Hi! I’m Brittany Cook, Ph. D., with the Wandersman Center. I’m trained as a clinical-community psychologist, so the principles of community psychology are always in the forefront of how I approach evaluation work. One of the partners of our center that I work closely with is Serve & Connect, a community non-profit founded by fellow community psychologist Kassy Alia Ray, Ph. D. Serve & Connect aims to improve communities and enhance community resilience through building trust and positive relationships among community residents and leaders, law enforcement, and local organizations. I want to share a bit about how the community psychology principles of citizen participation, collaboration and community strength, and empowerment in particular have shaped our evaluation work with Serve & Connect.
A core of both Serve & Connect’s model and our evaluation approach is the importance of community voice. This means not only trying to learn about community needs and the impact of Serve & Connect’s work from community members but relying on community members to know best what measurement strategies their community will welcome.
For example, we developed a comprehensive survey and worked with a steering committee of local residents and leaders to develop the questions. However, as we were building trust between ourselves and the steering committee, they became more open in their feedback about measurement strategies. When community member on the local steering committee said that community members were not likely to complete a survey and that a survey might actually inhibit the trust Serve & Connect was trying to foster, we listened.
Instead, we developed a variety of measurement strategies including dot surveys and brief interviews that got at the same key questions but in a more inter-personal—and some community residents even said fun—way.
By having community members engaged in the process of developing evaluation questions and strategies, we are ensuring that the questions we ask will be relevant and clear and that our methods will result in better response rates. Moreover, we are helping community members to build skills that will help foster community empowerment and leading more people to see the benefits of evaluation.
Assessing Community Needs and Resources from Community Toolbox
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