Data-driven decision-making is a hallmark of strong leadership and organizational management. It helps us look beyond here and now as we strive not to let urgent concerns undermine strategic direction. For instance, 74% of recent IDA survey respondents reported addressing homelessness, including expanding access to mental health and substance abuse services, as a top priority for ensuring the recovery of our downtowns and commercial districts. This has become a more urgent issue; however, we know it takes a comprehensive approach with integrated partners having clear roles and responsibilities to address the challenge over time.
It takes data to define the challenge clearly, understand the forces at play, and determine how an organization can constructively contribute. IDA recently found that 17% of our member districts deploy staff for social services and outreach in addition to well-trained ambassador teams. This benchmarking data depicts a role for place management to play and that almost one of every five members is dedicating staff resources to new specialty positions.
IDA began deep investment in our research initiatives starting in 2015, and today I invite you to join our efforts. The Value of U.S. Downtowns and Center Cities call for interest is open now for a select number of districts needing to measure their value.
Participating districts will become one of 50 locations now able to tell their story. We invite districts in Canada to pilot The Value of Canadian Downtowns and Centre Cities. All participating districts will be added to the IDA Vitality Index, powered by Stantec and have access to comparisons to other downtowns in this study. I cannot imagine a more reliable and effective way to measure and communicate the value of your district while informing the future through enhanced data-driven decision-making.