The Clinton Foundation convenes public and private partners to address global issues, including economic growth and development. They asked the Capstone team to conduct an evaluation of place-based economic development initiatives to determine how the Foundation could potentially support these programs. Place-based economic development is a practice that utilizes the existing assets of local communities to develop targeted solutions that create economic growth.
The Capstone project focused on McDowell County, WV (Reconnecting McDowell) and Evansville, IN (the Evansville Promise Zone) to explore economic development initiatives in both urban and rural communities suffering from economic decline. Both communities have high rates of poverty (>35%) and unemployment (~10%), as well as low rates of literacy (30% of the population has less than a high school degree).
The team identified current trends and best practices in economic development. To evaluate place-based development projects, they conducted interviews with implementation partners and other stakeholders in both locations. The team also utilized existing data collected by the projects to assess initial program impact. Since both projects are still in the nascent stages, they were unable to determine whether these projects have had significant impact on targeted outcomes. Instead, the Capstone team evaluated whether the projects have the necessary inputs and resources to produce the desired change and identified successes and potential gaps in each program. The final report provided ways the Foundation could strengthen Reconnecting McDowell and the Evansville Promise Zone initiatives to bolster current successful strategies and overcome obstacles. Finally, the Capstone team made recommendations on how the Clinton Foundation can replicate or support place-based economic development initiatives in other similar geographic regions.