Spokane Community Indicators e-Newsletter

5-QUESTIONS WITH: SHELLY O'QUINN - CEO, INNOVIA FOUNDATION

Shelly O'Quinn Photo

Q: Your organization has recently gone through a name change. Has the strategic direction of the foundation changed as well?
A: The name change to Innovia – or 'innovative way' reflects a new emphasis on driving community transformation. Our goal is to serve as a catalyst for change in the region in the following way. First, we aim to better understand the needs of the constituents that nonprofits are serving. Second, we want to build strong relationships between donors and nonprofits, so philanthropy can engage effectively in the community. Finally, we intend to support nonprofits in outcomes assessment and performance improvement to demonstrate the impact of grant dollars in the community.

Q: To what degree do socio-economic data inform the funding decisions of Innovia? Can you tell us how?
A: Innovia Foundation covers a 20-county region with over a million residents located throughout Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Economic circumstances across this region vary widely – county-level unemployment ranges between 3% and 11% and the poverty rate falls between 12% and 26%. As a community foundation, we need to communicate with local partners and monitor data on socio-economic disparities, so we can take an active and informed role in addressing urgent challenges in our region. We have a new research department at Innovia Foundation and leveraging data for strategic grantmaking and needs assessment will be a priority for the foundation going forward.

Q: You've been at the helm of the foundation for about a year. Do you know whether your staff or members of the funding committees have used Spokane Community Indicators to help decide which proposals to fund?

A: The foundation was an early supporter and funder of the Spokane Community Indicators project. We appreciate having a comprehensive and central location for county-level indicators across a range of topic areas. We rely on consistent and reliable local data so our grants committee can understand the unique needs in each area. The Spokane Community Indicators and related sites in five additional counties served by Innovia Foundation provide valuable resources for data-driven decision making.

Q: You are a long-time Spokane resident, parent and non-profit executive. As you peruse the Indicators, are there any trends that jump out at you?
A: Two trends stand out. The growth in total population and rise in residential net migration show that Spokane is an attractive place to live and work. The net influx in residents means that all partners – private and public sectors as well as community groups – must be prepared to meet the challenges of growth. One of these challenges involves education and youth development. It is particularly troubling that a third of county 8th and 10th graders report feeling sad or hopeless. Connecting youth to community opportunities and promoting developmental assets is a priority of the foundation and an area where more work is needed.

Q: Not only a long-term resident, you are a former county commissioner and a Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) executive. In the years you spent in those roles, what are your observations about the public sector reaching for data as part of their decision-making process?
A: Based on my time in these roles, it is clear that data can be used and misused. But this isn't a revelation, I think we all should simultaneously have a skepticism and appreciation for what data can bring to the decision-making process. I was recently introduced to the CART principle – that data should be Credible, Actionable, Responsible, and Transportable. I think these guidelines provide a good framework for assessing the value in data. I am appreciative that the indicator sites provide a trusted clearinghouse for county-level data trends.