Checking Greater Cleveland’s Pulse

During this economic downturn, foundation staff members have had many discussions surrounding appropriate responses to the rapidly changing needs of the community. We began researching the creative solutions that other community foundations  were exploring.

This research and our community conversations with nonprofits throughout Greater Cleveland have all helped formulate the foundation’s response. One thread of conversation asked the question “How do we know how bad (or good) things are?” and the immediate next question “How do we know when things are better (or worse)?”

These questions led to a conversation with NEO CANDO. NEO CANDO, Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing, is a free and publicly accessible social and economic data system of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development, a research institute housed at Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

A number of indicators were explored, and although there are certainly many more that would help us gain a more comprehensive picture of Greater Cleveland’s well-being, four key indicators were chosen to help provide a snapshot of the community’s well-being. These indicators are foreclosures, unemployment claims, childhood enrollment in Medicaid, and Food stamp utilization.

While foreclosures, unemployment claims, and food stamp utilization all seem fairly self-explanatory, childhood enrollment in Medicaid requires a bit more explanation, I believe.

Discussions around indicators related to health care included numbers of people visiting the emergency room for basic medical needs and adult Medicaid claims. What we learned through these discussions was that adults place a high value on child health care and insurance, and that working families won’t enroll their children in Medicaid until other sources of health support are unavailable. Childhood enrollment in Medicaid gives us an indicator that might better contribute to the overall snapshot.

These four indicators will be updated monthly – and it is our hope that over time it will help us not only be more responsive to the current economic crisis, but also begin to work with community partners to strategize solutions to keep these numbers as low as possible in the future.

Please note that we are in no way forgetting that the economic crisis impacts people in very real ways, and that statistics only tell a part of the story.

Let us know what you think about the web page and indicators as well as your preferred resources for checking Cleveland’s “pulse.”