Engaged Learning Series: Evaluation and Community Engagement

The 4th Engaged Learning Series was held on Wednesday, February 11 at UROC in North Minneapolis. Fifty-six people attended, including staff from nonprofits, evaluators, and funders. Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra from the Cultural Wellness Center presented the Impacts of Community Engagement graphic, developed by the partners in Building the Field, and Jennifer Arnold from Lyndale Neighborhood Association explained that the frame for the day’s discussion is the tension in evaluation between the “inner” and “outer” circle impacts.

Impacts on the outer circle categories are more visible, and evaluations of the impact of community engagement tend to focus on these areas.  However, the outcomes in the inner circle are achieved in the process of doing good community engagement work and are foundational elements of a healthy community in their own right. They are the building blocks for positive change in all the areas of the outer circle, yet are often overlooked in evaluation.

In the first round of discussions, the participants, around nine tables, discussed the question: “What are your beliefs/assumptions that inform the evaluation of the work of the inner circle and of the outer circle?”   In the second round, everyone chose between six questions:

1. What are the indicators that people are engaged?
2. What are the indicators you could use to evaluate the inner circle?
3. What are the methods for measuring the inner circle beyond surveys?
4. How should evaluation of community engagement be set up to capture learning?
5. What are the methods to take into account the impacts of both personal experiences and external factors when you are measuring the impact of CE on the outer circle?
6. How do you help the community have a sense of ownership/participation in evaluation?

A document will be coming out in the next few months summarizing these discussions.  Look for it on this website. The next Engaged Learning Series will be on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.