For decades, our goal has remained the same: to understand what it would take to end homelessness. But over the course of that time, our theory of change has evolved, over and over again. That journey has brought us closer to the solution, enabling us to support more than 90 communities proving that homelessness is solvable. At the heart of this progress has been a commitment to learning, which has granted us the opportunity to challenge assumptions, solve problems, and reimagine what is possible.
We are honored to begin an exciting chapter of this work, which will be dedicated to accelerating an end to homelessness across the country over the next five years. With the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change award, we will work to help communities in our Built for Zero initiative produce a critical, diverse mass of evidence that homelessness is solvable.
As both an organization and a movement, we understand that how much, and how quickly, we are able to learn will determine our success. After a several months-long process of meeting several outstanding candidates, we are proud to announce that we are partnering with ORS Impact and Equal Measure (EqM) for a five-year learning and evaluation partnership. ORS Impact and EqM bring to this engagement years of deep expertise in evaluating place-based systems change initiatives in communities across the U.S.
The organizations bring a commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their approach – prioritizing racial, ethnic, and gender inclusivity in their organizations and in their learning and evaluation design. They have collaborated as learning partners on a number of national collective impact initiatives focusing on topics such as public education reform, college access, and STEM.
The Learning and Evaluation Aims
This partnership will provide a critical pathway toward our aim of supporting a tipping point for ending homelessness in the United States. Our partners will assess the impact of the Built for Zero initiative, and how our model and theory of change are playing out across communities.
This learning partnership will include documenting successes, challenges, enabling conditions, and considerations for scaling. The approach is mixed methods and focused on four levels of the Built for Zero ecosystem: Local strategy and implementation, across communities, intermediary support, and field context and trends. Determined through an inclusive approach with Community Solutions, community partners, and key stakeholders, the evaluation may include examining the roles that communities play in overcoming obstacles to homelessness, the factors that affect local confidence in solving the problem, and the local and national conditions that enable communities to end homelessness.
“This partnership will enhance our ability as an organization — and the field as a whole — to constantly evaluate, learn, and iterate approaches to ending homelessness.”
Adam Ruege, community solutions
We are eager that this partnership will help us contribute to broader learning for the field around the conditions, interventions, and tools that will accelerate our collective progress. And with support from ORS Impact and EqM, we look forward to learning and evaluating the impact of communities achieving an end to homelessness for a population, known as functional zero.
“Built for Zero’s commitment to continuous learning and improvement is at the core of what we do,” said Adam Ruege, Community Solutions’ Portfolio Lead for Learning Systems & Evaluation. “This partnership will enhance our ability as an organization — and the field as a whole — to constantly evaluate, learn, and iterate approaches to ending homelessness.”
Throughout the process, Community Solutions assessed candidates based on their experience, proposals, and values alignment.
“ORS Impact and Equal Measure bring over 30 years of experience in evaluating systems and community change across sectors, and we are excited to have them as learning and evaluation partners over the next five years,” said Beth Sandor, Principal for Community Solutions. “Their proven commitment to equity, continuous learning, and use of rigorous evaluation methods will be critical to helping the movement drive to a tipping point.”
ORS Impact is a woman-led and -owned evaluation and strategy consultancy based in Seattle, WA, committed to using the power of data and learning to help clients accelerate social justice and advance racial equity. The team includes leaders in process and outcomes-based evaluation, with experience in multi-dimensional initiatives that include collective approaches to social change, organizing, policy-and advocacy-focused efforts, and community-driven and systems change, including a recent national-level study on the efficacy of Collective Impact initiatives.
“ORS is deeply motivated by the mission and work of Community Solutions to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness to functional zero and are both honored and humbled to serve as learning partners during this critical time,” explained Terri Akey, Director at ORS Impact. “This work aligns with our values and we are very much looking forward to engaging with staff and community partners in what we envision as a co-designed, participatory effort to support learning, improvement, and transformational change.”
Equal Measure is a nonprofit professional services firm headquartered in Philadelphia, PA that partners with clients to apply new ways of thinking and learning to achieve their social change objectives. Equal Measure brings years of experience evaluating place-based collective impact initiatives that aim to change systems.
“Equal Measure is excited to work with our partners to build a learning agenda, rooted in racial equity and community expertise. It is imperative that our engagement identify, measure, and address the systems and complexities we face,” said Kim Glassman, Senior Director at Equal Measure. “We believe strongly that our evaluation will help Built for Zero act on its promise to end homeless in its communities, and scale efforts across the United States.”