Cambridge Needs Assessment

Group of Kids from Haggerty CS

Between 2010 and 2013, mitigation funds designated to be used for community benefits purposes have been pledged to the City of Cambridge through zoning amendments and agreements with developers. These funds acquired through these amendments and agreements with developers are public monies to be used for Community Benefits purposes. Committed funds are received upon completion of various stages in new development projects. To put these funds to good use a lead idea suggested by City Council is to use the funds to partner with the nonprofit community in order to expand services to benefit Cambridge residents and better meet residents' unmet needs.

Since the idea's conception, the City has worked with the Cambridge Community Foundation and representatives of the Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition to discuss collaboration on the development of a transparent and inclusive framework for understanding the community's needs. The first step of this process is to conduct a comprehensive Needs Assessment. The primary purpose of the Needs Assessment is to gain an in-depth understanding of the community's most pressing needs and service gaps. The results of the Needs Assessment will be two-fold:

  • Enable City Council to make informed decisions in establishing broad funding goals; and
  • Inform the City Manager's forthcoming Community Benefits Advisory Committee to develop recommendations for the investment of mitigation funds tied to the City Council's broad funding goals.

April 25, 2017

Needs Assessment Report Presented to City Council Finance Subcommittee

TDC together with City Staff and representatives of the nonprofit community presented the Cambridge Needs Assessment Report to the City Council's Finance Committee on April 25, 2017.  The Committee voted to recommend that the Council itself endorse the findings of the report.  The following presentation was given during the meeting:

January 26, 2017

Final Needs Assessment Report Submitted to City Council

TDC has completed the final Cambridge Needs Assessment report. The report has been submitted to the City Council as part of the City Manager's Agenda for this upcoming Monday, January 30th. The City Manager is requesting for the City Council to refer the Needs Assessment report to the Finance Committee (a committee of the whole) to review the recommendations and develop funding priorities. In addition, the City Manager will also begin recruiting applicants for the Community Benefits Advisory Committee member appointments. As you may recall, the Community Benefits Advisory Committee will engage in a process on how to act on the funding priorities determined by City Council. To read the final Cambridge Needs Assessment report, click on the links below:

Needs Assessment Work Plan

September 2015 - March 2016

Phase 1: Define goals and understand existing data

  • Identify existing data resources
  • Develop framework for assessment
  • Interview key stakeholders and assess quantitative data
  • Develop emerging hypothesis

March 2016 - Summer 2016

Phase 2: Conduct Needs Assessment

  • Synthesize data sources
  • Survey service providers, nonprofit organizations and other key stakeholders
  • Support nonprofits in conducting focus groups with residents

Fall 2016 - Winter 2017

Phase 3: Complete Final Report

  • Define implications of needs assessment
  • Present findings and implications to Advisory Group
  • Draft written report
  • Codify report methodology
  • Present findings to the City Manager to submit to City Council

Needs Assessment Advisory Committee

In September 2015, the City Manager created the Needs Assessment Advisory Committee to support and guide a third-party consultant, TDC, to conduct a comprehensive Needs Assessment. The role of the Committee is to help the consultant refine the research plan strategy and ensure an inclusive community engagement process. Support includes the sharing of existing data and research, knowledge of the Cambridge community, and access to key stakeholders such as residents, service providers, municipal staff, and other community members. The Committee is composed of City staff from multiple departments and representatives of both the Cambridge Community Foundation, and the local nonprofit community.

Needs Assessment Advisory Committee Members

  • Chris Cotter, Director of Housing Division, Community Development Department
  • Michael Delia, Executive Director, East End House
  • Christine Elow, ‎Deputy Superintendent at Cambridge Police Department
  • Michelle Farnum, Assistant Director of Children, Youth, and Family Services, Dept. of Human Service Programs
  • Kathryn Fenneman, Executive Director, Tutoring Plus
  • John Lindamood, Director of Resident Services, Cambridge Housing Authority
  • Risa Mednick, Executive Director, Transition House
  • Mary Power, Board Member, Cambridge Community Foundation
  • Geeta Pradhan, President, Cambridge Community Foundation
  • Susanne Rasmussen, Director of Environmental and Transportation Planning, Community Development Department
  • Susan Richards, Cambridge Agenda for Children Out of School Time Coordinator, Dept. of Human Service Programs
  • José Wendel, School Nutrition Coordinator at Cambridge Public Health Department

Community Benefits Ordinance: Guiding Principles for Funding

The main purpose of the Community Benefits process is to extend the reach of community benefits to Cambridge residents by entering into agreements with nonprofit organizations that serve unmet community needs. The following are guiding principles for appropriating funds for community benefits purposes:

  • Fund programs or services that directly benefit Cambridge residents
  • Emphasize funding priorities established by the City Council informed by the outcomes of the Needs Assessment
  • Consider neighborhood(s) impacted by development projects
  • Consider other public resources allocated to a neighborhood in order to better understand unmet needs
  • Prioritize funding for nonprofit applicants that promote collaboration, partnership, and collective impact
  • Establish a transparent, inclusive, and collaborative process
  • Provide support and technical assistance to nonprofits in the application process to ensure equal opportunity and access
  • Provide opportunities for renewable grants to returning nonprofit providers that have an excellent performance evaluation record and programmatic success

Clifford Cook, Planning Information Manager, email: ccook@cambridgema.gov.