The TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE TOOL is designed to help optimize the impact of economic development investments on economic vitality, natural resource stewardship, and community well-being. Click below to get quick facts, or download this User's Guide to dig into details.
The Triple Bottom Line Tool (TBL Tool) is designed to serve investors, economic development professionals, and decision-makers in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. The TBL Tool has a number of potential applications. As a design tool, you can consider how to optimize your project impact. As a decision tool, you can winnow, compare, or rank projects. As a communication or reporting tool, you can describe how an investment aligns with priorities. As an educational tool, the documentation and case illustrations can build understanding about economic development processes and impacts. Whatever the application, the TBL Tool helps to ensure that investment impact is maximized.
The project is led by Dr. Janet Hammer from Portland State University, in collaboration with Maggie McCullough from PolicyMap, Dr. Gary Pivo from the University of Arizona, and Dr. Ira Goldstein from The Reinvestment Fund. Dr. Hammer has more than twenty years experience working in private, public, and non-profit settings to help create high performance communities, and currently serves as Director of Portland State University's Initiative on Triple Bottom Line Development. Ms. McCullough is the Director of PolicyMap, an award-winning on-line platform whose value is captured in their tag line – "Good Data, Smart Decisions." Dr. Goldstein has decades of experience analyzing neighborhood investment strategies and serves as President of Policy Solutions at The Reinvestment Fund – one of the country's oldest and most successful Community Development Financial Institutions. Dr. Pivo has an extensive record of research, consulting and public service, including developing industry-responsive triple bottom line metrics for the built environment and serving as Co-Director of the Responsible Property Investing Center.
Practitioners have provided input throughout the development process in order to ensure that the TBL Tool is relevant and user-friendly. This includes input from a survey of approximately 500 economic development professionals as well as focus groups with members of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). During key phases of the TBL Tool development, input was provided by a group of national advisors representing diversity of geography, area of expertise, and type of jurisdiction. You can learn more about our national advisors and input process in the TBL Tool User's Guide. We would like to express our gratitude to the hundreds of people who have provided input to the TBL Tool development.
The process for developing the TBL Tool has been rigorous, inclusive, transparent, and pragmatic. The TBL Tool is informed by community priorities, current research, leading edge practice, and practitioner input. This effort included the following:
Synthesizing these findings, we identified areas of convergence and defined performance areas and measures to support the triple bottom line goals of economic vitality, natural resource stewardship, and community well-being. Working with our national advisors and topic experts we then identified appropriate data sources to operationalize the measures. In developing measures, availability and quality of data was considered, as well as responsiveness to the unique features of particular communities and projects. Further, to ensure that the TBL Tool is relevant and user-friendly, there have been many points of feedback with end users including interviews, focus groups, a national survey of nearly 400 economic development professionals, and usability testing. Details about the TBL Tool development process and measures can be found in the TBL Tool User's Guide.
A list of project information that you will need to complete the Tool can be found here. When testing the TBL Tool you may not have all of the required information on hand – particularly if you represent an organization that would be requesting an applicant to complete the TBL Tool and submit their project's report and score as part of the review process. In these instances, for the purpose of testing the TBL Tool, you may estimate the response.
The TBL Tool considers how well a project seems to align with triple bottom line goals of economic vitality, natural resource stewardship, and community well-being. The TBL Tool uses a type of scoring called multi-criteria decision analysis – a procedure that allows items of interest that are measured in different ways to be considered together. For example, imagine you would like to select a product based on purchase price, maintenance costs, user interface, and environmental impact. Each of these criteria is measured in different ways: multi-criteria decision analysis provides a way to sum up these "apples and oranges."
The TBL Tool generates a score for each of the three triple bottom line goals: economic vitality, natural resource stewardship, and community well-being. Each goal is comprised of performance areas (outcomes that help us achieve our goal), and each performance area is comprised of measures (items that help deliver those outcomes). The score for a goal is computed by taking the average of its performance area scores, and each performance area score is computed by taking the average of its measure scores. Measures were selected based on their contribution to the concept of triple bottom line economic development and availability of data. Scores are based on a scale of 0 – 100, indicating the investment's degree of alignment or accomplishment.
In order to account for contextual issues such as differences in project type, size, location, and community characteristics a measure score may appear as NA, FYI or bonus: NA scores ensure that overall scores are not affected if data is unavailable or a measure is not relevant (e.g., affordable housing questions are not applied to a manufacturing facility); FYI scores present summary information that may be useful to reviewers but is not linked to project impact (e.g., leveraged dollars); bonus scores provide credit for specific areas of leadership. Detailed information about measures and scoring can be found in the TBL Tool User's Guide.
The TBL Tool generates a summary report that includes both the project information and the project scores. This is helpful both for confirming that information was accurately entered and for considering potential areas for improvement. The TBL Tool also generates a "Due Diligence" report that provides a list of items that have been identified as completed, due to be completed, or warranting further attention.
When reviewing a project summary report, it is important to keep in mind that the results provide a general indication of the strength of a project. The TBL Tool draws upon user input and national data sets that may have limitations that require interpretation and confirmation. As an aide to design, discussion, and decision-making, the TBL Tool may best be applied to identify strengths and weaknesses of a project and explore potential areas for improvement.
National advisors representing diversity of geography, expertise, and organizational size and type provided detailed input and review of the measures during development of the TBL Tool. The TBL Tool was pilot-tested to assess functionality (e.g., correct calculations, ease of navigation). The TBL Tool was publicly beta tested between August 2012 and May 2013. Feedback on the beta version of the TBL Tool was collected via a user-friendly on-line survey, as well as through more extensive testing and collaborative discussion with a group of testing partners that represent diverse geographies and organizational type (e.g., public, private, and non-profit investors at local, regional, state, and national levels). Upgrades based on beta test feedback will be released in late 2013. We are committed to continuous improvement of the tool, ensuring that it is both scientifically valid and responsive to user needs.
To score a project you will create an account by defining a user name and password. You will use this account to store information for all projects that you are scoring. Your work is saved as you proceed through the TBL Tool. Each time you click "Next," your work is recorded and can be accessed at a later time. In order to retrieve a previously generated report, simply proceed to the Calculate Your TBL section of the TBL Tool, select the project of interest from the pull-down menu on the Specify Location section of the navigation bar, and click Generate TBL or Access TBL Report. If you change the response for a project, that information will be saved and the project report and scores will recalibrate. To compare different versions of a project (answers and scores), you must create two separately named versions of the project. To score a project you will create an account by defining a user name and password. You will use this account to store information for all projects that you are scoring. Your work is saved as you proceed through the TBL Tool. Each time you click "Next," your work is recorded and can be accessed at a later time. In order to retrieve a previously generated report, simply proceed to the Calculate Your TBL section of the TBL Tool, select the project of interest from the pull-down menu on the Specify Location section of the navigation bar, and click Generate TBL or Access TBL Report. If you change the response for a project, that information will be saved and the project report and scores will recalibrate. To compare different versions of a project (answers and scores), you must create two separately named versions of the project. Version 1 will include a feature that allows you to compare versions without having to re-enter all of the project data.
You may need to upgrade your browser or download a free browser in order to have the optimal experience with the Tool. The TBL Tool works on current versions of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer 8 and above, but does not support Internet Explorer 6 or 7. Please contact your administrator to upgrade your version of Internet Explorer or download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome if you are running an unsupported browser.