Melody Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Barack Obama, is a chair of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and senior fellow at Results for America. CEO of Leading Inside Out, Paul Schmitz also serves as advisor to Results for America, and senior advisor to the Collective Impact Forum.
Sponsored by Results for America, the authors undertake a research project built on interviews with city administrators, nonprofit leaders, philanthropists, researchers and community builders on their unprecedented capacity to use data for effective programming. Barnes and Schmitz argue that the adoption of data-driven approaches is both an economic and moral imperative, but caution against top-down methods that fail to engage the community as active partners. They see community engagement as a continuous process crucial to creating and sustaining the support for long-term social change. Its goal, as the research understands it, is to encourage communities to not just participate in a social change project, but to champion it.
Barnes and Schmitz identify six complementary factors necessary for building community support for evidence-based solutions: 1) Organizing for ownership, 2) Allowing for complexity, ) Working with local institutions, 4) Applying an equity lens, 5) Building momentum, 6) Managing constituencies through change. The article lists resources for community engagement, and offers recommendations on effective communication for the management of expectations.