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DCF Announces Expanding Role in Civic Leadership & Community Knowledge

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Marilyn HaywardThe Delaware Community Foundation is expanding its mission to increase its statewide impact by playing a greater role in civic leadership and community knowledge, starting with the development of a data-based community profile.

Gov. Jack Markell joined DCF leadership Tuesday to announce that the organization plans to work with community leaders to build a statewide, data-driven civic agenda. The DCF will then facilitate partnerships and strategic initiatives that align the community’s resources in pursuing that agenda.

“We want to help our community develop a shared vision for Delaware’s future, and then rally the partnerships that can address issues at their roots, rather than just responding to the symptoms,” DCF President & CEO Fred Sears said.

Since its establishment in 1986, the DCF has been helping address community needs by managing charitable funds and scholarships and making grants throughout the state. While this work will continue, Sears said, the DCF is “stepping up” because the community needs greater teamwork from the many public- and private-sector initiatives to improve quality of life.

As the first step on this new path, the DCF will launch the state’s first comprehensive community evaluation tool in the form of a publicly accessible website this year. The site will host a database of statistical information and narrative about various social, economic and environmental issues (known as “indicators”), both statewide and by county.

“To build a unified vision, we need accurate and broad-based information about our community’s most pressing needs and most promising opportunities,” said Marilyn Rushworth Hayward, chair of the DCF’s Board of Directors. “That’s why our first step is to become a dynamic and transparent resource for data, knowledge and insight about the wide variety of social, economic and environmental issues affecting quality of life in Delaware.”

By the end of 2015, the DCF also will issue an analysis of the data, outlining the insights provided and the trends revealed. The report will be updated annually, and the online data will be updated more frequently to allow for continual monitoring of the community’s evolving needs.

“The data may validate some of our perceptions of issues in communities around the state, and it may reveal issues we aren’t aware of,” Sears said. “Whatever it shows, we’ll be able to use the data to evaluate where we are now and monitor the impact of our work going forward.”

As a permanent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, the DCF will be able to objectively highlight community needs and work for the benefit of Delawareans, without the hindrance of politics or special interests, Gov. Markell said.

“As I said in my State of the State, Delaware is making great progress, but our rapidly changing economy poses significant challenges,” said Governor Markell. “We must understand and respond appropriately to those challenges to ensure Delawareans are able to prosper in a new era. As a respected, capable, nonpartisan statewide institution, DCF has an important role to play in bringing people together to meet our communities’ present and future needs. By undertaking this project, driven by data and research, the Foundation will help provide an objective view of our challenges and contribute to implementing solutions.”

While this is a new model for the DCF, community foundations around the country are using similar approaches to identify and address needs in their communities. In other regions, community profile projects have driven neighborhood-based initiatives to green their cities, foster entrepreneurialism, increase civic engagement and much more.

To build the database, the DCF is contracting with the Center for Governmental Research, a Rochester, N.Y.-based nonprofit that specializes in helping communities and organizations use data to evaluate and address needs. CGR has an excellent record of successfully supporting numerous other foundations and organizations in similar endeavors.

In the coming months and years, the DCF plans to develop formal partnerships with local organizations to analyze, share and use the data, in combination with the DCF’s unique expertise and insight into Delaware.