Evaluating Impact/Appreciating Evaluation
Abstract: This paper tells two stories of how evaluation helped artists know what difference they made; their narratives help make evaluation concepts accessible and show how evaluation can be doable and even enjoyable! Most community-based arts practitioners feel overwhelmed by what it might take to implement credible evaluation. They’re pressed to define what is meant by “civic” or “social” impact, whose standards to apply, what evidence to look for, and what to document and track. They wonder how to gauge hard-to-measure outcomes such as shifts in attitude or understanding and whether they can attribute civic outcomes to their community arts efforts, exclusive of other factors. Rha Goddess’s Hip Hop Mental Health Project and Terra Moto’s (led by artist Marty Pottenger) and the City of Portland’s Art At Work initiative offer practical examples of evaluation approaches that served to enhance understanding of both creative and social effects. The paper provides entre to defining clear and reasonable outcomes that creative work is suited to achieve and determining what indicators or evidence of change to look, while highlighting and linking to resources on Animating Democracy’s new IMPACT web site.