Success Measures was created in the late 1990s by leading community development practitioners as a means of holding themselves more accountable and gaining consensus about what was important to measure and what could be effectively measured. Their goal was to develop an outcome evaluation methodology that was:
- Credible, and
- Able to build organizational capacity while also advancing knowledge in the field
More than 300 community development practitioners, intermediaries, funders, researchers, and evaluators participated in the program’s development, working together to develop usable tools to evaluate actual outcomes, rather than just outputs or measures of performance. From these origins, Success Measures has evolved into a specialized, outcome evaluation resource for the community development field. Initially developed by the Development Leadership Network and the McAuley Institute, Success Measures has operated as a social enterprise at NeighborWorks America since 2004.
Success Measures is continually refining and streamlining its approach to building nonprofit and philanthropic capacity to carry out useful evaluation processes. Key to its consulting, training, and technical assistance efforts is its user-friendly, web-based data system—the Success Measures Data System (SMDS)—that includes a suite of more than 250 data collection tools, available in multiple languages, that can be used alone or in combination to measure the results of community development and financial capability programs. SMDS helps users collect, manage, tabulate, and communicate evaluation results. Funders and intermediaries use SMDS to share custom evaluation frameworks, indicators, and data collection tools with grantees.
Success Measures has stayed true to its roots by being accessible, adaptable and collaborative, responding to the latest trends and issues in the field through development of new outcome indicators, data collection tool sets and state-of-the-art software features.
Recent partnerships have become increasingly sophisticated, with a potential for scaling in response to increased demand from the field.
Since the program’s inception, Success Measures has:
- Supported nearly 600 community-based organizations and 28 of their funding and intermediary partners in all 50 states and Puerto Rico to evaluate a range of people and place- based strategies
- Trained and introduced thousands of community development professionals and practitioners to conduct evaluations using Success Measures methods and tools, through workshops, presentations, and web conferences
- Expanded the number of shared outcome measures offered through the Success Measures Data System to more than 250 data collection instruments that cover housing, community revitalization, community and resident engagement, economic development, financial education and capability, green homes and communities, resident services,and the role of intermediaries in the community development field.