- A Place to Start
- Evaluation in Action
- Social Impact Indicators
This 5-page article on Action Evaluation from the Beyond Intractability website provides a knowledge base and tools regarding social conflict resolution and community reconciliation. This article assists participants, funders, and facilitators in reaching consensus about what they seek to accomplish (people's goals), why (their values and beliefs), and how (suggested account strategies). The article addresses the process in three stages: establishing the baseline, formative monitoring, and summative evaluation. Part of a series of linked "Knowledge-based Essays," this piece is one of many on the Beyond Intractability site about conflict resolution, including negotiation and mediation. It is more of a series of essays that guide thinking than actual methods. It is not clear where the computer-based component of it resides, though the project itself is based at the University of Colorado.
Action Evaluation (AE) is an innovative method that uses social and computer technology to define, promote, and assess success in complex social interventions. Founders of this form of evaluation asked with increasing urgency, "Does conflict resolution really work? How can we know? What does 'work' mean, who defines it, and how?" And most important, "How can our search for answers about success increase our chances of achieving it?” Traditional forms of evaluation stand apart from the projects that they evaluate and illuminate gaps between initial program goals and actual outcomes. Action Evaluation joins a project by helping participants define and then formatively redefine success, to forge effective action and make success a self-fulfilling prophecy. Too often, the criteria of success are imposed upon a conflict-resolution initiative from the outside, without seeking meaningful and sustained input of the various groups involved in the conflict or intervention. Action Evaluation gathers and organizes input and ownership by those involved, by assisting them to create their own criteria for success. Thus, by defining and seeking success in a continuous, integrative way, AE is both an evaluation and an intervention tool. [Adapted from the Beyond Intractability website.] Part of the site deals with the controversial idea of "intractable conflicts," or those that elude resolution, such as abortion and the Israeli-Palestine problem, etc.
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This piece sheds light on the philanthropic sector’s efforts to improve measurement and evaluation (M&E), specifically within the context of foundations involved in social change work. The broad observations of the six contributing authors are that purpose; cost-benefit ratio; culture, context and capacity; unit of analysis; timing; feedback; and transparency matter to measurement and evaluation.
Luis A. Ubinas, president of the Ford Foundation, discusses how an organization’s results-focused climate is established and can be used to “define, promote and reinforce a commitment to results” (p. 4). The Ford Foundation’s results-focused culture and guiding principles are guided by long-term investments based on social justice principles.
The Omidyar Network (ON), a philanthropic investment firm created by the founder of eBay, uses the output metrics of reach and engagement. “Reach is a measurement of how many individuals are touched by a product or service. Engagement is a measure of the depth of that interaction” (p. 9). Flexibility, feedback, and collaboration contribute to ON’s success with investees.
Judith Rodin and Nancy MacPherson of the Rockefeller Foundation, discuss their organization’s approach to rethinking evaluation in the context of developing countries. The authors point to five steps that social impact agencies should take: 1) broaden the inclusion of stakeholders in evaluation; 2) regard evaluative knowledge as a public good and share it widely; 3) address evaluation asymmetries; 4) broaden the objectives of evaluation beyond the individual grant; and 5) invest in the innovation of new methods. The Rockefeller Foundation uses its “Shared Results Framework” to develop a “common vision of the results and impact that they seek to achieve collectively” (p. 14).
The Performance Assessment Framework, created by the Irvine Foundation, is used to evaluate performance based on six questions that relate to context, progress towards goals, knowledge, leadership in the field, stakeholder perceptions, and organizational health and effectiveness. Because the framework is organized around topical questions, rather than individual programs, the foundation has been able to approach evaluation with a holistic vision. The Irvine Foundation offers three lessons to performance assessment: traditional philanthropy structures can conflict with a commitment to assessment; assessment requires a culture of reflection and learning that can lead to ongoing program refinement; and assessment requires buy-in and engagement from stakeholders at all levels.
Paul Brest, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, authors the fifth article. He discusses the importance of identifying outcomes in understanding impact.
The Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation seeks to maximize the impact of social-sector leaders in contributing to the good society at home and abroad. It hosts the Aspen Philanthropy Group, an agenda-setting body of foundation leaders at the cutting edge of change, and it spurs dialogue among leaders from the private, public, and social sectors in working groups on specific issues of concern.
Systems, policies, places (legislation, issue/problem resolution)
Based on several years of field research in communities around the U.S., this six-page brief presents an insightful framework for better capturing and measuring arts, culture, and creative expression at the neighborhood level. Based on Urban Institute's in-depth work in this area over many years, the brief outlines four principles that guide this work on arts and culture in community building: (1) definitions of art, culture, and creativity depend on the cultural values, preferences, and realities of residents and other stakeholders in a given community; (2) the concept of participation includes a wide array of ways in which people engage in arts, culture, and creative expression; (3)arts culture, and creative expression are infused with multiple meanings and purposes simultaneously; and (4) opportunities for participation in art, culture, and creative endeavor often rely on both arts-specific and non-arts-specific resources. The brief also discusses four domains essential to understanding community cultural conditions and dynamics: presence of opportunities for cultural engagement, cultural participation, impacts of participation, and systems of support for cultural expression. [Summary adapted from Urban Institute's website.]
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Arts and Civic Engagement: Briefing Paper for Working Group of the Arts and Civic Engagement Impact Initiative
Written for Animating Democracy's Arts and Civic Engagement Impact Initiative Working Group, this 14- page paper presents a conceptual framework (or logic model) for arts-based engagement. It offers a discussion of the components of the framework, and a list of questions to guide research explorations. It defines and gives examples of each element: programmatic initiative in terms of the core arts element and related civic/social purpose; context; implementation choices and actions; intermediate effects (individual, collective, and community capacity building); and social and/or civic impacts. In the discussion of the framework, Dwyer gives a number of suggestions tailored to arts and civic engagement work. She describes social and civic capacity as encompassing: the knowledge and expertise of content and process; access to human and material resources; systems for collecting, organizing, using, and disseminating information; leadership; and common expectations.
A useful and insightful list of intermediate effects for arts and civic engagement is provided and could readily be adapted to many projects. They include: awareness of particular issues is developed; knowledge of issues is deepened; understanding of others' perspectives is developed; facilitation and other dialogue skills are developed; attitudes are changed in particular directions; increased numbers and/or different profiles of individuals are engaged; new relationships are built and/or existing relationships strengthened among individuals; connections are made that cross individual boundaries such as race, age, gender, income, or location; interest groups and networks are built; new relationships are built and existing relationships are strengthened among institutions/organizations; connections are made that cross institutional boundaries such as policy domains (education, transportation, arts) or sectors (public, corporate, nonprofit).
Examples of types of social and civic impacts are given as well, such as: an issue is resolved; consensus has been produced; long-standing rifts have been healed; a policy has been enacted; an opportunity has been developed; a problem has been foreseen and prevented or averted; new leaders and/or new types of leaders have emerged; and standing mechanisms for problem solving/deliberation are in place. The final section lists eleven questions for the initiative's Working Group to consider in defining its research agenda. As the audience for the piece is a collection of experts in the fields of arts and/or civic engagement, some of the language may be a bit challenging for some in the arts field but most is readily applicable.
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The site offers an overview of Urban Institute's Arts and Culture Indicators Project, defines cultural vitality, briefly addresses cultural vitality indicators, offers case study examples, and gives abstracts and links to high-quality relevant research studies. The site is a beautiful resource for arts and civic engagement practitioners and policymakers. Graphically strong with top notch research, it is a model for the field. Civic leaders and heads of large organizations could review this site to either see where their city stands, or get ideas of how to measure the presence and vitality of arts and culture in their communities. Note, however, that the website section on indicators is brief (and without examples). Site users may have to review lengthy research papers to garner information about indicators.
