SiG Note: This article was originally published on July 17, 2014 on Tamarack CCI – the online learning community for collaborative leaders. It is the second post of our Collective Impact Series leading up to the Tamarack Institute’s Collective Impact Summit this October. It has been cross-posted with permission from Tamarack.
A very interesting meeting happened in Montreal in July. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation invited foundation colleagues from Canada and the United States to a workshop focused on Evaluation and Learning for Aligned Action.
The workshop included a number of evaluation experts and practitioners. Vibrant Communities Canada was invited to share lessons learned from our journey to collective impact and shared outcomes.
See the Pecha Kucha presentation that I prepared to entice everyone to attend my workshop and the PowerPoint presentation we prepared about the journey of how our movement collectively developed a common evaluation framework.
The Tamarack Institute and Vibrant Communities Canada have taken the lead in developing a shared evaluation framework for those cities engaged in place-based poverty reduction efforts (Cities Reducing Poverty). From 2002-2012, this included 13 cities from coast-to-coast in Canada. Over the past two years, this network has expanded to include more than 50 cities across the country. While the shared evaluation framework is coordinated nationally, each of the cities collects local data and contributes their results through an annual survey. Recently, Vibrant Communities Canada also partnered with the Community Data Program to purchase population level data for each of the cities. This set of 12 population level indicators will enable us to better determine collective impact across the network on an annual basis.
Vibrant Communities Canada and our Cities Reducing Poverty partners review and reflect on our individual and collective results annually. This reflection on shared outcomes is instrumental to understanding the progress we are making and some of the challenges that local communities face when working collectively to achieve change.
This post has led me to consider the evaluation journey in more detail. PowerPoint presentations often don’t provide the details about the hard graft that went into each step. To give a better sense of where we are today, I have developed the Vibrant Communities Historical Timeline, illustrating the evolution of experiences, conversations, learning, testing, reviewing and revising behind our collective efforts. Most of us only look back on the last three months or the last year. Twelve years is a long time to reflect – but each step was critical along the path:
Advice and Lessons Learned On Shared Evaluation
- Getting to shared outcomes is more than a process. Deepening our understanding and learning about shared outcomes is a journey.
- A clear and shared understanding of the issue – in our case poverty – emerged out of the work. At the beginning, we did not have this shared understanding. Once it was developed, it was easier to build a shared evaluation framework across different sites.
- The Sustainable Livelihoods Asset Pentagon was vital in developing a common evaluation framework. Each city, despite undertaking different activities, was engaged in building assets. The Assets Pentagon allowed us to compare results across each city.
- When working across multiple sites, look for scalable results. The CCSD Community Data Program allows Vibrant Communities to purchase shared and comparable data across different cities.
- Have patience and focus on learning and improving in each evaluation round.