Small Business Administration brief

Date: January 1, 2010

Highlights of Evaluation Methods

• Key program outcomes, including small business revenue, employment, and payroll growth for each cluster, are benchmarked against similar businesses in the same industry and region.

• Provides a synthetic control group to account for economy-wide, regional, and industry-specific trends and shocks.

• Relies on Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dunn & Bradstreet, and U.S. Census data.

Multimodal Surveys

• Surveys are developed for both Web and interactive PDF smartform deployment.

• Controls data collection costs (majority of data collected via the Web), yet also enables clusters to collect data from participants during regularly occurring interactions (e.g., phone, at events).

• Enhances response rate by accommodating participant preferences and circumventing inaccurate e-mail addresses.

Network Analysis

• Clusters’ structure is mapped using network analysis, based on strength of relationships and frequency of interactions.

• Allows for a visual representation of the complex “shape” and composition of clusters, complementing statistical analysis and qualitative data.

• Enables the tracking of each cluster’s evolving “shape” and composition over the duration of the initiatives to infer sustainability.

About the Small Business Administration Cluster Contracts


Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), has been contracted by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to monitor and evaluate the Regional Innovation Cluster Initiative, which launched in 2010. Optimal has developed survey instruments designed to collect information from the SBA-funded clusters, their small businesses, and large organizations. The surveys are administered via the web and are complemented with interactive PDF surveys towards the end of the data collection period. The surveys collects information on reasons for participation in clusters, satisfaction with cluster services, revenue, employment, progress towards commercialization, and other key outcomes of the program. Optimal also interacts and coordinates with various cluster stakeholders and works systematically to gain an understanding of the assets, features, and barriers of each cluster’s industry of focus. You can find a recent report here:

In 2014, SBA contracted with Optimal to expand its data collection and analysis efforts to six of the agency’s programs and initiatives, including the Women’s Business Center, SCORE and Small Business Development Center programs, and the Emerging Leaders, ScaleUp, and Regional Innovation Cluster initiatives.