Case Study:
Setting a foundation’s course

Client: Large Community Foundation

Project goal:

Mass Economics was retained by a large community foundation to perform a strategic assessment of its economic development initiatives and provide recommendations on future strategic direction.  As part of the assessment, Mass Economics and its partners engaged directly with the foundation’s board members and senior program staff to understand the breadth and depth of the foundation’s current work and to review proposed recommendations.  The Mass Economics team also interviewed key foundation grantees, local stakeholders and community leaders using both roundtable settings and one-on-one interviews.  Final recommendations were developed in conjunction with a national strategic advisory committee comprised of academic experts and some of the country’s leading practitioners.  This project aligned with Mass Economics’ experience working with multiple stakeholders as well as its expertise in creating and prioritizing economic development strategies.

Approach:

The project team conducted three roundtables over the course of the project in addition to more than 20 one-on-one interviews.  The roundtables were focused on specific topics and involved different sets of participants, including a private-sector roundtable focused on the challenges and opportunities faced by the city’s businesses, a practitioner roundtable focused on the city’s broader economic and business development issues, and a national advisory group roundtable to gain insight into and feedback on potential strategies for the foundation’s economic development framework and initiatives.  The project team also conducted hour-long one-on-one interviews with foundation grantees, foundation staff members, and major regional economic development intermediaries. Fieldwork and interviews were focused on understanding the existing framework and initiatives, identifying what has and has not worked, and discussing the feasibility of potential future strategies.

Fieldwork was complemented with multiple quantitative analyses, including a comprehensive examination of city and regional employment, industries, and clusters; demographic analyses covering population, poverty, and employment; analysis of select city statistics (e.g., finances, tax rates, bond ratings, and vacancy data); and an analysis of educational attainment and labor market  outcomes by demographic group.

Recommendations:

The Mass Economics team synthesized the findings into an economic growth framework strategy inclusive of a wide range of places, people and clusters. The foundation staff and board went on to approve a new framework that borrows heavily from our recommendations.