David Henderson

David Henderson David Henderson is the founder of Idealistics Inc., a social enterprise that builds web-based technologies that help social sector organizations help people better. David writes about the social sector at Full Contact Philanthropy.

Posts by David Henderson

Lowering Standards is the Wrong way to Increase Outcomes

Posted Apr 19, 2012 | Comments Off on Lowering Standards is the Wrong way to Increase Outcomes

Measurements are often given meaning relative to thresholds. Someone is housed or unhoused, poor or not poor, by some definition. Yet these thresholds are arbitrary, and open to debate and manipulation. While one might think there would be agreement on what homeless means, especially since it is a word that almost defines itself, there is considerable argument over its definition with significant policy consequences.

As the social sector struggles to measure its impact and make the case that real progress is being made, the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) might have found the easiest and most fool proof way of increasing graduation rates; lower graduation standards. The LAUSD is facing a dropout crisis, and like many social sector organizations, whether government or non-profit, is feeling the pressure to improve outcomes based on a set of measurable indicators. For schools, a fairly important indicator is graduating students.

The Intersection of Public Policy and the Social Sector

Posted Mar 20, 2012 | Comments Off on The Intersection of Public Policy and the Social Sector

I took a trip to Washington DC last week and had the opportunity to meet with Kathryn Bayer, the author of the excellent Poverty and Policy blog. Kathryn’s focus is on, as the title of her site suggests, policy, whereas my focus is on direct service providers. The commonality between me, Kathryn, and anyone reading this site is poverty.

Our conversation centered on the relationship between social policies and service provision. On face the connection might not seem obvious. Direct service providers deal with people in need in their communities every day, whereas policy, particular federal policy, is crafted at a high level and often far away from the people it is designed to support.

Thank You Poverty Insights Readers

Posted Mar 8, 2012 | Comments Off on Thank You Poverty Insights Readers

The saying goes that all good things must come to an end. As poverty advocates, our hope is that the famous adage is equally true of social injustices like homelessness, hunger, and all forms of human suffering.

Poverty Insights was conceived as a forum for people who work in the social sector, experience poverty, and anyone else who cares about the well-being of those with the least amongst us to share ideas, stories, best practices, news, policies, and trends. We’ve built a great audience, drawing on the interests and talents of a most engaged and active readership.

Welfare Expenditures at Strip Clubs Underscore Rationality of the Poor

A new bill being floated in the US House of Representatives aims to abolish a loop-hole that allows cash-aid welfare recipients to use welfare benefits at strip clubs and casinos. As reported by Politico, the bill, introduced by Republican Representative Charles Boustany is intended to prevent the “fraudulent misuse of funds” in the government’s welfare program.

Sounds pretty serious. So how big of a problem is this?

Apparently, it’s not a big problem at all. In California, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger enforced an executive order prohibiting casinos from accepting welfare benefits as payment. His order was in response to this LA Times expose on the unintended use of benefits.

Weighing Racial Inequality and Poverty

Yesterday the country celebrated Martin Luther King Day. While Dr. King is well known for his efforts to combat racial inequality, his focus on poverty is less known, largely on account of his untimely death.

Shortly before his assassination, Dr. King turned his attention to highlighting endemic causes of poverty beyond racism, such as persistent unemployment and low-paying jobs that failed to pay living wages. He also noted that more whites lived in poverty and received public benefits than any other racial group, a historical fact that is still true today.

Evidence that Blogging Does Matter

Posted Jan 3, 2012 | Comments Off on Evidence that Blogging Does Matter

Last Friday I wrote a post questioning whether blogging, particularly my own writing, has any value in the social sector. I received a lot of great comments and examples of blogging leading to actual social change. I’ll first share some of those comments and then further clarify my own thinking and evolving position on this topic.

Carey Fuller shared some of her blogging successes, writing “If it hadn’t been for blogging, I wouldn’t have been able to raise funds to put a homeless vet dying of pancreatic cancer into a motel or collect camping gear for homeless youth to survive through winter.”

Does Blogging Matter in the Social Sector?

Posted Dec 30, 2011 | Comments Off on Does Blogging Matter in the Social Sector?

Professionally I do two things; I help organizations make high impact data-oriented decisions, and I write. As 2011 draws to a close, I reflect on another year helping a lot of great organizations increase their social impact, and a pile of blog posts that I hope help advance the social sector toward lasting change.

Obviously I believe writing, and the exchange of ideas that comes with it, is important to the growth of our sector and advancement of solutions. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t write anything. But as someone who prefers evidence to anecdotes, facts to feelings, I’m at a loss for much evidence that blogging (at least my blogging) helps move the needle even a little bit.

Is Building Affordable Housing Always the Answer to Homelessness?

In my heart, I’m a Californian, but for the last year and a half I’ve been living in Pittsburgh attending graduate school. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where housing is scarce, then moved down to Los Angeles for nine years, the homeless capital of the country, before moving out east.

Homeless advocates have long argued that the answer to ending homelessness is straight forward, build more affordable housing. I too subscribed to this dogma before moving to Pittsburgh, where the last thing any neighborhood needs is more housing development.

Supplemental Poverty Measure Offers Valuable Insight for Poverty Advocates

Posted Nov 14, 2011 | Comments Off on Supplemental Poverty Measure Offers Valuable Insight for Poverty Advocates

For years, academics and government statisticians have been developing and testing alternative poverty measures. Indeed, the individual responsible for developing our current poverty measure has long called for a more modern approach.

Recently, the US Census Bureau published a recalculated poverty rate for 2010, using an alternative method called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM considers more than just food costs in its calculation, including the cost of clothing, shelter, and utilities as well as adjusting for regional differences in the cost of living. Additionally, while the current poverty measure only considers gross, untaxed income, the SPM accounts for taxes paid, and also credits individuals and families with income supplements like cash-aid welfare and food stamps.

Profile of those Living in Poor Areas Changing

Posted Nov 4, 2011 | Comments Off on Profile of those Living in Poor Areas Changing

A new report by the Brookings Institute examines the profile of those living in extremely poor areas. The authors of the report define extreme poverty areas as neighborhoods with poverty rates greater than or equal to 40%.

Using 2000 US Census data and the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, the report estimates that the total number of people living in extremely poor neighborhoods rose by 33% in the last decade. While the number of people living in poor areas has spiked after falling throughout the 1990s, the profile of those living in impoverished neighborhoods seems to be shifting.