Panel Paper: Neighborhood Networks and Implementation Outcomes in Chicago's New Communities Program

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 9:10 AM
Tesuque (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Stephen Nuņez, M. Victoria Quiroz-Becerra, Sonya Williams, Aurelia Aceves and David M. Greenberg, MDRC
From 2002-2012, The MacArthur Foundation provided $50 million to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Chicago (LISC Chicago), to implement the New Communities Program (NCP). This investment supported 14 community organizations to convene local partners so as to define a “quality-of-life plan” for the neighborhood, and then provided grants to address a variety of local challenges, including unemployment, education, and safety. MacArthur’s investment was informed by research that neighborhoods where individuals and organizations come together to respond to local challenges see improved outcomes (see Sampson 2012).

This paper presents findings about the implementation of NCP, focusing on findings related to a core goal of NCP – to develop partnerships among community organizations, and between these groups and powerful agencies outside the neighborhood. MDRC’s evaluation of the 10-year program used multiple methods, including qualitative comparison, public and administrative data; but a particularly important one is the Chicago Community Networks Survey (CCNS), which surveyed over 300 organizations in nine neighborhoods of varied demographic and organizational composition, with an overall response rate of over 80%. The CCNS is one of the most extensive applications of Social Network Analysis (SNA) for the purposes of policy evaluation, and also presents a richer data set about the nature and extent of ties and relations than is often possible through SNA. Survey data include the intensity of connections among local and citywide organizations, the domain in which organizations interacted, and various assessments of organizational capacity and implementation strength. Because survey data are contextualized by six years of qualitative research in many targeted communities, better understanding of the development of networks is possible, as well as the characteristics of local networks that have contributed to implementation dynamics.

The paper will describe 1) the structural characteristics of organizational networks and how they varied among neighborhoods, 2) the relationship between organizational characteristics and the network position of groups, and 3) the relationship between selected “whole network” characteristics and implementation outcomes. Whole network analyses are especially important for the operation of community initiatives, as networks are both the vehicle by which implementation occurs, and a target for change (see Provan 1995). For the field, the study provides an opportunity to explore unanswered questions about the role of community initiatives in network development, the paths by which networks develop and change, and the relationship between network structures and implementation outcomes.


Provan, Keith G., and H. Brinton Milward. 1995. “A preliminary theory of interorganizatinal network effectiveness: A comparative study of four community mental health systems.” Administrative Science Quarterly 40:1–33.

Sampson, Robert J. 2012. Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.