The fundamental goal of the Urban Institute's Arts and Culture Indicators Project (ACIP) is to help policymakers make better decisions for neighborhoods and cities. To this end, ACIP provides researchers, practitioners, and policymakers with information about the presence and role of arts and culture in communities—how arts and culture affect neighborhood conditions and community dynamics. Specifically, ACIP develops quantifiable measures of arts and culture and integrates them into quality of life measurement systems that can compare conditions across communities and in the same community over time. Launched in the late 1990s with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, ACIP's basic premises are (a) that a healthy place to live includes opportunities for and the presence of arts, culture, and creative expression, (b) that arts, culture, and creative expression are important determinants of how communities fare, and by extension (c) that full understanding of U.S. communities is inherently impossible without including these important perspectives.
ACIP's approach has always been deliberately applied. The concepts developed, the measures they find promising, and the data-related practices they advocate have been vetted, tested, and, in some cases, initially developed in conjunction with practitioners, researchers, and policy players in urban planning, community development, and arts-related fields. In addition, ACIP collaborates with community indicator initiatives around the country in their continuing efforts to integrate arts and culture into indicator systems. At the same time, ACIP's years of research on arts and culture in a range of communities across the United States have enabled them to expand the conventional paradigm of what counts as arts and culture in a way that makes it more consistent with, and inclusive of, the demographic realities of the nation—including low- and moderate-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities. [Adapted from the Urban Institute website.]
This 43-page report is a literature review commissioned by the Arts Council of England to support its two-year social inclusion research program. It examines the impact of arts in addressing social exclusion with the purpose of informing the design of the research and placing it in a policy context. The first section attempts to define social exclusion, offers ideas and obstacles to measuring it, and relates it to the arts. It describes the government’s Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) that was created in 1997, along with a committee formed to explore best practices in using arts, sport, and leisure to engage people in poor neighborhoods.
The second section speaks to evaluation, addressing theoretical approaches (the purpose and some perspectives), its relationship to the arts (with examples), and the challenges of measuring impact in the arts realm. A concise table on page 7 contrasts positivistic and naturalistic approaches. An excellent list about measuring the impact of the arts on pages 10-11 points out the following challenges: reaching clarity of outcomes, conceptual confusion, appropriate ways of measuring outcomes, lack of an established methodology, measuring progress, not all outcomes are immediate, difficulties establishing cause and effect, sensitivity of evaluations, and determination of benefits.
The third section focuses on the contribution of the arts to neighborhood renewal and social inclusion. It reviews current research related to topics such as the effects of the arts on individuals as well as in education, health and well-being, social capital, and community development. On pages 14-17, helpful tables summarize points and link them to specific studies.
The fourth section, "Working Principles," identifies best practices for arts and social inclusion work. Among the themes of good practice are: connecting with local needs; control, equitable partnerships, and flexibility of working methods; project planning and resources; and quality, excellence, or pride in achievement. Appendix 1 presents four examples of indicator lists and measurement tools that could be useful to arts and civic engagement practitioners as they offer concrete outcomes, list indicators, and identify questions. Note that, as this is written for the Arts Council of England, that there may be slightly different evaluation uses and culture, as well as terminology, such as referring to outputs and outcomes as indicators.
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This 544-page book by sociology professor Robert D. Putnam makes the case that the social capital of American citizens is declining because of increasingly diminished connections with their communities. He supports this claim with extensive interviews and research, much of which is arranged in charts and graphics. Putnam’s argument contends that disparate factors including television, two-career families, and suburban sprawl have combined to make citizens more isolated and less empathetic, feeling an alienation that threatens to have negative effects on educational performance, neighborhood safety, equitable tax collection, and health and happiness. For instance, he cites the titular bowling metaphor (more Americans go bowling than ever, but are increasingly unlikely to do so in a league) to point out that the decreased participation in clubs, leagues, religious and civic groups, and even family activities leads to a lack of the relationships and networking that comprise one’s social capital. At the end of the book Putnam suggests strategies for community rebuilding such as educational programs, work-based initiatives, and funded community service projects.
