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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

Lead Exposure in Seventy-Eight Percent of Children in Cuyahoga Universal Pre-K

Nov 4 2015

fischerIn an editorial to the Cleveland Plain Dealer on November 1, Poverty Center Co-Director Dr. Rob Fischer discussed the magnitude of the problems from lead exposure on young children. Fischer cited an unpublished 2015 report from the Poverty Center with Cuyahoga County Invest In Children that shows an alarming 78% of the 620 children enrolled in the county’s universal pre-kindergarten program tested positive for lead in their bloodstreams.

Though there has been increased media attention on lead prevention and improving the lives of children during their early, developmental years, Fischer worries that officials in cities such as Cleveland, East Cleveland, and other older communities are ignoring the dangers by continuing old policies that don’t work and failing to enforce existing laws.

Dr. Fischer was also recently interviewed by the Plain Dealer for another article on effects lead poisoning can have on children’s early education.

Read Dr. Fischer’s full editorial: “Cities must get the lead out of housing to keep children from being poisoned

Lead Poisoning Makes Education Harder

Nov 3 2015

blood-poisoning-01In the series “Toxic Neglect”, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has been running stories on the problems of lead poisoning on young children. Dr. Robert Fischer, co-director of the Poverty Center, was interviewed for “Lead poisoning makes education harder for kids and teachers” on October 22, 2015.

“When they arrive in preschool they’re significantly behind developmentally,” said Dr. Fischer about children who test positive for lead in their blood. “That continues even after exposure to high-quality preschool environments. We’re not saying that high-quality early care doesn’t work with lead-exposed children, just that they need more than we’re currently offering them.”

The article also discussed the June 2015 report from the Poverty Center and Cuyahoga County Invest In Children on the effects lead poisoning has on kids in the county’s pre-kindergarten programs. All the children with lead in their blood did worse on every evaluation than those without lead poisoning.  Also, those with higher lead levels did the worst. By the end of the year’s program, those with lead exposure were behind even the children who had never been tested were at the start of the year.

Though there are reports and evaluations showing the difficulties children with lead poisoning face in early education, the studies may not be having a big impact on the school district. Fischer noted that nothing is being tracked after kindergarten on how their learning may still be effected.

The Poverty Center has been examining the effects of lead poisoning and prevention for numerous years.  Read our 2013 evaluation on Invest In Children’s lead prevention project.

The map above is from the unpublished June report: The Association between Elevated Blood Lead and School Readiness among Children attending Universal Pre-Kindergarten in Cleveland.


Cuyahoga County Youth Count Initiative 2015

Aug 18 2015

In June, thirty community organizations spread out across Cuyahoga County to count the number of unaccompanied youth (without a parent or guardian) who are currently homeless or unstably housed. The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development worked with community partners to design the survey used to find out who these homeless youth are. Center staff then trained community workers in how to collect the data in a methodologically-sound and respectful way.

Read this brief report on the Youth Count. More detailed findings will be forthcoming.

The survey and resultant analysis were conducted by the following Center faculty and staff:

  • Dr. Elizabeth R. Anthony, senior research associate
  • Dr. Rob Fischer, co-director
  • Dr. Seok-Joo Kim, post-doctoral fellow
  • Yoonkyung Shin, Mandel School MSSA student research assistant
  • Marci Blue, research assistant