How is Making Bread Related to Evaluating Communities?

by Ann Price

Two loaves of Sourdoughbread

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 sister, and kept going. Don’t give up she said. Look at your starter, not the instructions. Finally, after 3 weeks, I had a healthy starter.

Getting your starter going is only the half of it. Then you have to learn to bake it. My first few attempts were, well, less than stellar. My starter was still young and some loaves didn’t rise well. Some loaves were too doughy. Some were overcooked. More than one was dense and heavy.

I know, by now you are wondering what the heck baking bread has to do with evaluation or community change?

Just like learning to bake bread, real community change takes time.

First, you need to build the evaluation capacity of your organization, staff coalition, or community. You also need the right recipe. You need to understand your local data and root causes; have the right partners; develop a strategy that address the root causes; and design and implement your strategy. Finally, you need an actionable evaluation plan that will yield the powerful evidence you need to demonstrate that you are making a difference.

It’s a process; a complicated, messy process. But just like learning to make bread, so worth it. Nothing tops the smell of fresh baked bread or enjoying it once baked. And nothing tops an effective community coalition.

Helping communities build their evaluation capacity brings me a special kind of joy. Curious about your nonprofit, foundation or community coalition’s evaluation capacity? I have a free capacity assessment for you.

And just in case you want to give sourdough breadmaking a try, here is my go-to, almost always works, favorite recipe.

Take care and be well-


P.S. Let me know if you need and sourdough starter.

P.S.S. Or an evaluator. I bake bread and help communities.