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News & Info

Further Developing Leaders of Color: A Systems Approach to Equity

In recent years philanthropy has recognized leadership development as a key strategy in improving the participation of people of color and low-income individuals in the positions and spaces that determine policies, procedures, and practices intended to produce social change. Nonetheless, many leadership development programs reflect prevailing cultural values regarding individualism and assume that just selecting and developing the “right” individuals and providing them with specific knowledge and skills will naturally result in an increased individual capacity, strengthened organizations, an increased collective leadership capacity, and an improved ability to serve the community. This approach, however, does not address the structural and systemic barriers that constrain individual power or reflect the fact that collaborative approaches are needed to dismantle structural racism and advance equity. This article summarizes key principles about how to create the conditions and capacities needed to support leaders of color seeking to advance equity and social justice from our evaluations of leadership development programs.

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Evaluating the Barr Foundation's Fellowship Program

One of the many defining characteristics of a thriving community is the presence of civic leadership, particularly civic leadership that is representative of the people living and working in the community. Civic leaders are instrumental in developing healthy, just, and equitable communities, and efforts to cultivate their presence would be inherently beneficial for all members of the community. In recognition of this inextricable relationship between civic leaders and community health, the Barr Foundation has sought to develop civic leaders in hopes of improving the quality of life in Greater Boston. The Foundation has created a Fellowship program that serves to achieve this goal by (a) recognizing and supporting individual leadership, (b) enhancing organizational capacity, and (c) strengthening connections and cross-sector collaborative capacity. Community Science has been selected to evaluate the success of the program, learn from the evaluation, and provide insights for ongoing program improvement. We worked with the Barr Foundation to refine the program theory of change and used a mixed methods approach to collect quantitative and qualitative data about the experiences of the fellows, interim leaders, and partners.

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Helping City Governments Get Ready for Racial Equity Work And Its Evaluation: New Blogs

Community Science is proud to present our latest blog post collaborations with Living Cities titled- Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: Community Engagement and Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: The Racial Equity Here Evaluation.

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Community Science Gives Back!

A very important part of Community Science's mission is to directly give back to the local community and support national organizations that promote social justice and equity through donations in service. Each year Community Science staff members recommend a charity for the organization to make a donation on their behalf as their "holiday gift." We donated 13% of annual profits to 20 local and national organizations. Charitable giving along with two days of service annually are among the many ways Community Science works "to strengthen the science and practice of community change in order to build healthy, just and equitable communities.” We also provide services at a reduced rate to local organizations. Please join us in supporting the groups listed in the link below.

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Staff Profile: Amber Trout

Amber Trout, Ph.D., Managing Associate, brings knowledge and skills on strategies to improve the built environment and decision-making on equitable social and community change. She has recognized expertise in change management and leadership development and in emphasizing awareness of context as a crucial component to advance equity in organizations. Previously, she served as the director of the Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiative (REDI) at NeighborWorks America, a congressionally chartered nonprofit focused on strengthening communities and its network of more than 240 organizations across the country.

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A Systems Approach to Organizational Assessment and Evaluation

The systems approach to evaluation refers to a theoretical orientation of evaluation practice that draws from systems theory in engineering and other technical sciences (Williams & Imam, 2007). Many evaluators find that principles of dynamic systems apply to the dynamic nature of human behavior and the organizational and social systems that arise from human interactions. Systems approaches to evaluation are being adapted to evaluate everything from small-scale individual programs to large-scale systems change (e.g., entire public health systems or efforts to address global food crises; Patton, 2010). There are many variations of systems approaches, and they differ in which principles are used and how they are applied in practice. The perspective discussed herein represents one of many ways of thinking about and applying systems theory in evaluation.

The Organization

Every organization is embedded in layers of context. Context can include everything from the sociopolitical environment in which an organization operates to the organizational system to which an organization belongs. For instance, an organization can be one clinic within a state health care provider system or even a national health care provider system. The organizational context can also include factors that impact the populations the organization serves, such as the socioeconomic status of its target population. These factors might be called the social context of the organization.

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Recent Publications:

New Report from Community Science to Help City Governments Get Ready for Racial Equity Work

Community Science is proud to present one of our latest reports – lessons learned from a national initiative to help city governments get ready for racial equity work. The Racial Equity Here (REH) initiative, funded by Living Cities, engaged and supported a cohort of five U.S. cities committed to transforming policies and practices to address the inequities within their systems of government. The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) was funded by Living Cities to provide training and technical assistance to guide these cities over a two-year period as they worked toward their racial equity goals. The final report is based on the evaluation of the initiative. Community Science used the evaluation findings to report on lessons learned and offer recommendations to other cities interested in engaging in racial equity work.


The Steps-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers (June 2018)

Community Science is proud to present The Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers, which we developed for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This new guide is designed for people with little or no experience with formal evaluation to help them become more familiar with evaluation concepts and practices, partner better with independent evaluators, and use evaluation more effectively to continually learn from and improve their work.


Emerging Action Principles for Designing and Planning Community Change (March 2015)

Community Matters! Decades of scientific research have shown that being part of a supportive, inclusive and capable community promotes mental, physical, and social well-being more than any other factors known to the social and medical sciences. Our publication series, Community Matters: Action Principles, Frameworks, and Strategies, shares what science and practice have taught us about building and strengthening community. The first publication in this series, “Emerging Principles for Designing and Implementing Community Change,” has just been released.


Local Voices: On-the-Ground Perspectives on Driving Community Change in the Making Connections Sites (July 2014)

This report describes, from the perspective of local stakeholders, the experience of several sites involved in Making Connections — the Foundation’s signature community change initiative of the 2000s — in developing and enhancing the core capacities essential for articulating and pursuing a local community change agenda. The report describes the conditions in the communities when Making Connections began; the core capacities built during the decade-long initiative; the factors that contributed to capacity building; the evidence of improved outcomes for children, families and neighborhoods resulting from the enhanced change capacities; the continuing challenges of sustaining those capacities; and key takeaways from the experience.  


Addressing Health Disparities Through Organizational Change-Evaluation Report (April 2012)

In 2006, The Colorado Trust funded 14 organizations to improve their cultural competency in order to strengthen their capacity to reduce health disparities.  Community Science was engaged to evaluate the initiative, specifically assessing: 1) changes in cultural competency among grantees, 2) the influence of cultural competency changes on grantee interventions and short -term outcomes, 3) factors and conditions needed to bring about positive changes in organizational cultural competency, and 4) grantee progress and accomplishments over time.  


The Importance of Culture in Evaluation

The Importance of Culture in Evaluation, a publication funded by The Colorado Trust, provides insights to help guide the complex dynamics between evaluators, funders and stakeholders of different cultures. The report provides examples of where cross-cultural competency is critical in evaluation and recommends questions and strategies that an evaluator should consider when practicing this form of cultural competency.