Developing the Opportunity Zone Community Impact Assessment Tool
We developed questions in the original Opportunity Zone Community Impact Assessment Tool through an iterative process that relied upon a scan of existing social impact assessment tools; subject-matter expertise at the Urban Institute; interviews with stakeholders in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, Ohio; a workshop with national experts; and feedback from local leaders and project sponsors in five markets during the initial piloting and testing phase.
To begin this process, we undertook a scan of existing project- or firm-level tools that addressed racial equity or social impact. Table A.1 shows which of our impact areas are covered by the social impact tools we reviewed. Of the nine tools we found,
- two were designed to measure racial equity at the project level: the Equitable Development Scorecard3 and the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge’s capital project screen survey;4
- two were designed to measure other types of social impact at the project level: the San Francisco Indicator Project’s Healthy Development Checklist5 and New York City’s Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual;6
- one was designed to assess racial equity for government policies and programs: the King County Equity Impact Review Tool7;
- two were designed to measure social impact for firms or enterprises: the B Impact Assessment8 and Just Capital’s Just 100 Corporate Justness Rankings;9 and
- two were designed to measure social impact for investment funds or firms: Aeris’s Community Investing Impact Metric Set10 and the GRESB Real Estate Assessment.11
Each tool measured racial equity or social impact using a range of questions or indicators related to economic development and jobs, wealth creation and entrepreneurship, transportation, housing, health, and environment.
Next, we conducted semistructured interviews with advocacy groups, business owners, city and county government officials, developers, local investors, and neighborhood leaders in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Through these interviews, we sought to (1) identify future Opportunity Zone investments and project types, (2) understand how local stakeholders define social impact and how they envision achieving positive social impact through Opportunity Zones, (3) identify and refine the criteria to include in our assessment of eligible Opportunity Zone projects, and (4) understand how our assessment tool could be used by a broad range of local stakeholders in support of racial and economic equity.
As we sought to create a tool that could be applied to any project or business receiving Opportunity Zone financing, we drew upon the existing tools (listed in table 1) and racial equity frameworks being used in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to conceptualize potential impact areas that would span the universe of community impact. After refining our six impact areas, we developed questions for each that would address potential community impact while maintaining brevity. In some cases, we chose to ask different questions based on project type (residential, commercial, industrial, or operating business) to ensure applicability for each eligible use.
After drafting an initial list of questions, we held a workshop in June 2019 with 20 people from across the country who have expertise in Opportunity Zones, mission-driven investment, and community development. There, we gathered feedback on the impact areas, questions, and scoring and worked with attendees to better understand potential uses for the tool. These sessions provided detailed input on the tool’s general framework and led us to edit, add, and remove questions.
Throughout the development process for the Opportunity Zone Community Impact Assessment Tool, we worked closely with partners at the Fund for Our Economic Future to pilot the assessment tool in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County through localized Opportunity Zone efforts led by Opportunity CLE, a group of local government, nonprofit, and private stakeholders. The group provided feedback during the early stages of tool creation and eventually piloted the tool on two projects seeking Opportunity Zone financing in Cleveland.
The Urban Institute team also used a series of hypothetical Opportunity Zone projects to test tool questions and scoring. A final stage of piloting was conducted on proposed Opportunity Zone projects in Alabama, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Washington State to ensure the tool worked in various regional contexts and housing markets as well as in both urban and rural areas.
We launched the beta version of the Opportunity Zone Community Impact Assessment Tool on January 9, 2020. From that date until the end of June 2021, users created over 600 unique entries into the tool. The tool was built on the Qualtrics platform so that it could be easily designed and managed by the project team. We also built an application programming interface that could intake the tool responses and generate a PDF project scorecard for the user. During the beta testing period, we took two steps to learn more about the tool users and their needs to improve a future version of the tool:
- We included a voluntary Assessment Tool Feedback section at the end of the tool where users could tell us what worked well for them when using the tool, whether any questions were difficult to answer or understand, and whether they experienced any challenges filling out the tool.
- We gathered, cleaned, and analyzed all user data to learn more about the variety of projects being assessed.
3 “Equitable Development Principles & Scorecard: A Tool for Communities and Planners,” the Alliance, 2016, http://thealliancetc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/EquitableDevelopmentScorecard.pdf/.
4 “Capital Project Screen Survey,” SPARCC, 2018, http://www.sparcchub.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/SPARCC-Capital-Screen-Guide-Survey-Tool.pdf..
5 “Healthy Development Checklist,” San Francisco Indicator Project, accessed December 22, 2018, https://www.sfindicatorproject.org/resources/development_checklist.
6 “CEQR: City Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual,” New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination, 2014, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/oec/technical-manual/2014_ceqr_technical_manual_rev_04_27_2016.pdf.
7 “King County Equity Impact Review Tool,” King County, 2010, https://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/elected/executive/equity-social-justice/documents/KingCountyEIRTool2010.ashx?la=en.
8 “The B Impact Assessment,” B Impact Assessment, accessed December 22, 2018, https://bimpactassessment.net/?_ga=2.1124529.1841012908.1542727702-1448206116.1542727702.
9 “Just Capital Ranking Methodology 2017–18,” Just Capital, accessed July 12, 2022, https://com-justcapital-web-v2.s3.amazonaws.com/pdf/18May2018_JUST_Capital_2017_Ranking_Methodology.pdf.
10 “Community Investing Impact Metric Set: Guidance Paper for CDFIs” Aeris, 2017, https://www.aerisinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Aeris-Impact-Metrics-Guidance-Paper-for-CDFIs-Rev-July-2017.pdf.
11 “2018 Developer Assessment,” GRESB Real Estate, 2018, http://gresb-public.s3.amazonaws.com/2018/Assessments-and-Reference-Guides/2018-GRESB-RE-Developer-Assessment.pdf.