Using evaluation to build a strong foundation
For those of us who work in and with communities, it can be challenging to know how to make sense of the impact of our work, even when we are seeing growth, change and success. As a result, it can be hard to answer what seem like simple questions: Are you on track to reach your community’s long term goals? How will you know when you get there? Do these efforts actually reach the people that they intend to? Who is benefitting from your work—and who isn’t?
This past year, throughout our programs, we’ve heard from a lot of communities looking for evaluative support—ways to understand the impacts and outcomes of their work, to analyze what’s working and why, and to see where some changes and pivots could make their efforts more effective, less complicated or more economical.
These kinds of supports are not just effective for improving internal processes either. Evaluative tools like logic models, frameworks, visuals and evaluation plans are also powerful ways of providing funders, partners and supporters a clear rationale and accountability for how the work you’re doing on the ground directly feeds into your overarching strategies and outcomes.
Because health in communities is impacted by built, social, economical and several other factors, evaluating healthy communities work is complicated. However, as we’ve outlined above, investing in evaluation has clear benefits. We believe in the importance of strong evaluative tools. It’s the reason our team includes experts in evaluation, like our Research and Impact Specialist Diana Gresku, and our Program Manager Victoria Barr—to assist the communities we work with in applying a healthy communities lens when planning, developing policies, or entering into partnerships.
In order to improve our own evaluation processes, and to help the work that we do in communities be as impactful as possible, we’ve developed a healthy communities evaluation framework to gauge our own work in communities. The framework incorporates ideas from research and practice around the world, including input from our partners across the province. And we’re excited to share that Diana and Victoria will introduce the framework to a global audience of healthy communities researchers and practitioners next month at the 2018 International Healthy Cities Conference in Belfast.
We’re looking forward to this opportunity to not only share our approach to evaluation, but also to further connect with leaders around the world to hear their perspectives on healthy cities/communities research and best practice, so we can bring that knowledge home to share with the communities we work with.
If you’d like to hear more about our learnings at the conference, or about the evaluation supports and tools that BC Healthy Communities offers, sign up for our newsletter, or follow us on Facebook & Twitter.