impact of the Arts Project
, TRF’s Market Value Assessment
, and organizational data is helping us to identify specific transitioning neighborhoods and communities where there appear to be high concentrations of existing cultural activity and creative enterprises that are also adjacent to areas of market value. This last factor is an important one because our theory of change for neighborhood renewal is based on the key premise of "building from strength." We feel that these kinds of places represent the best chance for the Foundation to make a productive and positive contribution.
Here's a sample of the type of data we've been using:
However, it's important to note that data can only tell part of the story. Our plan is to use this information as a first-level indicator or filter to help us narrow our investigation and to point to places of potential interest. Once we have identified a group of areas that exhibit the kind of cultural, economic, and market conditions that we think may be suggestive of smart places for investment, we will initiate an extensive field investigation to "ground truth" the data, identify physical obstacles and challenges as well as opportunities not revealed by our analysis.
By combining extensive data analysis and what we literally "learn on the streets" we feel that we will be best equipped to understand how and where the Foundation may best add value to accelerate community renewal. And, of course, we will use data to track changes, especially in arts participation, economic activity, and market value, to see if our investments are helping to create more vital, exciting communities.