A review aims to find out if anti-violence money is doing its job in Philadelphia

Philadelphia police car

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

An effort is underway to evaluate the anti-violence initiatives in Philadelphia, to make sure the funding is getting to those most at risk.

Leon Andrews of Equal Measure said the group partners with nonprofits and government organizations to apply new ways of thinking and learning to advance social change. The effort will review the almost three dozen groups receiving money from the city to reduce gun violence.

“The aim of our evaluation is to help the city understand which anti-violence community partnerships, grant-funded programs, and interventions are effectively reaching individuals who are highly at risk for engaging in gun violence and advancing the city’s efforts to reduce gun violence,” Andrews said.

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He believes the evaluation will take a multifaceted approach to the issue of whether the money is being property spent.

“Our collective work in this 14-month partnership will focus on two work streams: a comprehensive evaluation of 31 grantees and an assessment that examines the administrative processes for the evaluation. We will address critical questions, such as: Is the funded program reaching its intended audience? What are the outcomes of the funded programs that are aligned with the goals? Which organizations and programs have the greatest potential to impact gun violence, and how can Black- and brown-led programs be best supported to serve Black and brown communities most effectively?

Samantha Matlin of the Scattergood Foundation said it has been doing capacity building around evaluation and impact for the past decade.

“We think it’s really critical to meet organizations and communities where they are, to build off the good work that they’re doing to strengthen it,” Matlin said. “So our role in this initiative will be that it will be working directly with the organizations to see where they’re at and help them augment and increase their impact. We recognize that all nonprofits and our great region work really hard, and our job is to help make sure that we understand what we are doing as an organization, how well we’re doing it, and what difference it makes. And really importantly, what difference does it make for a home?”

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Matlin said that there is no way to “program our way out of the issue” of gun violence.

“We have to have effective programs, but we also have to have effective policies and practices that go beyond what a nonprofit can do. And that’s why we’re so excited that this partnership includes, of course, the city and includes criminal justice and policy work, because all of us are going to need to be part of this to make an impact. So we’ll be working directly with these organizations, will be doing group learning and trainings, as well as individual consultation and coaching.”

Andrews said his Philadelphia-based group is happy to take on the evaluation challenge.

“We are honored to have this opportunity to work with the city and the community to prevent and reduce violence and to help dismantle the drivers of violence such as structural racism, disproportionate contact with the justice system, incarceration, unemployment and poverty,” Andrews said.

“Our evaluation team brings a depth and breadth of experience in mixed methods, research, and public policy change in community gun violence prevention and public safety, all with a focus on making communities stronger, healthier and more equitable,” he added.

The goal of the one year-plus effort, said Andrews, is to “develop evaluation reports on all the individual groups that can be shared with them, and then an overall review that can be made public.”

There already have been more than 30 homicides in Philadelphia this year, a 19% increase over 2021, during which a record 550 homicides occurred in the city.

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