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Data Driven

September 4, 2013

The median household income in Eastern North Philadelphia stands at $23,150—up from $15,387 in 2000, but still much lower than the average for the city as a whole, $36,957.

Roughly a third of the residents in both Eastern North and Philly are obese. Eighteen percent of Eastern North’s residents have diabetes, however, compared to 13 percent citywide.

In education, 42 percent of high school students in Eastern North are graduating—that stands at 61 percent for Philadelphia—and about half as many graduates are going on to college than citywide (19 percent to 38 percent).

philly_report_card_1-fullThose numbers, published in early August in “Working Together: APM SCI Eastern North Report Card, 2011- 2013,” give a clear-eyed but sobering measure of how well residents of Eastern North are faring. And that can be startling to read.

The fact that those statistics are so readily available, however, is a testament to the commitment Philadelphia LISC and its lead agency in the neighborhood, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), have to building a better community.

Clear goals for improvement are listed on nearly every one of the 30 pages of the report card, most aiming to reach parity with the citywide average. And the document is filled with examples of progress that has been made to date and the local programs that have made a difference.

“It’s a great document to have,” says Sarah Sturtevant, a program officer at Philadelphia LISC. “Now the question is how to get to the neighborhood goals.”

Putting It Together
Sturtevant, who guided the publication of the report card, says that the document is designed to give context to Eastern North’s two-year-old quality-of-life plan.

They’ve got the guts to specify what they want to accomplish in very concrete terms

“We wanted to evaluate what we’ve done since the launch of the quality-of-life plan, but also set neighborhood wide outcomes. That’s almost more important to me, to see where we go next,” she says.

philly_report_card_2-fullTwo interns—one each from LISC and APM—worked on gathering data and other information over the course of a year.

The process wasn’t always easy. Sturtevant says that the team made major changes to the framework of the first draft to emphasize the goals, and that some data had to be revisited for accuracy.

Short profiles of programs in the community—from a mural on North Front Street to a one-on-one business-consulting services—weren’t originally in the report card, but Sturtevant says that adding stories to the collection of stats has strengthened the document.

Chris Walker, LISC’s director of research and assessment, says that he’s impressed with the report card. “They’ve got the guts to specify what they want to accomplish in very concrete terms,” he points out. “I think it’s a really good idea.”

Few community groups are willing (or able) to measure neighborhood benchmarks for employment, education, health, housing and other quality-of-life factors, in part because it’s not necessarily fair be held accountable at that level.

The resources that LISC, APM and their partners in Eastern North can bring to bear, for instance, aren’t necessarily sufficient to move the needle on the unemployment statistics or obesity figures for the entire neighborhood, which has more than 11,000 residents.

The hope is that instead of programs being held responsible for more than they can be reasonably expected to accomplish, readers will see the gap between where the community stands and where it wants to be as a call for more energy, more investment and more improvement.

“To really have a collective impact approach, you have to have collective impact goals,” Sturtevant says.

Philadelphia LISC is using the newly released report card as a tool to reinvigorate its committee structure, created when Eastern North’s quality-of-life plan was launched.

“Setting goals with the community stakeholders on paper gives the committees something to look toward,” she adds, pointing out that the report card has also been instrumental in starting a steering committee for the work.

To really have a collective impact approach, you have to have collective impact goals

What’s Next
Although Walker says that the Eastern North report card is “a really good idea,” he also notes that it’s likely that the local residents and organizations will see that when it comes to changing the community, “their current efforts won’t be sufficient.”

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, he argues. It can be a catalyst to expand and rethink the work to revitalize the community.

philly_report_card_3-full“I think it will be clear they must go outside their neighborhood to bring in other groups to partner with, other organizations and funders,” Walker says. “It could mean they try to change the role of big institutions that impact the community, like police, or it could prompt them to bring in expertise from outside the community: consultants or academics.”

In his research, Walker has read pretty much every quality-of-life plan from communities working with LISC around the country, and he says the specificity and details of the Philadelphia report card are very rare.

“We have very little experience with this, with what is the best way to move toward community level goals,” he says. “I think what they’ve done in Philadelphia is a great step in learning how to set goals and use that to improve the work around collective impact and a comprehensive approach.”

Sturtevant says that in the month or so since the report card has been released, the team in Eastern North has primarily has been focused on using it to build momentum with its partners in the community.

When the quality-of-life plan was unveiled, LISC, APM and their partners did a “tour” to talk about the community with outside organizations, and that was the genesis of ongoing relationships with the police and nearby Drexel University.

Sturtevant agrees with Walker that that the report card will be useful to show outsiders both the needs in the community and the capacities of APM and SCI—but she says that they’ll likely be more focused on specific goals this time around.

Sturtevant also says that, with the experience of creating the report card from scratch, the next version will be much easier to produce.

“I think it’s been a really good process to go through,” she says. “And now we’re not working in a vacuum.”


by Carl Vogel, Published: September 3, 2013 on

Download a PDF of the Eastern North report card.

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