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Robert L. Fischer, PhD

Research Professor

PhD, Vanderbilt University
MPP, Vanderbilt University
AB, Duke University

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Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel
School of Applied Social Sciences
Case Western Reserve University
10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-7164


Robert L. Fischer is a Research Professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences of Case Western Reserve University. He is also Co-Director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at MSASS, and leads the Center’s efforts in regard to evaluation research. Dr. Fischer leads a range of evaluation research studies and teaches evaluation methods to students in social science administration and nonprofit management. Since 2001 he has led the Center’s research on Invest in Children, a county-wide early childhood initiative that includes home visiting, children’s health, and childcare components.Dr. Fischer is also faculty director of the Masters of Nonprofit Organizations (MNO) degree program at MSASS.
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Course List

MAND 410 Quantitative Analysis for Nonprofit LeadersMAND 422 Organizational Assessment & Program Evaluation in Nonprofit OrganizationsMAND 444 Program Design for Nonprofit Organizations


Co-Director, Center on Urban Poverty & Community Development —
Program Faculty, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations —
Board President, Ohio Program Evaluators’ Group —
Faculty Associate, Schubert Center for Child Studies —

The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development

mandel center webRobert L. Fischer, Ph.D is Co-Director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development.The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development seeks to address the problems of persistent and concentrated urban poverty and is dedicated to understanding how social and economic changes affect low-income communities and their residents. Based in Cleveland, the Center views the city as both a tool for building communities and producing change locally, and as a representative urban center from which nationally-relevant research and policy implications can be drawn.. | Read More |

Recent Publications

Collins, C. C., Fischer, R. L., & Lalich, N. (in press). Enhancing child care for children with special needs through technical assistance. The Journal of Family Strengths. Accepted December 2013.

Small, M., Fischer, R. L., Berner, L., & Cooper-Lewter, S. (2014). Support for Sister-affiliated ministries during challenging times: Understanding a foundation initiative in two regions. Foundation Review, 5(4), 14-25.

Chaidez-Gutierrez, F., & Fischer, R. L. (2013). Reflecting on grantee accountability to funders: Exploring power dynamics with grassroots organizations in communities of color. Journal of Community Practice, 21. 304-326.

Roudebush, M. M., Fischer, R. L., & Brudney, J. L. (2013). Adding assets to needs:  Creating a community data landscape. Journal for Nonprofit Management, 15(2), 5-18.

Chelimsky, T. C, Fischer, R. L., Levin, J., Cheren, M., Marsh, S., & Janata, J. (2013). The Primary Practice Physician Program for Chronic Pain (4PCP): Outcomes of a model for community-based training and support. Clinical Journal of Pain. Publication ahead of print at The Clinical Journal of Pain.

Fischer, R. L., Peterson, L., Bhatta, T. R., & Coulton, C. (2013). Getting ready for school: Piloting universal pre-kindergarten in an urban county. Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk, 18(2), 128-140.

Fischer, R. L., & Murphy, M. A, (2013). The harvest of ministry: Exploring the ministry of women religious in Cleveland. Journal of Religion and Society, 15,1-15.

Recent Presentations

Fischer, R. L., Brudney, J., & Roudebush, M. (2013). Expectations and experience:  The adoption and use of community data systems. Annual Conference of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. Hartford, CT. November.

Foreman, K., Fischer, R., Greenberg, S., & Berges, M. (2013) Deep Green and Healthy Homes- Occupant Interview Study: The role of occupant behavior in achieving energy reductions and improved indoor air quality in affordable housing. Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Cleveland, OH. November.

Fischer, R. L. (2013). Upfront evaluation planning. Swanston Fund Innovations Conference. Youngstown, OH. November.

Fischer, R. L., & Coulton, C. (2013). Using integrated data to assess and monitor a community initiative on child well-being. American Evaluation Association Annual Conference. Washington, DC. October.

Fischer, R. L., Coulton, C., & Kim, S. J. (2013). How partnerships with higher education help your state agency use early childhood data for decision-making. Invited presentation. Improving Data, Improving Outcomes conference. Washington, DC. September.

Fischer, R. L., & Staib, R. O. (2013). Addressing early childhood mental health needs: Outcomes from Cuyahoga County. Cuyahoga County Conference on Social Welfare. Cleveland, OH. March.

