Helping cities address pressing challenges, promote bold and informed leadership, and empower citizens

Abt Associates brings a diverse array of skilled professionals that can use rigorous evaluation to understand the impact of the American Cities Initiative. The findings and recommendations that result from such an evaluation can help Bloomberg Philanthropies strengthen its efforts and demonstrate its impact by focusing on the most promising investments.

Research-Focused. Evidence-Based. Data-Driven.

The RED thread is at the heart of our mission and the work we do.

Abt understands that Bloomberg Philanthropies will need answers to key questions to document the results of the American Cities Initiative. A hallmark of our evaluation work is that it is client-centered, focusing on addressing the specific needs of each client and each initiative. Successful implementation of the American Cities Initiative will require buy-in, planning, coordination, and mindset and systems change. Our experts can design an evaluation to provide both rigorous evidence of impact and actionable information to guide continuous improvement.

Potential Evaluation Questions

  • What critical policy changes occurred and what facilitated the changes?
  • What new ideas and approaches emerged?
  • How are citizens engaged in problem solving?
  • To what extent do citizens believe that the problem is being addressed?
  • How has the initiative affected community discourse and personal and social interactions?
  • To what extent do policies and approaches spread to other cities?
  • To what extent do cities meet their goals?
  • To what extent are policy changes sustained and expanded on over time?


Potential Evaluation Activities

  • Comparing policy changes in 35 champion cities to those not engaged in the initiative
  • Surveying citizens (before, during, and after) about their perceptions of city problem solving, legislation and policy changes, municipal discourse, and personal and social connections
  • Interviewing city officials and partners about leadership innovations, partnerships and collaborations, city government systems-change, and the sustainability of processes and progress over time
  • Compiling a database on similar policies and legislation passed in other cities
  • Helping cities develop metrics and track progress over time
  • Developing and managing a system for cities to report on common metrics to the Foundation
  • Analyzing the qualitative and quantitative data collected using innovative methods

Abt has broad experience designing and implementing projects aimed at improving the quality of life in cities.

Evaluating Community Development and Local Stakeholder Engagement Initiatives

Abt Key Market: Housing and Communities

Measuring the Impact of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)

Client: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The national foreclosure crisis caused significant stress within communities across the United States. Individuals, businesses, and lending institutions are struggling to regain their financial footing, while neighborhoods where foreclosures are concentrated face declining housing values and instability. Abt conducted a three-year study of HUD’s $1.9 billion NSP initiative to assess the effectiveness of implementation activities to shape the direction of community development efforts in the years to come. Through qualitative interviews, site visits to neighborhoods with concentrated foreclosures, and impact analysis of NSP activities, Abt’s findings have contributed to improvements in longer-term neighborhood revitalization strategies.

Chronic Homelessness Initiative

Client: Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

Through this five-year evaluation, Abt is supporting the Foundation in assessing progress in meeting objectives that include far-reaching changes to the structure and capacity of the system for addressing chronic homelessness in Los Angeles, as well as targets for the development of permanent supportive housing (PSH) and its use by chronically homeless individuals. Abt is conducting a formative evaluation and learning process to inform the Initiative and guide improvements to the six-primary goals established by the Foundation. Our findings have shown significant progress with the Initiative including the distribution of more than $42.3 million in multi-year grants to 21 nonprofit groups in LA. These grants have contributed to the placement of 2,367 chronically homeless individuals in PSH, more than double the original placement goals of 1,000.

Using Science and Evaluation to Improve Community Health

Abt Key Market: Health

New York City Health Bucks Initiative

Client: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The NYC Health Bucks Initiative is an innovative financial incentive program in three high-need, underserved New York City neighborhoods: South Bronx, North and Central Brooklyn, and East and Central Harlem. This program provides $2 “Health Bucks” to targeted neighborhood residents for the purchase of locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmers’ markets. Abt conducted an outcome evaluation, employing a quasi-experimental difference-of-differences analysis of program effects on fresh fruit and vegetable consumption and access. Abt also conducted focus groups, key informant interviews, and surveys to assess barriers and facilitators to implementation based on data collected from program administrators, farmers’ market managers and vendors, and local community organizations. We concluded that farmers’ market incentive coupon programs are one important component of public health strategies to combat obesity, associated with higher fruit and vegetable access and purchases in low-income communities.

