Program Evaluation

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) Research provides professional evaluation services grounded in our deep knowledge of nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and economic development. We partner with organizations to support impact strategy development, program implementation, and impact reporting capabilities. We have extensive impact reporting experience that ensures best-in-class standards and adds objective oversight to strengthen reporting transparency and accountability. We provide our partners with impact data analytics, survey administration, on-site interviews with management and employees, and detailed case studies, among other things.

Our evaluation approach is based on four fundamental principles:

  1. Customization. We work with our partners to meet their specific evaluation needs. We advise them on how to measure and track the outcomes and impacts they care about.
  2. Measurement of business outcomes, including social impact outcomes. We survey businesses in which our partners invest or that are supported by the small business-serving nonprofit organizations they fund. Our surveys measure outcomes that may include but are not necessarily limited to revenue and job growth; demographics of the company’s directors, managers, and employees; wages and benefits; access to capital; and environmentally sustainable practices. Where possible, we compare business outcomes with those of similar businesses in which our partners have not invested so that we can measure investment impacts.
  3. Use of multiple methods. We use both quantitative and qualitative methods of We combine analyses of our business survey data, public and proprietary data, open-ended interviews, documents, and our own direct observations to paint a holistic picture of businesses and their environment.
  4. Attention to economic and social context. We evaluate investments and business decisions in the context of the local communities and economies in which businesses We use data on the companies’ neighborhoods and regions and, where possible, estimate the impacts of investments and business decisions on the local economy.

We have applied these principles in several evaluations, including:

Arctaris Impact Investors. Beginning in 2020, ICIC began what is expected to be a 10-year evaluation of the investments that Arctaris Impact Investors is making in operating businesses located in under-resourced communities, including investments it makes through its Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF). The Kresge Foundation chose Arctaris as one of two impact-oriented QOF mana QOF. The evaluation involves survey design and analysis, analysis of public data, and interviewing of business owners and community stakeholders. Our surveys focus especially on the extent to which the firms in which Arctaris invests have people of color and women as owners, board members, managers, and employees; their employment of local residents; wages and benefits; and environmentally sustainable practices. We have also developed methods of evaluating the impacts of investments that have primary purposes other than job creation, such as investments in broadband; we will use those methods in future years of the evaluation.

Small Business Forward Partners Create Economic Impact by Supporting a Diverse Group of Entrepreneurs (Blogpost/Evaluation, 2020). Year 2019 outcomes from JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward initiative, which supports small businesses owned by women, people of color, and veterans by investing in a cohort of entrepreneurial support organizations.

Driving Inclusive Urban Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Insights from Year One of the Blackstone Challenge in Chicago (Report/Evaluation, 2019). An evaluation of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and ChicagoNEXT’s Blackstone Challenge, a three-year initiative launched in 2017 funding a cohort of entrepreneurial support organizations committed to supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs in Chicago.

Scaling Solutions for a Financially Healthy America: An Evaluation of the Financial Solutions Lab(Report/Evaluation, 2019). An evaluation of the Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab), a program launched in 2014 through a partnership of JPMorgan Chase and the Center for Financial Services

Impact Analysis of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program: Reducing Recidivism and Creating Economic Opportunity (Presentation/Evaluation, 2018). Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, a presentation of our evaluation of Texas’ Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

Innovative Prison Entrepreneurship Program is Creating Wealth & Reducing Recidivism Among Formerly Incarcerated (Blogpost/Evaluation, 2018). A summary of our evaluation of Texas’ Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

Small Business Forward Leads the Way in Prioritizing Impact Measurement among ESOs (Blogpost/Evaluation, 2018). Year 2018 outcomes from JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward initiative, which supports small businesses owned by women, people of color, and veterans by investing in a cohort of entrepreneurial support organizations.

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