ISC Newsletter June 2013

Categories: General News

In order to keep friends and supporters of the Institute for Social Capital informed of its work, we’re pleased to share with you this newsletter, which will be published quarterly and shared with community leaders, university faculty and other friends of the institute.


Please join us for our RE-Introduction of the Institute for Social Capital, Inc., Thursday, June 27, UNC Charlotte Main Campus, Rowe Arts Building Room 161, 9-10 a.m.

Overview of ISC

The Institute for Social Capital, Inc. was founded by the UNC Charlotte Foundation in 2004 and merged with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute in March 2012. Its mission is to advance university research and increase the community’s capacity for data-based planning and evaluation.

At its core is an integrated data system, a comprehensive set of data gathered from public and nonprofit organizations in the region. By integrating data from local agencies, ISC provides a vehicle for analysis and research for the good of the community.

Through its affiliation with UNC Charlotte and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, ISC offers secure storage of confidential data and valuable analytical support to help organizations with research and data analysis.

One of the most significant struggles researchers and social service organizations face is the diffusion of human and social data. Reliable data gathered from significant social service and nonprofit agencies are needed to understand the effects of relevant initiatives on planning services, program evaluations and public policy. However, such information is rarely shared across sources, limiting an organization’s ability to effectively measure outcomes.

By combining key sources of data into one community database, ISC provides a valuable resource to assess the success of specific interventions across agency lines and to better understand the social and environmental variables that affect the community, especially outcomes for children and families.

Understanding the Power of Data Integration

“It’s important to note that the main focus of integrated data systems is not the technology that links data together. Rather, the essence of an integrated data system lies in partnerships across different stakeholder groups that seek to set priorities, lead inquiry, and translate results into actionable intelligence that betters policy and practice.” – Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania

Integrated data systems support policy reform through the collaboration of agencies and researchers. The Institute for Social Capital Community Database is a federated database, a database of databases. ISC, Inc., cultivates relationships with local service agencies to develop data-sharing agreements that facilitate the secure storage and sharing of administrative data. These data are linked at the individual level, then de-identified and accessed by agencies and researchers through a rigorous review process.

While these data are presented to the public at the aggregate level, the power of data integration is the capacity to link across agencies at the individual level to provide compelling information regarding multi-system program use, costs, and outcomes. Distilling down to the individual allows researchers to illuminate trends and patterns across agencies otherwise masked by data analysis within an isolated context.

For a fuller discussion of this topic, see Culhane et al. (2010). Connecting the Dots: The Promise of Integrated Data Systems for Policy Analysis and Systems Reform.

Integrated Data Systems Nationally:

Today 10 sites are identified as national leaders in integrated data systems.

Featured Research from the National Network of Integrated Data:

Integrated Data System Project examples:

  • California: Los Angeles County: The General Relief Housing Subsidy and Case Management Pilot Project: An Evaluation of Participant Outcomes and Cost Savings

Summary: In 2006, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services implemented the GR Housing Subsidy and Case Management Pilot Project. The pilot program was implemented to test whether assisting the homeless GR rent subsidy and coordinating access to other necessary supportive services reduces homelessness, increases employment, and/or increases receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The CEO’s Office of Research and Evaluation used its IDS to evaluate the outcomes and cost effectiveness of this pilot program.

  • FL: University of Southern Florida: The Criminal Justice System and Mental Health “Heavy Users”

Summary: It is estimated that 14.5 percent of males and 31 percent of females booked to jails have a serious mental illness. Repeated arrests create a significant cost issue for law enforcement, judges, and jails. The Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) worked to analyze criminal justice and service utilization histories of 97 mentally ill “heavy users” of the Miami-Dade County criminal justice system. FMHI used statewide data sets to examine five years of history of each of these individuals, including statewide Medicaid claims, arrests, civil commitments, and units of behavioral health services such as outpatient care and inpatient hospitalization. On average, each person was arrested 22 times in five years and spent 55 days in jail per year. In addition, each person on average spent 81 days per year, or nearly a quarter of each year, in a jail, hospital, or emergency room.

Data in the News:

Recent Research Using the Institute for Social Capital Community Database:

Title: United Way of the Central Carolinas Collective Impact Baseline Summary

Author: UNC Charlotte Urban Institute

Summary: In fall 2011, United Way of Central Carolinas adopted a Collective Impact model to move from the loosely coordinated series of investments of prior years to a more concentrated and purposeful funding and supervision model. With funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation, United Way launched the Collective Impact for Children & Youth project in spring 2012— a 10-year project, involving 16 United Way-supported agencies that provide education related services to children from preschool through high school. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to increase the graduation rate for the at-risk, low-performing students served by this group of agencies.

United Way commissioned the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute to coordinate and maintain a shared measurement system for the Collective Impact initiative. This includes assisting partner agencies in a long-term outcome evaluation and housing selected shared data in the Institute for Social Capital community database. This study provides a snapshot of the children and youth being served by this group of agencies and establishes a benchmark for measuring these students’ progress in the future.

See /story/education-united-way-collective-impact-baseline-report

Ongoing Projects Using ISC Community Database:

Title: A Longitudinal Comparison of Children Who Attended the Bright Beginnings Preschool Program and Demographically Similar Children Who Did Not Attend the Program

Author: Rich Lambert, UNC Charlotte Faculty in Educational Leadership

Summary: This study seeks to conduct a longitudinal comparison of the CMS preschool program Bright Beginnings. The broad research question asks, does participation in Bright Beginnings Preschool Program improve academic outcomes of students based on third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade reading scores? The methodology uses propensity score matching and growth curve modeling to compare groups of students, those who attended Bright Beginnings and those who did not.

Title: Mayors Youth Employment Program Evaluation

Authors: Amy Hawn Nelson, Director, Institute for Social Capital; Selena Skorman, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute Social Research Assistant.

Summary: This study seeks to describe participants of the MYEP program and their educational trajectories to identify the short-term and long-term impact of the MYEP program. The evaluation seeks to answer: 1) What are the descriptive characteristics of the population being served by MYEP? 2) What are the long-term outcomes of program’s participants? This mixed methods study using the ISC database as well as phone interviews with past MYEP participants.

Meet Our Staff


Institute for Social Capital Director, Amy Hawn Nelson

A Charlotte native and proud graduate of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Hawn Nelson is a career educator with experience as a teacher, mentor, coach and school leader. She joined the Institute for Social Capital as director in September 2012. Previously she was the school leader for K-8th grade at Kennedy Charter Public School in Charlotte, where she was part of a leadership team that made progress in transitioning an alternative school for at-risk students into a traditional charter school – significantly improving students’ academic outcomes. Hawn Nelson’s myriad experiences at the school level inform her work as an educational researcher. She is an active member of the community, serving several youth- and music-oriented organizations in Charlotte. Dr. Hawn Nelson holds an MAT from Johns Hopkins University, and an MSA and Ph.D. in Urban Education, Curriculum & Instruction from UNC Charlotte.

Read some of Amy’s articles for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute: /story/education-data-policy-reform-evidence