Target Practice

14 Feb 2014 | Pamela Lee, Urban Institute
Target Practice

Setting targets and measuring performance can go a long way toward achieving goals. For ambitious, multi-pronged, cross-organizational, place-based initiatives like Promise Neighborhoods, target setting is critically important. It allows an organization to track progress, make mid-stream corrections as necessary, and compare internal performance against benchmarks.

But target setting can be tricky, given the sheer scale and size of Promise Neighborhoods programs and populations.

For example, consider a site that knows it wants to increase the number of young children enrolled in center-based early learning programming (GPRA 3). It’s not enough to simply pick number out of thin air – say, 5 percent – and then hope that you’ll increase the numbers of community children enrolled in early learning programming by 5 percent each year for the next five years. Promise Neighborhoods need to take into consideration factors like actual past performance, partner capabilities and resources, and delivery services practices to ensure it can realistically meet its goal.

The site may find that 5% is too ambitious a target, and it cannot realistically expect to achieve this goal. Or the target may be too low. It is important to do some research first, and to carefully weigh and consider the evidence.

To help guide grantees with the target setting process, the Urban Institute has just released itsPromise Neighborhood Target Setting Guidance. The document provides specific guidance for Promise Neighborhood implementation grantees, who are required to set and submit baselines, performance data, and targets for each GPRA indicator for all five years of the Promise Neighborhoods grant program. It identifies several data sources, considerations, and methods that Promise Neighborhoods and similar programs can consider when setting targets.

Through this document, we hope that Promise Neighborhoods and other place-based efforts will get a solid foundation in the disciplined setting of reliable, realistic targets.

Read and let us know what you think in the comments!