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CP TIG Week: Susan Wolfe on Engaging community coalition members in evaluation

My name is Susan Wolfe and I am the owner of Susan Wolfe and Associates, LLC, a consulting firm that applies Community Psychology principles to strengthening organizations and communities. A lot of my work involves helping to develop and evaluate community coalitions.

Because of the dynamic nature of coalitions facilitating their development and providing evaluative feedback can require a range of approaches and tools. It requires looking inside the group to assess the dynamics and whether the members are working well together, and outside of the group to continuously scan the context for changing political, economic, and cultural factors and to determine whether the coalition is having impact or fulfilling its purpose.

Hot Tip: Before you begin to evaluate a coalition, spend time attending meetings and getting to know its membership. Find out as much as possible about the politics, member organizations, community, and its purpose. Determine whether there are hierarchies among organizations and groups and uncover agendas and interests.

Rad Resource: One of my favorite coalition-related books is The Power of Collaborative Solutions by Tom Wolff. In addition to Wolff’s six principles for creating collaborative solutions for healthy communities, the book includes an Appendix on Evaluation with tools and access to a website with even more tools for developing and evaluating coalitions. Also check out Tom’s web site at www.tomwolff.com for more resources and sign up for his Collaborative Solutions newsletter.

Hot Tip: Use a range of methods to provide feedback to coalition leadership and members. For example, combine results of a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis with those from a member survey.

Lesson Learned: When you present the results of a survey use an interactive approach to encourage dialogue about the findings. Include time for members to talk about what they liked and did not like about the survey instrument itself and whether there are unanswered questions.

Rad Resource: Attend the Society for Community Research and Action’s (SCRA) Summer Institute workshop on Developing and Evaluating Coalitions which will be facilitated by Tom Wolff and Susan Wolfe on June 24th in Lowell, MA at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center. Stay around for the SCRA 2015 Biennial Conference from June 25th through 28th. More information can be found at www.scra27.org.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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