Center for Social Research

Public and official opinion about cooperation and combination of local governments

Survey results released today show that a majority of survey respondents, both residents and elected officials of Kent County, Michigan, support sharing services such as police, fire and public works among governments, but there is no majority for sharing assessment of property values or tax collection. Majorities support informal cooperation, formal contracts and combining agencies, but a supermajority of responding elected officials and a near-majority of responding residents oppose merging governments into larger units.

Jim Penning’s legacy of research in public service

Not long before he passed away in 2010, then-director of CSR Dr. Jim Penning was inspired and agitated by an article in the Grand Rapids Press (now lost to memory). An experienced commissioner of the City of Kentwood, Dr. Penning began working with me to design a survey about local government cooperation and consolidation. We met with our friends at the Community Research Institute (CRI) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and they agreed to adapt our design for inclusion in an upcoming version of the Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey.

This morning, I had the privilege of bringing Jim’s work to fruition by pinch-hitting for CRI staff in presenting recent survey results to the board of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council. GVMC is an august gathering of mayors and other local officials from Kent County and several other West Michigan counties. An important vehicle for cooperation among local governments, GVMC co-sponsored the survey project, with grant funding from the Frey Foundation. GVMC provided a list of elected officials for a mail survey parallel to GGRCS. Today’s presentation juxtaposed these two surveys to compare the opinions of residents and elected officials. The event was covered by Calvin grad Matt Vande Bunte of the Grand Rapids Press.

Survey results

Readers may be interested in versions of the presentation with notes or as full size slides, along with a two-page handout summarizing the findings.

Here are two key charts from the end of the presentation that summarize the findings.

Support for sharing various services

Chart of survey results on sharing services

Degrees of intergovernmental cooperation and consolidation

Chart of survey results on degrees of cooperation

Posted by Neil Carlson on Thursday, September 06, 2012 at 08:44 PM
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Fundraising by Christian colleges during the recession

 

The journal Christian Higher Education has published an article (click for abstract and full text) based on survey data collected by CSR and co-authored by Neil Carlson:

    Janel Curry, Scott Rodin & Neil Carlson (2012): Fundraising In Difficult Economic Times: Best Practices, Christian Higher Education, 11:4, 241-252

Janel Curry is the newly-appointed Provost of Gordon College and conducted this research in her role as the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Christian Perspectives on Political, Social and Economic Thought. Scott Rodin is currently partner for strategic alliances at Artios Partners. At the time of writing, both Curry and Rodin were associated with the not-for-profit practice of the One Accord consulting group.

As summarized in the article abstract, “Our research suggests that macroeconomic conditions, the number of development staff, and the size of development budget do not predict [fundraising] performance. Performance is related to a transformational approach to development work built on a compelling vision that is communicated clearly.”

 

Posted by Neil Carlson on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 10:45 AM
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New publication on data sharing for Believe 2 Become

CSR’s ongoing, long-term work with the Believe 2 Become Initiative is beginning to bear fruit. A collaborative article, for which I served as the lead author, has just been published in The Foundation Review, “the nation’s first peer-reviewed journal of philanthropy”:

The article documents the coalition’s successful efforts to come to agreement on the complex issue of sharing student data in a secure, responsible fashion to support better personal service to students by program staff, greater alignment of out-of-school educational services with in-school curriculum, and more robust evaluation of overall program results in improving educational outcomes. The agreement facilitates transmission of data between the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) and the Community Research Institute (CRI) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU).

With parental consent, identified student information such as attendance and recent academic performance is (or will be) available on a secure, need-to-know basis for staff at B2B out-of-school programs through nFocus Solutions’ TraxSolutions suite. Meanwhile deidentified data for larger populations of B2B participants and comparison groups is available to the research and evaluation team (including CSR, CRI and Basis Policy Research) .

While similar agreements have been made in other cities and school districts, they have generally been short term, less comprehensive, or have dealt only with aggregate data rather than tracking individual educational results over time. At CSR, we are privileged to be involved and excited about the potential this data-sharing infrastructure offers to Grand Rapids and to other metropolitan partnerships. As we learned at a recent Intelligence for Social Policy conference, interest and investment in data sharing agreements is soaring across the country. Grand Rapids is keeping pace and may even be moving ahead of the pack.

Posted by Neil Carlson on Sunday, January 08, 2012 at 01:59 AM
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DeVos Place Host to B2B ArtPrize Student Mural

  

When you’re checking out ArtPrize 2011, be sure to include a visit to “I Believe I Become,” the six piece mural created by a team of student artists from Grand Rapids Public Schools and sponsored by several local businesses and two local artists. You’ll find the mural at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

By supporting strong schools, community partnership, parent resources, and student experiences, B2B hopes to help students achieve success in school, work, and life by the year 2025. Believe 2 Become is a partnership of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, dozens of community‐based and faith‐based organizations, and the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation. CSR’s assistance to the project through surveys and a shared database is ongoing as the B2B continues its work in our community.

Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Monday, September 26, 2011 at 04:07 PM
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Believe 2 Become Seeks to Boost Academic Achievement in Grand Rapids

Fifteen thousand children in Grand Rapids are being served by the Believe 2 Become initiative (“B2B”). The initiative focuses on four neighborhood “Hope Zones.” The Community Research Institute at Grand Valley State University is a research partner for the CSR, and they provide maps and demographic profiles of each neighborhood.

By supporting strong schools, community partnership, parent resources, and student experiences, B2B hopes to help students achieve success in school, work, and life by the year 2025. Believe 2 Become is a partnership of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, dozens of community‐based and faith‐based organizations, and the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation.

These groups are investing in teacher training and system support at GRPS and are sponsoring after-school study programs and a summer learning program.

B2B is also sponsoring a Neighborhood Engagement program. In this program, staff members from LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. conduct community meetings, organize community events, and go door-to-door educating parents: all with the goal of promoting knowledge of and encouraging action toward student success.

READ MORE...

Posted by Tony Ditta on Tuesday, April 05, 2011 at 02:53 PM
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