At events in Wilmington and Georgetown today, the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF) is launching the publicly accessible website DelawareFocus.org, the keystone of the DCF’s new community engagement initiative.
DelawareFocus, which will be Delaware’s first comprehensive statewide indicator project, is an initiative to help the community develop a data-driven, statewide civic agenda and align actions and resources for community benefit.
The DCF has taken on the new initiative as part of its expanded mission “to build a shared vision for Delaware, grounded in knowledge, inspired by the common good and advanced through philanthropy.”
“The DCF is a strong organization with a proud history of helping individuals and organizations build permanent charitable resources for Delaware,” DCF President & CEO Fred Sears said. “But our board recognized that our community has great needs, and we have the capacity and the will to do more.”
Many other community foundations, including those in Boston and Arizona, lead indicator projects to facilitate dialog and action to improve residents’ quality of life.
Gov. Jack Markell joined the DCF to launch DelawareFocus.org at the Baby Grand in Wilmington.
“By undertaking this project, driven by data and research, the Delaware Community Foundation will help provide an objective view of our challenges and contribute to implementing solutions,” Markell said.
Alan Levin, former director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, spoke at the afternoon launch at Delaware Technical & Community College’s Owens Campus in Georgetown.
“Excellent quality of life is essential for a thriving business community and a robust economy,” Levin said. “And we can be much more effective in improving quality of life by using metrics to understand our strengths and weaknesses and monitor the impact of our collective efforts to improve.”
The website DelawareFocus.org will be the central source of data for the DCF’s new community engagement initiative.DelawareFocus.org features data and analyses of 71 key community indicators in the areas of demographics, economy and working, financial self-sufficiency, quality of life, health, children and youth, and education.
The data and analyses can help decision-makers, funders and all community members identify communities’ relative weaknesses and strengths, set priorities, evaluate program outcomes, track progress over time, compare regional trends and foster community dialogue.
As an apolitical, nonprofit organization, the DCF is positioned to lead the community’s development of an objective, data-driven civic agenda free of political influence or other special interests.
“To build a unified vision, we need accurate and broad-based information about our community’s most pressing needs and most promising opportunities,” DCF Board Chair Marilyn Hayward said. “Through DelawareFocus.org, we are providing the platform and an initial set of community indicators to ignite and fuel conversations and action statewide.”
To build and maintain DelawareFocus.org, the DCF is contracting with the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), 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 addition to gathering, analyzing and applying data, Hayward said, the DCF will engage the community at large in developing and pursuing the civic agenda. The DCF is expanding its staff to create a community engagement team and has established the Delaware Community Focus Council.
The council will be composed of leading community stakeholders from Kent, New Castle and Sussex County. Using the data from DelawareFocus.org and knowledge gathered through community engagement, the council will identify high priority and systemic community challenges and opportunities and recommend leadership and action opportunities to the DCF staff and Board of Directors.
The chair of the Community Focus Council will be Doneene Keemer Damon, a director with the law firm Richards, Layton & Finger. The vice chair will be Cindy Szabo, a partner at the law firm Ellis & Szabo in Rehoboth Beach. The list of council members is being finalized and will be announced in November.
The DCF also announced Monday that it will collaborate with the University of Delaware, which was recently designated as a 2015 Community Engaged University by the Carnegie Foundation.
“Through our collective strengths, the University of Delaware and the Delaware Community Foundation can drive collaborative community initiatives and take innovative approaches to help raise the quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens,” UD Provost Domenico Grasso said.
The DCF also is working with the United Way and currently developing relationships with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Delaware State University and Wilmington University.