Putnam uses both preexisting studies and new interviews and research for the case studies that he displays in this book, which may be valuable from an evaluation standpoint. His thesis-driven writing style might also be a good reference for those hoping to use data collection to make an argument in their own evaluations.
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The California Endowment believes that evaluation represents an important opportunity to assess achievements, generate knowledge and cultivate learning. It works to support grantees, evaluators and others interested in learning more about culturally competent health evaluation. Its website has a wealth of resources, reports, and articles useful to both funders and practitioners. Of particular relevance are items related to storytelling approaches to program evaluation, multicultural concerns in evaluation, and understanding impact of advocacy efforts. The California Endowment is a private, statewide health foundation whose mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians.
Written for Animating Democracy's Arts and Civic Engagement Impact Initiative, this 69-page paper speaks directly to arts and civic engagement work, surveys current research, and makes recommendations for future practice.
The paper has three sections. The first attempts to define and differentiate civic terms: civic engagement, social capital, public sphere, community engagement, community and civic capacity, arts, culture, humanities, social inclusion, cultural citizenship, and the cultural public sphere. It also describes three theories of action for ways the arts could influence civic engagement. They are didactic (educational), discursive (discussion-based), and ecological (environmental) theories of action. In discussing didactic theories, the authors walk readers through the history of this approach in action, giving numerous examples that span a century. In presenting discursive theories of action, the authors offer five scenarios: artist as provocateur or animateur; civic ritual and construction of community; public art, public space, and place-making; art as social inclusion strategy; and art as engagement. The ecological theories discussion explains the approach (as unintended consequences of art-making on civic culture) and offers a number of examples.
The second section of the paper discusses methodological issues and strategies for arts and civic engagement work, including formulating the problem, methodological challenges, data collection, and implications for evaluation research. This portion seems tailored more to evaluators and/or program directors interested in the process of design and evaluation. The third section presents the authors' recommendations for connecting this survey of research to real-life practice. They address their recommendations and strategies according the scale of the endeavor: organization or program scale, regional scale, and initiative scale. The most comprehensive part of the recommendations section relates to organizational or program-scale strategies and describes five steps: 1) Become a learning organization. 2) Develop an approach based on principles of participatory evaluation and collaborative inquiry. 3) Build capacity for qualitative evaluation methodologies with a regional folklife or a local ethnography center. 4) Develop simple, in-house systems for broad-based participant data gathering. 5) Partner with a regional data and mapping center. The parts relating to regional scale and initiative scale strategies speak to indicators, community mapping, surveys, field schools, experimental methods, advocacy measurement, policy, outcome mapping, and developmental evaluation. The authors close with a brief section on policy context of practice.
The language in this scholarly paper is somewhat complex and may be a bit challenging for some in the arts field.Graphics throughout the piece serve to enhance reader comprehension.
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Drawing from Craig McGarvey’s seven years of professional experience as Program Director in Civic Culture at The James Irvine Foundation, a California-wide philanthropy, Civic Participation and the Promise of Democracy explores civic engagement strategies (faith-based and community organizing, popular education, collective learning) through providing an overview of their use in California.
During McGarvey’s time at Irvine’s Civic Culture, the program supported Californians who were working to build a durable pluralism from the State’s unprecedented demographic diversity. One of the great privileges of philanthropic work is the vantage point it offers – program officers are able to build relationships with community geniuses of varying vision and strategy, consequently building overview understandings of their work in communities. The resulting view of civic participation presented in this paper does not necessarily use the language of any particular community organizer or popular educator.
In writing this paper, the author notes that there are inherent limitations imposed by the professional perch from which the report has been written. Community practice outside California is necessarily slighted; labor organizing and issue-based organizing are treated with less knowledgeable care than other approaches. Throughout, there has been an attempt to temper attitude with sound judgment, but the essay’s value-laden worldview will become clear from the outset. Here is a first assumption: positive social change in communities can only be achieved when community residents learn how to make the change. From that axiom flows all that follows.