Frequently Asked Questions: ROMA Next Generation/CSBG Annual Report Part 3: Module 3: Community Level

OCS and NASCSP are in the process of reviewing the comments submitted during the 60-day comment period and are looking forward to incorporating suggestions into the CSBG Annual Report. During the comment period many good questions were raised about ROMA Next Generation (NG) and the CSBG Annual Report. We have compiled the most frequently asked questions and will cover these questions in three separate blog posts: Part 1: General Questions and Part 2: Module 4: Individual and Family Level. For the third and final post of this series, we respond to inquiries concerning Module 3: Community Level.


Questions on Module 3: Community Level


1. There are several “social indicators” included in the Community NPIs (e.g. “Decrease in childhood obesity rate”), but my CAA does not work on this issue and would not be able to report a change. Why are indicators like this included?


The CSBG Network is engaged in a wide range of community level initiatives designed to address the unique needs and interests of local communities. While many of these needs are extremely complex, some CAAs are partnering with other organizations in the community to address them. As such, some social indicators were added to the CSBG Annual Report to allow us to measure the well-being of communities achieved through community initiatives.

CAAs will only report on NPIs if your agency has set a goal to impact a particular issue and achieve a change measured by that indicator. In other words, CAAs will only report on Community NPIs that relate to their work in the community. The addition of “Other Outcome Indicator” creates a place to report outcomes that may not be covered by the Community NPIs. Additionally, CAAs will identify their targeted community, as this is locally determined and unique to every initiative.


2. Only a few agencies will report on some of the Community NPIs. Will low numbers make CAAs look bad?


Due to the block grant nature of CSBG there should be no expectation that particular indicators have large numbers, as needs are locally determined and diverse.  Similar to reporting on both family and community indicators in the CSBG IS Survey, some NPIs in the CSBG Annual Report will have small numbers. For an example of community level reporting from FFY14, see the image below. For National data on family and community level NPIs, read the full FFY14 Annual Report.  The CSBG Annual Report will support a continuous learning environment, in which even small numbers will help us to analyze our work. At the end of the first OMB approval, the Community NPIs can be reassessed to determine which indicators seem to best represent the work of CAAs. The CSBG Annual Report will provide richer data than we have now and that will only allow us to share more of what CAAs do. We can easily tell this story and defend a small number if there are ever any questions. Finally, we believe it is right to attempt to refine and develop richer Community level indicators, we are trying to improve and when you do the right things you are rewarded. We are strong and should not be developing a system based on fear.

Chart 3


3. How is “community” defined in Module 3?


In Module 3 of the CSBG Annual Report, CAAs will identify the initiative’s target community on the community level initiative status page. CAAs will define the geographical target community based on the options provided. Those options include: neighborhood, school district, service area, city, county, region, or other. This emphasizes the local determination to select where an initiative is focused and adds context to the outcomes achieved by community level initiatives.


4. Can I still report on a Community Level Initiative if I do not have baseline data?


Yes, agencies have the option to provide baseline data when the information is feasible, available, and reasonable to collect and track. CAAs will indicate—on the community level initiative status page—whether the initiative has a numerical baseline, has no numerical baseline, or is working to establish a numerical baseline. If a numerical baseline is not feasible, available, and reasonable to collect and track, agencies are asked to provide additional information to describe how they have determined this initiative is needed in the community.


5. What is Collective Impact?  Why is it included in the Annual Report?


Collective Impact is a type of collaboration or coalition that is characterized by the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration. Collective Impact work across the country has shown potential to accelerate the pace of social change in addressing complex issues.

In the CSBG Statute, the CSBG Network is charged “to provide assistance to States and local communities, working through a network of community action agencies and other neighborhood based organizations for the reduction of poverty, the revitalization of low-income communities, and the empowerment of low-income families and individuals” and with “the greater use of innovative and effective community-based approaches to attacking the causes and effects of poverty and of community breakdown;.”

Local CAAs have many strategies to address the charge of the statue and Collective Impact is not suggested as the best way or only way to do community level work. However, the term Collective Impact has been adopted to refer to this structured form of collaboration as a way to describe one approach to community level work. Other options and strategies are also provided as choices.

OCS does believe that Collective Impact can be an effective strategy for tackling complex community level problems that may take several years to impact. The Collective Impact model provides a way to assess progress over time toward long term goals and outcomes.

For a detailed description of Collective Impact, click here. Simply, the approach has five core conditions: 1) Common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it, 2) Mutually reinforcing plan of action, 3) Collect data and measure consistently across all participants; accountability, alignment, 4) Consistent and open communication across the many players; continuous learning, and 5) Dedicated staff with specific skills to coordinate participating organizations and agencies.


6. What is the State’s role in “requiring” CAAs to respond to community level indicators?


The CSBG Act mandates local agencies conduct a needs assessment and respond to the unique conditions and causes of poverty in the area served. States do not have the authority to require local agencies to address specific needs or use particular strategies or services. ROMA NG and the CSBG Annual Report maintains the principles of local determination and flexibility which means CAAs determine what problems, services, strategies, and outcomes they are going to address. Thus, the State CSBG Lead Agency cannot require that CAAs respond to particular community level indicators. It is worth noting that in many instances local agencies may have only a few community level indicators they are pursuing, but those indicators may be of great significance, for example increasing the number of low-income students attending college in a community is a very difficult and long-term effort. It is unrealistic to expect agencies to take on multiple, complex community level problems at one time.  All levels of the CSBG Network should have an understanding that no CAA will be able to address and respond to all or even to many of the community level indicators. CAAs will report only on the outcomes that are driven by their assessment of their community needs.


7. What is the difference between the terms “initiatives” and “strategies” when referring to community level work?


A community level initiative is the project the agency is running or is a part of in order to work toward the achievement of a community level outcome. A community level strategy is a part of the plan of action to achieve the intended outcome of an initiative. For example, a Housing First Initiative may use housing development as a strategy for decreasing the rate of homelessness in a community.