Greetings, AEA365 readers! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. To whet our appetites for this year’s conference in beautiful New Orleans, this week’s posts come to us from the feature the perspectives of the Gulf Coast Eval Network (GCEval) members, where the uniqueness of doing evaluation in the gulf south will be on display. Happy reading!
Hello! We are Michelle Lawrence Bidwell, MPH, of Granted Advisors, and Mark Raymond Jr., Executive Director of the Split Second Foundation, a New Orleans-based 501(c)3 organization committed to breaking physical, societal, and research barriers for people living with disabilities. The Split Second Foundation operates the only comprehensive adaptive gym facility in the gulf coast region. We prioritize serving families from minority backgrounds whose lives have been impacted by spinal cord injury, brain injury, and other neurological conditions.
Since opening the doors of the program, we’ve had the unique opportunity to see the physical impacts of our programmatic support pretty quickly. This led us on a journey of thinking more creatively regarding participatory and inclusive approaches to help us tell the story of our impact. Here are the top 4 evaluation lessons we’ve learned thus far:
1. People are so much more than a clinical outcome
When it comes to measuring the success of programs for individuals living with disabilities, clinical outcomes such as increased stimulation to the musculoskeletal system and improved bone density maintenance are usually the main variables of interest. While we do collect these outcomes, we’ve learned that true recovery encompasses more than what can be collected in clinical assessments. Through listening and learning from our clients, we’ve included more socioemotional outcomes and key performance variables like improved emotional and spiritual wellbeing, increased independence, increased social connectedness, increased community support, and advocacy for individuals with disabling conditions, to get a more holistic picture on how the program is directly supporting folks as they integrate into their community.
2. Storytelling is important
In our world, qualitative data collection is just as important as quantitative data collection, and we could never tell the story of how our clients are meeting their recovery goals like they can. This led us to think “outside of the box” in terms of how we support clients to tell their own stories on their own terms. We extend beyond surveys and interviews by helping our clients track their progress using photography, blogs, video stories and more. The process is empowering for those we serve and tells the story of impact in a unique way.
3. Recovery happens daily
When it comes to evaluation, the frequency with which data is collected is always an important topic of discussion. While many programs collect data on a quarterly or yearly cadence, we recognize that small (and sometimes large) steps towards recovery occur much more often than that. At times, important steps towards success are missed when there are long breaks in between data collection efforts. In partnership with our clients, we strive to collect data daily so that we see and record most successes in real-time.
4. It takes a VILLAGE
Through supporting our clients we’ve also learned a lot about how their families and caregivers are also physically, mentally, and emotionally impacted. In fact, we are anecdotally finding that caregiver outcomes are connected to client outcomes. We look forward to expanding our evaluation to include outcomes from the families of our clients and exploring additional programming to support their needs and unique recovery journey.
Split Second Foundation is changing the way evaluation influences access to programming and resources for individuals impacted by disabling conditions. Our population has grown rapidly in a few short years and we now serve more than 95 families. We look forward to the future and have our sights set on becoming an evaluation innovator in the national disability services infrastructure.
We’re looking forward to the Evaluation 2022 conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to AEA365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to AEA365@eval.org. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.