Evaluation Cookies

My husband and a good friend got together and bought me Christina Tossi’s baking class for Christmas. Christina is the founder of Milk Bar in New York City. The class is INTENSE! Thirty days of lessons, baking, then developing your own recipes. The lessons are great and Christina is a lot of fun. But boy, coming up with your own recipes is a PROCESS! You first develop a flavor story, brainstorm possible ingredients and “mixings” and then start testing your cookies. I have a secret. I am just not that patient. Sure, I can follow a recipe and I am a pretty good cook and baker. But the “prototyping” process, although fun and interesting, is a little tedious. Trying different combinations of flavors, testing them out and taking note of what works and what doesn’t. It occurred to me … [Read more...]

Evaluators as Change Agents: Evaluating Community Coalitions

Hi everyone! A few weeks ago, I was privileged to speak with the West Michigan Evaluators Network (WMEN) about evaluating coalitions and collaboratives. I started from the framework and opinion that evaluators can and should be social change agents. After all, my company’s (Community Evaluation Solutions) tagline is Partnering for Social Change. I believe that evaluators are not (just) objective observers of the programs and communities we serve. Rather, I believe that coalitions can be a powerful catalyst for change, and that evaluators can help them achieve their goals. As evaluators we have the great opportunity to work for social change by partnering with community coalitions. What are coalitions and collaboratives? (Note, I use these terms interchangeably). So just … [Read more...]

How is Making Bread Related to Evaluating Communities?

by Ann Price You may or may not have heard about the COVID bread craze. Just to set the record straight, I didn’t start baking bread out of some fear that the store shelves would be stripped of all carbs. I just happen to like to cook and since we couldn’t go anywhere, I found solace in the kitchen. I started by learning how to make no-knead breads. Then one day, I took the plunge into the world of sourdough breadmaking. When I attempted my first starter, I failed miserably. For three weeks I tried to feed the starter. But no matter what I did, the yeast colony would not grow. Frustrated, I started all over. During this time, I questioned if this was a good use of my time and precious flour. I fretted and fussed. I wanted to quit. I got advice and encouragement from my older … [Read more...]

How to Overcome your FEAR of Evaluation

What are you most afraid of? For me, it definitely heights. For my husband, its bees or anything that buzzes or remotely sounds like a bee. For some nonprofit and community leaders, what they fear most is evaluation. Sometimes, there are good reasons for that fear. Some nonprofit leaders have told me about their bad experiences with evaluation (evaluation reports that were too long, didn’t answer their questions, made no sense to them, or were not actionable). Here are some common objections I have heard from some community leaders about their reluctance to participate in evaluation. I am not a “data person.”I hate Logic Models.I don’t “speak” evaluation.I don’t want to have our program judged.Evaluation takes money from programs. A profound fear of evaluation is … [Read more...]

What happens after the storm?

My happy place. The beach is the one place in the world I can totally relax. What is your happy place? My family just got back from a week-long stay on St. George Island. We were supposed to go in May, but back then we thought the world was ending, so we moved our trip to August. Who knew at the time, the death rate from the pandemic would be so much worse? This picture was taken after an afternoon storm, a pretty common event during summer afternoons in Florida. This year has been one storm after another. I am not sure what your family has gone through this year, but our year started with the unexpected death of my brother-in-law in March. From COVID-19, to economic hardship, to the increasing unrest in our cities after the killing of unarmed black men and women, to the … [Read more...]

No Data?

https://giphy.com/gifs/cueoxgtRvYoow Ok, Nonprofit leaders, now that I have your attention…...Shameless use of a cat and Star Trek GIF I know. In fact, I bet you are actually drowning in data, but it's just not organized and used! I once worked with a large nonprofit and when I asked them if they collected data, they enthusiastically said, yes! Then promptly pulled out a yellow legal pad with, I kid you not, tick marks. Their Annual Report was very slick, but I can only imagine the time it took someone to add up and present all those tick marks! Let’s just assume it was accurate. You, my nonprofit friend can do better. The best part is you don’t need any fancy or expensive software to get started! I know you are probably most concerned with fundraising for your nonprofit … [Read more...]

The Best Laid Plans…Getting to Root Causes

Have you ever planned a meeting complete with a well thought-out, organized agenda, only to toss it because your group had more important needs? That was exactly what I experienced last week. In a call I was leading this past Friday, one of the participants, a community collaborative leader, went right to what is on a lot of minds these days, especially community collaborative and coalition leaders. He asked, how he as a community collaborative leader could respond to his community’s need to talk about the racial tension in his community? We had a really great conversation. One of the leaders on the call shared his pastor’s challenge to his congregation to understand the difference between remedies and solutions. Remedies are short term fixes. For example, a backpack program that … [Read more...]

Getting to the Root Cause(s)

It’s so easy to think social problems are simple. Take interpersonal violence for example. When it is discussed, most people ask, “Why does she stay?” For a few years in graduate school, I ran a randomized community survey that asked people to tell us what they thought of why violence against women happens and what should be done about it. It’s kind of amazing to hear what people think. Or maybe it’s not. It’s her fault. She probably did something to make him mad. Why doesn’t she just leave? Rarely, if ever, do people ask, “What is it about our society that allows violence to happen?” As a community psychologist, I am more interested in this question. (Not sure what a community psychologist does? (Click here to learn more). As we struggle on through the COVID-19 … [Read more...]

Reaching Youth Where They Are

CCAPSA Youth Advisory Team Hi everyone-So many community-based prevention programs are trying to pivot, to change the way they are working in communities in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since prevention and nonprofit leaders who work with youth can’t go into schools, churches, or community-based afterschool programs at this time, they must get creative in order to reach teens.   In this week’s blog, I am joined today by my client, LaTreece Roby. LaTreece is the Program Director for the Cobb County Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse (CCAPSA). LaTreece leads a federally-funded Drug-free Coalition and a state-funded Alcohol & Substance Abuse Prevention Project. Both efforts aim to reduce underage drinking through environmental change strategies.A couple of weeks ago, … [Read more...]

Practical Evaluation Tips in a Time of Crisis

Hi everyone- Today I am joined by Jenn Ballentine of Highland Nonprofit Consulting to talk about, what else, evaluation in the time of Covid-19. Granted, my last blog was a bit of a rant, so today, I would like to strike a  more positive and helpful tone.   To tell you the truth, some of the conversation around data collection during the pandemic has me a little squirmy because it has felt kind of opportunistic. I don’t think rushing out to survey people when they are really worried and anxious feels helpful, or frankly ethical. But we are evaluators, so we do believe evaluation is important and we just can’t stop doing what we do. I am a community psychologist and Jenn, a public health professional. We believe in a public health approach to prevention and in … [Read more...]