Nationwide Epidemiological Study of Controlled Drug Prescribing and of Diversion for Non-Medical Use

Funder: National Institutes of Health—National Institute on Drug Abuse

Abuse of prescription opioids—commonly known as painkillers—is linked to rising numbers of overdose deaths and admissions to emergency departments and treatment facilities.  In the absence of adequate patient information systems, individuals can go “doctor shopping” or filling multiple prescriptions from different doctors to get excessive quantities of drugs for their own use and abuse as well as for selling to others. Using records for more than 146 million opioid prescriptions dispensed by retail pharmacies across the U.S., Abt found widespread geographic differences in opioid prescribing rates, estimated the prevalence of diversion by doctor shopping at national, state, and county levels, and identified the characteristics of counties and their populations associated with high rates of opioid use and, separately, of diversion. Under a separate contract with CDC, Abt evaluated the effectiveness of scanning prescription data to flag purchasing patterns indicative of possible doctor shopping and then alerting physicians and pharmacists about these patients.

Sharing Information on Local Initiatives Aimed at Combating Prostitution

Client: National Institute of Justice

There are tens of thousands of victims of sexual exploitation nationwide. Criminal justice interventions and collaborative programs have emerged that focus on reducing demand for commercial sex with an ultimate goal of reducing prostitution and human trafficking. Abt conducted a nationwide assessment of sex trafficking demand-reduction efforts from over 1,000 cities. The study was designed to develop a descriptive overview of anti-demand tactics employed throughout the U.S. and to provide practitioners with actionable information. The review found that numerous demand-reduction tactics can be supported by providing practitioners with training and technical assistance, generating peer networks, and offering support through conferencing and web-based solutions. As a result, Abt launched—a comprehensive online resource aimed at preventing prostitution by stopping men from buying sex. The website offers a forum for sharing best practices, lessons learned and how to start, improve, and sustain similar initiatives.

Understanding the Effect of Environment and Climate on Cities

Abt Key Market: Environment and Climate

Assessment of Community-Based Adaptation in the United States

Client: The Kresge Foundation

Abt is assisting the Foundation by conducting a critical assessment of community-based adaptation in 17 U.S. cities. This assessment will contribute to understanding of what cities are doing to adapt to climate change, what adaptation strategies have proven to be effective, and what the implications of these findings are for the field of climate adaptation. Abt has engaged in systematic and multi-method analysis of activities. The analysis is designed to distill lessons learned about motivations, enabling conditions, stakeholder dynamics, and other factors that shape community-based adaptation efforts. From more than 50 interviews with thought leaders on adaptation, including site visits and interviews with community stakeholders across the 17 communities, Abt developed case studies that highlight the specific actions taken by each city to reduce its vulnerability to climate variability and change.

Modeling the Effects of Temperature Change on Mortality Rates

Client: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Abt provides analytical support to EPA’s Climate Change Impacts and Risks Analysis (CIRA) Project, focused on estimating the impacts of climate change on human health and welfare in 209 U.S. cities. This project involves developing and applying a multi-model framework to evaluate climate impacts across multiple sectors using consistent inputs, such as socioeconomic and climate scenarios. Abt has expanded its focus to include evaluating the morbidity impacts of temperature, new cases of vector-borne diseases, and extreme weather events beyond temperature extremes. Abt staff were deeply involved in the analyses that formed the basis of a major EPA report, Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action, which shows that global action on climate change will significantly benefit Americans by saving lives and avoiding costs damages across the U.S. economy.

Contact Us

Our in-house experts include: qualitative and quantitative analysts, economists, survey methodologists, health researchers, business strategists, policy analysts, statisticians, software engineers, communications specialists, and information technology specialists.

Meryl Finkel
Housing and Communities Expert
(617) 349-2380

Frank Divita
Environment & Climate Expert
(301) 347-5860

Evaluation of American Cities Initiative

Abt Associates is an engine for social impact, harnessing the power of data and grounded insight to bring people from vulnerability to security worldwide.  We think boldly to deliver solutions that cross disciplines, methods, and geographies. Abt provides impact through research, evaluation, and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development.