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Panning for DE Gold

Developmental Evaluation: Panning for DE Gold

Gleanings from the last Developmental Evaluation Brief (October 2020)

Contributed by the Evaluation Team

Inspiring Communities, its three collective impact community sites and its other projects use a Developmental Evaluation approach to reflect upon achievements and learnings in real time to help with  course adjustments as needed and evolution of planned activities. Using a set of reflective questions,  the Inspiring Communities leadership team and the leadership team of each nested initiative reflect on progress quarterly.  In October, such a Developmental Evaluation report, called a DE Brief, was produced and shared with government partners. While the full 10-page document is chock full of reflection and learnings important to the work of Inspiring Communities, we’d like to pull out just a few highlights and share the summary of impacts identified for the period of July through September 2020.  

A few universally relevant and poignant realizations emerged:

  • Building digital equity is an important part of building a learning culture. 
  • Even through difficult moments, the focus on learning and reflection helps everyone to be aware and more focussed on what needs to be addressed. 
  • A lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities leads to assumptions about who is  doing what, which may not always be correct. 
  • It sometimes feels like Inspiring Communities is constantly working against patriarchal notions of  leadership.
  • It is important to clarify what is meant by “systems change.” There is individual change,  family change, community change and change in formal policy systems. The focus of  IC’s work is at the individual, family and community level to ultimately impact the formal system. More discussion on this concept would be useful.   

Some key points about the value to community initiatives of being nested in Inspiring Communities:

A culture of learning and evaluation is fostered.

  • Inspiring Communities modelled intentional reflection and learning, such as capturing and reflecting on responses to COVID-19. 
  • Inspiring Communities provides evaluation tools for tracking and reporting progress to government, which  has fostered systematic tracking of activities and results. 
  • Evaluation leads support their backbone team to think critically about the work, while Inspiring Communities provides leadership, professional development, mentoring, peer support and oversight for evaluation leads. 
  • As a sector contribution, Inspiring Communities is nesting evaluators from other projects within its evaluation team in order to  build the evaluators’ capacity for DE. 

Value is given through our systems, knowledge, training and processes. 

  • Inspiring Communities is being recognized as a leader in Developmental Evaluation. For example, the Nova Scotia government has again asked the organization to do the Poverty Reduction Blueprint.
  • Inspiring Communities provides support and development opportunities for evaluators.  
  • Having DE efforts of initiatives housed within a larger plan helps them execute better than ad hoc efforts. 
  • Inspiring Communities has developed a communications policy for use across the organization as well  as a brand guidelines document to help clarify how the Inspiring Communities brand should be used by the 3  community sites and other nested initiatives. 
  • Investing in leadership development opportunities for community leaders enables  them to lead action for change in their communities. 
  • When Inspiring Communities offers learning opportunities to initiatives, the learnings are shared by  participants to their broader networks.
  • Monthly learning sessions were held with an intentional focus on equity and anti racism, with the aim to increase staff capacity for working with marginalized community  members. 

Highlights of Impacts 

Nesting Impacts 

  • Northside Rising has adjusted their approach and agenda to more closely embrace the aspirations of local residents with support from IC. 
  • Capacity for conflict resolution within communities has been increased. 
  • There has been an increase in the culture of collaboration across initiatives.
  • Collaboration with external partners remains strong and new collaborations are  emerging (for example, collaboration with the Coady Institute). 

Leadership Impacts 

  • Leadership capacity has increased within backbone teams and within communities. For  example, the Substance Use Roundtable has brought a wide range of partners together  to address the substance use challenges facing the Northside. Turning the Tide has  established a Leadership Table to develop a common agenda for their CBYF work and  to develop and implement the CBYF Innovation Fund. 

Collective Impact Conditions – Impacts 

  • Community engagement has continued despite all the challenges of the pandemic. 
  • Access to online services for some people without previous access has been increased. 
  • People who live in communities served by the initiatives were able to access necessary supports during the pandemic lockdown, such as food, access to online services and  navigation to needed services. 
  • Engagement in evaluation activities is increasing in the initiatives. There has been an increase in shared decision-making. 

Pandemic Impacts 

  • Capacity to meaningfully engage with communities via videoconference has increased,  which is beneficial in the short-term due to the pandemic and also in the long-term to  help engage people for whom in person attendance at meetings is challenging.

Gold Sparkles image by Annette Meyer from Pixabay

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