The Aspen Institute
Roundtable on Comprehensive
Community Initiatives for
Children and Families

Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCIs) are neighborhood-based efforts that seek improved outcomes for individuals and families as well as improvements in neighborhood conditions by working comprehensively across social, economic and physical sectors. Additionally, CCIs operate on the principle that community building -- that is, strengthening institutional capacity at the neighborhood level, enhancing social capital and personal networks, and developing leadership -- is a necessary aspect of the process of transforming distressed neighborhoods.

The Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives is a forum in which persons involved with CCIs can meet to discuss challenges, discern lessons, and work on problems that are of common concern. It is Co-chaired by Harold A. Richman, the Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor of Social Welfare Policy and director of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, and Lisbeth B. Schorr, director of the Harvard Project on Effective Interventions and author of Within Our Reach: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage and Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America. The Roundtable was founded in 1992 under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1994 became a policy program of the Aspen Institute. The Roundtable currently has 33 members including foundation officers, program directors, experts in the field, and public officials. Two federal agencies and ten private foundations fund the activities of the Roundtable.

Roundtable members meet once or twice a year to discuss issues that are at the forefront of the CCI field and to help evolve the Roundtable staff’s work agenda. Meetings generally include both unstructured and structured discussions. In unstructured discussions, members provide updates to the group on their initiatives and new developments in the field. In structured discussions, outside experts, staff, or sub-committee working group members make formal presentations to the group on commissioned topics. Examples of the issues addressed in structured discussions have included:

While the mission of the Roundtable is wide in scope, the activities undertaken by staff reflect a focus on a smaller set of in-depth activities:
  • Voices from the Field: Learning from Comprehensive Community Initiatives
  • In 1995, the Roundtable sponsored 11 focus group discussions among various participants in CCIs, including foundation representatives, initiative directors and staff, evaluators, members of the governance structures of local initiatives, residents of the neighborhoods in which CCIs are taking place, and other experts and observers of the field. The aim was to elicit the experience and conclusions of actors in the field in order to produce an early analytical portrait of CCIs that could be of use to a number of audiences.

    The discussions became the basis of a report entitled, Voices from the Field: Learning from Comprehensive Community Initiatives. The report gives a portrait of CCIs and describes their goals, principles and operational strategies. It also presents the general lessons that are being learned in the field and the dilemmas and challenges that face the various actors involved in CCIs.

  • Steering Committee on Evaluation
  • In April 1994, the Evaluation Steering Committee of the Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives was created to help resolve the limitations of traditional evaluation methods for the need to learn from and assess the effectiveness of CCIs. The group’s objective is to bring together information from three perspectives in order to identify new approaches to the evaluation of CCIs: (a) on-the-ground experience designing, implementing and evaluating CCIs; (b) state-of-the-art social science research findings about pathways leading to individual, family and community success and the relationships among them; and (c) theories and methods from the field of evaluation.

    In 1995 the Roundtable published, the volume, New Approaches to Evaluating Comprehensive Community Initiatives: Concepts, Methods, and Contexts, edited by James Connell, Anne Kubisch, Lisbeth Schorr and Carol Weiss. The papers in this volume explore key dilemmas in the evaluation of CCIs. Collectively, the papers suggest that CCIs are difficult to evaluate for reasons that relate both to the design of the initiatives themselves and the state of evaluation methods and measures. They also suggest that work can be done on both fronts that will enhance the field’s ability to judge the effectiveness of CCIs and, ultimately, other social welfare interventions.

    New Approaches to Evaluating Community Initiatives: Volume 2: Theory, Measurement, and Analysis, edited by Karen Fulbright-Anderson, Anne C. Kubisch, and James P. Connell, was published by the Roundtable in 1998. The book offers a progress report on work accomplished in developing a theory of change approach to CCI evaluation. This volume presents reflections from the growing number of evaluation practitioners using this approach, bringing together the lessons learned from early attempts to apply the theory of change concepts in the field.

