Institute for Social Capital newsletter, October 2013

Upcoming events:

  • ISC will present at the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) 2013 Conference: Demonstrated Uses of Integrated Data Systems, November 4-5, 2013, in Washington.
  • Amy Hawn Nelson, director of ISC, will convene a panel at the American Evaluation Association (AEA) Conference, October 17, 2013, in Washington, which addresses “Are United Ways Doing Any Good”? Laura Simmons from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute will be presenting.

ISC updates

  • ISC Codebook: We have developed a secure site where properly credentialed researchers can search an online version of our database codebook. The beta version of the codebook is expected to be rolled out in November to specific researchers for testing and a broader roll out to the general public is expected in January. This codebook will be important in helping researchers and community partners understand the potential uses for the ISC database.
  • ISC Selected as one of the Knight Foundation News Challenge’s Top 40 Semi-Finalists: The ISC submitted an entry to the Knight Foundation News Challenge which asked, “How can we harness data and information for the health of communities?” Our entry proposed the creation of a public interface to increase access to aggregated health and social data in the ISC database. Over 600 entries were submitted and ISC was selected as one of 40 semi-finalists to proceed to the next round. Please view our entry and provide feedback here! Below is the video which accompanied our entry.


ISC data deposits

ISC contains a rich collection of administrative data from various agencies in Charlotte. Below is a list of new data deposits we plan to receive in the next month:

  • Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
  • Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office
  • N.C. Department of Health and Human Services / Mental Health
  • Local agencies utilizing Historical Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) data

Integrated data systems spotlight:
Washington State Department of Health and Human Services Integrated Client Database

doh waThe Washington State Department of Health and Human Services Integrated Client Database is a longitudinal database containing more than ten years of data across 30 administrative data systems. This data capability enables them to conduct focused policy research on issues such as behavioral health risks among Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) adults as well as criminal justice and employment outcomes among youth. For more information, click here.

Data in the news:

  • How non-profits and think tanks are pushing government to better leverage data “Non-profits, foundations, and universities are enthused by government’s growing interest in the use of evidence and evaluation. They are chiming in with either support for government initiatives or undertaking their own initiatives.”
  • Can government play moneyball? “Based on our rough calculations, less than $1 out of every $100 of government spending is backed by even the most basic evidence that the money is being spent wisely ... Getting the right information is less than half the battle. Acting on it, once it’s in hand, is harder still.”
  • New programs use data to steer poor kids into college “Using sophisticated combinations of test scores, census data about neighborhood characteristics, and university admissions histories, these initiatives are zeroing in on students who are low-income but high-achieving, yet end up at poorly chosen colleges and universities with abysmal graduation rates—or forgo a higher education altogether—and trying to steer them into institutions where their backgrounds suggest they’re most likely to succeed.”
  • Lead poisoning's impact: Kids suspended more at school “Lead exposure, the researchers calculated, explained 23% of the gap in suspension rates between African-American and white Milwaukee students.”

Recently completed projects using ISC community database:

Title: Mayor’s Youth Employment Program Evaluation
Authors: Amy Hawn Nelson, director, Institute for Social Capital; Selena Skorman, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute social research assistant; Justin Lane, Institute for Social Capital graduate research assistant; Diane Gavarkavich, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute/ISC social research specialist
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 was a mixed methods study using the ISC database as well as phone interviews with past MYEP participants.

Ongoing projects using ISC community database:

Title: Describing Incarcerated Emerging Adults in Mecklenburg County
Investigators: Amy Hawn Nelson, director, Institute for Social Capital; Susan McCarter, assistant professor, UNC Charlotte College of Health and Human Services
Summary: The purpose of this project is to describe the population of disengaged emerging adults 18-24 involved in Mecklenburg County's criminal justice system. The ISC Community Database will be used in conjunction with Administrative Records provided by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office to create a de-identified dataset that will describe individuals ages 18-24 who were incarcerated between 2011-2012. By better understanding the educational trajectories of this population, the community is better equipped to prevent involvement in the criminal justice system and to support members of this population to reduce recidivism.

Meet our new staff:

AshleyInstitute for Social Capital data and research coordinator, Ashley Williams
Ashley joined the Institute for Social Capital in July after completing her Masters in City and Regional Planning from UNC Chapel Hill, where she specialized in housing, community development, and real estate. She has five-plus years of experience working on issues related to affordable housing, community development, neighborhood planning, policy research, and data analysis.

Prior to graduate school, she worked for the Urban Institute in Washington D.C. in their Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and was the Director of Operations for the Urban Institute Academy. As the Data and Research Coordinator for ISC, Ashley will serve as project coordinator for assigned research projects through ISC and will have primary responsibility for managing the disposition of data requests through ISC’s Data and Research Oversight Committee (DAROC), and will serve as a liaison between researchers and DAROC.

A native of Maryland, Ashley is enjoying learning about Charlotte and making it her home. Ashley holds her MCRP from UNC Chapel Hill and her BA in Urban Studies from Washington University in St. Louis.

JustinInstitute for Social Capital Research graduate research assistant, Justin Lane
Justin joined the Institute for Social Capital in May as a research assistant tasked with quantitative data analysis. His research areas of interest include: sociology of education, public policy, deviant behavior, inequalities, and quantitative methods.

After graduating high school, Justin migrated for a brief time to Central America where he immersed himself in the Nicaraguan culture and volunteered in an orphanage. After his tenure in Nicaragua, Justin returned to the States to begin his academic career. The first stop was East Tennessee State University, where he was able to study Sociology and begin conducting research. After earning his Bachelors of Science from ETSU, Justin moved to Charlotte to begin working on his M.A. He has participated in a number of different research endeavors in the sociology department at UNCC prior to joining ISC, including research funded by the National Science Foundation. Most recently, Justin was the lead research assistant on a large course redesign team that completely overhauled the Intro to Sociology curriculum at the University.

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 non-profit 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.

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.

Institute for Social Capital governance structures

Board of Directors
The Board of Directors of the Institute for Social Capital, Inc., is charged with the control and management of the business, property, personnel, database, affairs and funds of the 501(c)(3) corporation. The board has the ultimate responsibility for data security related to the ISC Community Database. There are from 10 to 15 board members serving at a given time, including four ex-officio members. Board members represent community interests, including those of data depositors and UNC Charlotte.

Data and Research Oversight Committee (DAROC)
The Institute for Social Capital Data and Research Oversight Committee (DAROC) is a standing committee convened by the ISC Board of Directors to:

  • Set institute policies related to data requests for the ISC Community Database
  • Review, approve, and ensure compliance regarding requests for licensure of institute data
  • Ensure that the technical process supports users’ needs.

DAROC is comprised of permanent agency representatives from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, The Children’s Alliance, the United Way of Central Carolinas, and UNC Charlotte. Representatives typically have expertise in agency-level data and/or research methodology and serve with the understanding that they are stewards of confidential data that has been integrated to serve as a community resource.

ISC Scholars Advisory Council
The ISC Scholars Advisory Council is also a standing committee convened by the ISC Board of Directors. It was formally approved by the Board of Directors in June 2013 to:

  • Set ISC research priorities annually
  • Coordinate inter-agency and inter-institutional research collaborations, including an annual research symposium
  • Communicate the role of ISC among agencies and researchers
  • Review database holdings to provide recommendations to the board regarding data deposits
  • Provide scholarly support for ISC

The Scholars Advisory Council will be comprised of faculty representatives from local colleges and universities, including UNC Charlotte. We are just beginning to form this council. If you are interested in serving, please contact Amy ( More details will be forthcoming.