Dorman, R., & Fischer, R. L. (2013). Invest in Children: A community update. Philanthropy Ohio. Cleveland, OH. March.

Fischer, R. L. (2013). Using socio-economic data to inform health policy and practice. Invited talk. Center for Health Care Research & Policy, MetroHealth Medical Center. February.

Dorman, R., & Fischer, R. L. (2013). Early childhood services and Invest in Children. Pediatric Grand Rounds, Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Cleveland, OH. January.

In the News

Rob Fischer Tells the Atlantic How a House Can Shape a Child’s Future

Jul 6 2016

“There needs to be much more on the quality of housing and moving up toward better housing opportunities.”

The Atlantic interviewed Dr. Rob Fischer, co-director of the Poverty Center, for “How a House Can Shape a Child’s Future” on the Center’s recent study on the effects housing conditions have on academic performance. The report, Leveraging Integrated Data Systems to Examine the Effect of Housing and Neighborhood Conditions on Kindergarten Readiness – co-authored by Fischer with Claudia Coulton, Francisca Richter, Seok Joo Kim,  and Youngmin Cho – compared literacy scores of thousands of Cleveland kindergartners with assessments on their housing. Findings showed a relationship between the amount of time children lived in tax delinquent, foreclosed, and speculator owned housing with kindergarten readiness.

Fischer told The Atlantic he believes the data indicates a need for public policy to look beyond only ending family homelessness and also examine housing conditions. “The discussion also needs to include getting people into better housing, instead of just being satisfied that they have an address.”

housing IDS lead KRA-L report coverAtlantic applauded the scope of the the Poverty Center study which tracked all children entering kindergarten in the city’s public schools. However, Fischer pointed out that obtaining data from Cleveland’s private and charter schools as well as scores from tests beyond literacy would improve understanding the relationship between housing conditions and academic readiness.

One of the worst conditions arising from bad housing can be exposure to lead paint as about 40 percent of Cleveland kindergartners have tested positive for lead poisoning sometime in their lives. Dr. Fischer believes the easiest action cities can take to improve the lives of these children is to limit their exposure to housing with lead paint. Other studies conducted by the Poverty Center and other agencies have repeatedly shown the damage lead poisoning can have the brain development of children. “Together, it is devastating to see their effects,” Fischer said on the serious disadvantages the combination of lead poisoning and bad housing will give in a child’s early life which can continue to create problems further down the road.

Download the Poverty Center’s full report and Briefly Stated on the effects of poor housing. Also read the Center’s latest news on the effects of lead poisoning and early childhood education.

Rob Fischer on Using Data to Build in Oxford Community Development Journal

Jun 3 2016

Community Development Journal 50 coverThe latest edition of the Community Development Journal from Oxford University Press features the article “Using data to build community: exploring one model of geographically specific data use in the non-profit sector” co-authored by Dr. Rob Fischer, co-director of the Poverty Center, with Dr. Jeffrey L. Brudney and Allison Russell.

The article discusses the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to incorporate data assembled by non-profit organizations to help build communities. Additional findings show that while non-profits implement GIS to foster collaboration with other organizations, realizing and sustaining this outcome can continue to be a challenge.

Read the article abstract here; registered users and partner organizations can view the full article here.

(Jeffrey L. Brudney is the Betty and Dan Cameron Family Distinguished Professor of Innovation in the Non-profit Sector at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Editor in Chief of Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Allison Russell is a doctoral student in social welfare at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice.)

Rob Fischer on Why Murders Happen to NOLA’s Times-Picayune

May 12 2016

fischer“The motivation to kill is both born out of desperation and opportunity,” explained Dr. Robert Fischer, Poverty Center co-director, to the Times-Picayune in “Why does New Orleans have more murders than similar cities? Experts search for answers” on May 11.

The article explores why New Orleans has a higher murder rate than cities of similar population and poverty level.  For example, the population of Cleveland is larger and suffers from a slightly higher poverty rate but experiences fewer murders with a murder rate almost a third less than New Orleans in 2015.

Dr. Fischer believes that a connection between poverty and crime has been proven over time due to desperation and opportunity. “I think poverty drives both of those in a way because desperation makes you more likely to take risks and envision opportunity through a criminal act like homicide,” he said.