  • Internet-based Resources for Comprehensive Community Initiatives
  • The Roundtable has developed two Internet-based resources for CCIs. The first, Community Building Resource Exchange (, provides a forum for exchanging resources and information by providing links to a wide range of materials covering the theoretical bases and practical applications of comprehensive, community building approaches to neighborhood revitalization. The Roundtable’s own web site ( is designed to provide information about our current projects through on-line publications and working papers, as well as our catalogue of measurement instruments related to community research. This feature of the Roundtable site, called Measures for Community Research is one of the first resources of its kind, and will serve as a clearinghouse for the collection and distribution of instruments and other tools related to key community-level outcomes.
  • Race and Community Revitalization
  • During 1998, Roundtable members and staff began the work of developing a framework for a new project, Examining Comprehensive Community Revitalization through a Race/Ethnicity Lens. In July practitioners, policy experts, and academics attended a national seminar sponsored by the Roundtable to examine the intersection between structural racism and community revitalization, and to refine our conceptual framework for the project. A broad range of scholars were also convened to prepare critical literature reviews in 22 areas of political, civic, cultural, economic, and social life in America. These reviews, and the conceptual framework for the project, will be published as a volume later in 1999. For further information, contact:

    Anne C. Kubisch
    Karen Fulbright-Anderson

    Andrea Anderson, Research Associate
    Patricia Auspos, Research Associate
    Ivett Colon, Office Assistant
    Keith Lawrence, Research Associate
    Gretchen Susi, Research Assistant

    The Aspen Institute
    Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives
    281 Park Avenue South
    New York, NY 10010
    Tel: (212) 677-5510
    Fax: (212) 677-5650

    The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives
    Roundtable Members

    Harold Richman (Co-Chair)
    Faculty Associate
    Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor
    The University of Chicago

    Lisbeth B. Schorr (Co-Chair)
    Lecturer in Social Medicine
    Project on Effective Interventions at Harvard University

    Michael Bailin
    Edna McConnell Clark Foundation

    John Barros
    Executive Director
    Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiatives

    Douglas Besharov
    Resident Scholar
    American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

    Angela Blackwell
    President and CEO

    Barbara B. Blum
    Senior Fellow in Child and Family Policy
    National Center for Children in Poverty

    Alvertha Bratton Penny
    Program Officer
    William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

    Xavier de Souza Briggs
    Associate Professor
    Harvard University
    John F. Kennedy School of Government

    Paul Jellinek
    Vice President
    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

    Otis Johnson
    Savannah State University
    College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

    Anne C. Kubisch
    Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives
    The Aspen Institute

    Susan Lloyd
    Building Community Capacity
    John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Gayle McClure
    Vice President - Programs
    W.K. Kellogg Foundation

    Anita Miller
    Board Member
    Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program

    William A. Morrill
    Senior Fellow
    Caliber Associates

    Robert O'Neill, Jr.
    National Academy of Public Administration

    Terry Peterson
    Senior Fellow for Educational Policy & Partnership

    Ron Register

    Geoffrey Canada
    Executive Director
    Rheedlen Centers for Families and Children

    Gaetana D. Ebbole
    Executive Director
    Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County

    Peter Edelman
    Professor of Law
    Georgetown University Law Center

    Karen Fulbright-Anderson
    Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives
    The Aspen Institute

    Sid Gardner
    Children and Family Futures

    Jim Gibson
    Senior Policy Advisor/President Emeritus
    Center for the Study of Social Policy

    David Harris
    Director of Florida Philanthropy
    Community Initiative Program
    MacArthur Foundation

    David Hornbeck

    Craig Howard
    Vice President
    Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation

    Julius B. Richmond
    John D. MacArthur Professor of Health Policy, Emeritus
    Department of Social Medicine
    Harvard University

    Mark Ridley-Thomas
    City Councilman, Eighth District
    Los Angeles

    Charles Royer
    National Program Director
    Urban Health Initiative

    Ann Segal

    Ralph Smith
    Vice President
    Annie E. Casey Foundation

    Jeremy Travis
    Senior Fellow
    Urban Institute

    Gary Walker
    Pubic/Private Ventures

    Back to Roundtable Home Page.

    Copyright © 1999 by The Aspen Institute
    Comments, questions or suggestions? E-mail
    This page designed, hosted, and maintained by Change Communications.