Cynthia Cunningham

Cynthia started as a neighborhood planner for the City of Indianapolis in 1989, and nearly every role she’s held since them has been oriented around social justice and social change initiatives. In diverse roles working for the City of Indianapolis, The Polis Center, and the Indiana State Department of Health, Cynthia has worked to measure the impact of services to populations which historically have been under-served.

Cynthia is experienced in formative and summative evaluation models and techniques, and in using the resulting data to develop effective service interventions. When she joined Community Solutions in 2015, Cynthia knew she’d found a place where her talents and her values could work in concert. “Pretty much everything Community Solutions takes on has a social justice aspect to it,” Cynthia says, “and that’s what’s always motivated me most in my work.” That work has led to her relationships with a vast and varied list of local and national organizations, including: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Urban Institute, United Way of Central Indiana, Central Indiana Community Foundation, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, and the Indianapolis-based Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), among others

Cynthia graduated from Indiana University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She is a member of the American Evaluation Association and has been an Adult Volunteer for Girl Scouts of Hoosier Capitol. Cynthia is a published author of several scholarly articles and is a well-regarded speaker on the use of information systems to improve outcomes for families, neighborhoods, and communities. She has previously served as a Board member of the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning: Indianapolis Center, a member of the Executive Committee of the Urban Institute National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, and a member of the American Planning Association and American Planning Association Speakers Bureau.

Why are you passionate about what you do at CSI?

Many organizations need outside perspective to help them identify how they can be better at what they do. I enjoy CSI because whether we are assisting with grant writing, strategic planning, or evaluation we are doing it with the intent of helping our clients better serve people. We challenge them to consider how they serve everyone, not just those that are easiest. Throughout my career the work I do has been with a social justice lens.  


What inspires you?

The social movements of the past, the civil rights movement, the disabilities movement, women’s rights movement, anti-war movements, Black lives matter, etc. I am inspired by people who put themselves out to create change. My personal hero is John Lewis.  


If you could offer advice to a younger version of yourself, what would you say?

Be braver. Get more involved. I have and always will be a person who works behind the scenes to advocate for change. I wish I would have had the gumption to step out and be on the front lines of change.