Challenging ourselves to determine how we can deliver superior performance

July 8, 2020
by Melissa Stutzbach, Director of National Programs and Impact Measurement at Rebuilding Together National

“How can we do better?” This seems to be the ongoing theme of 2020. On top of increasing job losses, substandard living conditions and other stresses resulting from COVID-19, formal and informal policies and practices such as redlining, blockbusting and discriminatory mortgage practices have steered communities of color into under-resourced, densely populated areas that are more susceptible to the spread of the virus. Now more than ever, we need to listen to our neighbors, analyze and improve our processes and programs and learn how we can be a better partner with neighbors and communities during these difficult times.  

An important step in learning to do better as an organization over time is investing in a thorough, thoughtful measurement of social impact. Impact measurement is an intentional way to measure the extent to which a program or intervention has achieved its intended outcomes — changes that occur in the lives of individuals, families, organizations and the community. While Rebuilding Together has a long history of tracking outputs such as the number of homeowners served, number of volunteers, number of homes repaired, we challenged ourselves to look beyond our traditional data gathering model to determine how we can improve to deliver superior performance and make a distinctive impact over time. 

Last year, we embarked on multi-year, multi-phase outcome evaluation plan to try and fully understand the impact of our work on the health, safety, well-being and financial status of the residents and communities we serve. The results of the initial homeowner surveying pilot are now available. Working with the external evaluator Actionable Insights, five Rebuilding Together affiliates interviewed almost 100 neighbors and found that:

  • Seven in ten people who received repairs from Rebuilding Together report low or no chance of falling
  • Nearly two-thirds of neighbors who reported their health was less than good prior to repairs said their health improved after the repairs were completed
  • Almost 9 in 10 of the most stressed neighbors served feel less stress about home repairs and maintenance
  • Nine in ten neighbors who received repairs now plan to age in place
  • Three in five neighbors who received repairs say their homes are more valuable as an asset
  • Neighbors reported an increased ability to pay for daily necessities 
  • More than a quarter felt an increased connection within their community 
  • The majority of neighbors expressed feeling increased pride in their home.

Read the executive summary and full impact report to learn more.

The next steps in the evaluation plan include the following:

  • Launching a larger cohort of affiliates conducting homeowner surveying based on lessons learned in pilot
  • Analyzing the social return in investment of our services, the value of the benefits relative to the costs of achieving those benefits
  • Investing in data visualization tools, an accessible way to see and understand trends, outliers and patterns in data
  • Establishing long term, measurable organizational goals to drive strategy and ensure continuous improvement.  

If we hope as an organization to make more than a small contribution to the massive social and health issue of substandard housing, we need to have a clear understanding of the links between actions and impact through a mature impact measurement system. While there is a lot more work to be done, we are working towards creating an organizational culture of learning and continuous improvement. The needs, interests and challenges of the changing environment for our neighbors and communities requires us to innovate and make disruptive changes to do better.