Planning for Impact and Evaluation
Part of knowing the value you bring to your community is measuring the impact of your work. How do you know your community engagement initiatives have an impact?
Know exactly what you're setting out to accomplish.
What kinds of outcomes are you hoping to achieve? What indicators will you use to gauge your success? Many non-profit organizations ask these same questions and use “outcome based evaluation” as a systematic way to assess the extent to which a program or project has achieved its intended results.
Outcome-based evaluation focuses on two key questions:
- How has an initiative made a difference?
- How have the lives of participants changed as a result of the program or initiative?
In other words, "So what?"
Are your goals for community engagement:
- To increase knowledge for a particular population within your community?
- To reduce some kind of behavior within specific neighborhoods?
- To expand skills or improve conditions for a target community group?
Each of these approaches provides stronger connections to community, giving local stations the ability to provide tangible services beyond broadcasts.
If you take the time to think about this from the beginning, you will be much more apt to give your station, your funders and your partners the kind of information they want once the project is over.
Here are some tips about designing an assessment:
Choosing the right assessment design takes thought, insight and decision-making. Staff members will need to:
- Review the outcomes of the project or activity
- Determine what information will provide the most useful answers about the project or activity
- Discuss how the information might be gathered
- Identify key stakeholders
- Examine resources and costs
In addition, the design you choose will depend on answers to the following questions:
- Do you want to assess a single activity, or a program comprised of several activities?
- Do you want to measure change in participants, or are you focused solely on discovering where people are at the end of participation?
- Do you want to make comparisons between your program and programs in other locations?
- Do you want to examine impact on participants some time after the activity or program ended?
For the purposes of public broadcasting assessment, the following assessment design strategies have been identified as the most practical and likely, given the scope and budgets of your projects:
Single Activity Assessment — This involves examining the impact of a single activity on participants. This is the most basic form of assessment with low resource costs. You can conduct an end-of-activity assessment or examine the degree of change in participants by looking at pre-activity baseline measures and comparing them with end-of-activity measures. In addition, you have the option of conducting a follow-up assessment some time after the activity to examine longer-term impact.
Multiple Activity Project Assessment — This involves examining the impact of more than one activity on participants. Typically, this is employed when the same individuals participate in multiple activities. Although this is more time and resource consuming than the single activity approach, it gives a more accurate view of how individuals are affected by exposure to multiple activities and identifies the activities that appear to have the greatest impact. Similar to the single activity assessment, one can conduct an end-of-activity assessment or examine the degree of change in participants by looking at pre-project baseline measures and comparing them with end-of-project measures. Also, one has the option of conducting a follow-up assessment some time after the project to examine longer-term impact.
Single or Multiple Comparison Assessment — This involves comparing the results of your single or multiple activity assessment with another sample of individuals either from another geographic locale or who have not participated in the community engagement activities. In this case, the sample of non-participants acts as a control group and represents those who were not exposed to the content or processes contained in the community engagement. This approach is useful if you are not sure if change is due to the community engagement or to other factors shared by both groups. For example, this method would be used if you are trying to determine if individuals are changed significantly more by viewing a program and participating in community engagement, as opposed to only viewing the program.