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Community Science projects

Community & Systems Change

Technical assistance on impact planning and assessment for Global Libraries, an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative seeks to bring about effective, sustainable public access to information and communications technology in libraries for people in developing and transitioning countries who would not otherwise have access, and to ensure it is useful and used in ways that improve people’s lives and spread the benefits (e.g. get health information, use government services, manage finances, look for jobs, do research for school and work, and keep in touch with family and friends). There is a great inequality in the global distribution of information technology. Worldwide, approximately 5 billion people—nearly 90 percent of the world’s population—do not have an opportunity to use computers connected to the Internet. Community Science was selected to support the Gates Foundation in its Impact Planning and Assessment (IPA) process. The IPA process helps grantees in build country grant programs that best meet users’ needs; provides guidance on how to assess grantee program activities and measure their impact, which feeds continual learning and program improvement, as well as advocacy activities aimed at achieving sustainability for public access services in public libraries; and helps grantees demonstrate accountability and meet foundation requirements.  Specifically, Community Science manages the Impact Work Group, a global learning community of IPA specialists; develops impact assessment and evaluation capacity building tools and programs; and serves as one of the Global Libraries technical assistance providers for the 13 countries that are currently Gates Foundation grantees (2012- present).

Next Generation Community Change

Community Science assisted the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) in determining what they and other funders have learned and are experimenting with in order to create community changes that provide opportunities for children and their caregivers. The results of this internal foundation learning process identified the foundation’s own strategy in the future. Staff from all levels of AECF participated in workgroup meetings – developed and facilitated by Community Science - for the last six months. A learning agenda was created that involved discussions with foundation staff on what they had learned from their own initiatives followed by discussions with outside experts or other funders to discuss their views and experiences with key community change initiatives. Community Science also reviewed written materials and interviewed key people working on leading new generation federal and foundation initiatives. A framework for community change and a set of action principles was developed based on the reviews of AECF, other initiatives as well as the research literature on community change across several disciplines. This foundation wide learning process culminated in a retreat where strategic options for future community change work were developed based on evidence from the research and the practical experience of other funders. (2011)

Cross Roads Charlotte

Community Science worked with the John S. and James L Knight Foundation to document and assess the impact of Crossroads Charlotte. Crossroads Charlotte is an initiative that began in 2001 when Charlotte, North Carolina, was one of 40 communities that participated in a survey that revealed the community had high levels of faith-based involvement and philanthropy but ranked next to last in levels of social and interracial trust.

As a result of this work, Foundation for the Carolinas, together with major funding from the Knight Foundation, is funding Crossroads Charlotte. The initiative’s goal is to create an inclusive and equitable community by building organizational capacity for change and developing the leadership to implement change.

Using qualitative and quantitative methods, Community Science’s team examined the impact of the initiative through interviews with key stakeholders and a survey of community leaders. In addition, Community Science generated useful lessons about the grant making and community engagement work in Charlotte that may help inform future efforts in other communities. (2010-2011)

Evaluating Nassau County's Family Support System of Care

Under a six-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA-Center for Mental Health Services), Nassau University Medical Center and New York State Families Together have created the Nassau County Family Support System of Care (NCFSSOC) to provide a single point of access to care for emotionally disturbed children and youth and their families. Community Science is working closely with these two organizations to evaluate the NCFSSOC and use the findings to support improvements in the system of care. Community Science’s activities to date include developing a logic model, assessing the community, and cooperating with a national evaluator to generate questions about the effectiveness of the NCFSSOC. We are responsible for the recruitment and retention of parents and children in this longitudinal study.  (2008-present)

Strengthening The California Endowment's Capacity to Evaluate Systems Change

Community Science began its contractual relationship with The California Endowment in 2006 when we helped the foundation’s evaluation unit identify best practices (including measures) used by evaluators for monitoring and evaluating grants and initiatives that address systems change, coalition building, capacity building, and community organizing. Community Science conducted in-depth interviews with nine evaluators with experience in these issues, and supplemented the interviews with a literature review on the same topics. We produced a report and guide for TCE’s grantees on how to monitor and evaluate change in these areas. (2006-2007)

Community Science continued to assist The California Endowment when the foundation began to prepare for its ten-year Building Healthy Communities Strategic Vision. We helped the foundation develop a theory of change and an evaluation framework for the Strategic Vision. We worked with the foundation’s staff and expert advisory group to create a measurement framework that would allow the foundation to monitor its progress toward achieving the vision. (2008-2009)

Subsequently, The California Endowment selected Community Science to evaluate the foundation’s performance during the planning of the Building Healthy Communities Strategic Vision in 2009. For the evaluation, Community Science conducted interviews with key stakeholders at each of the 14 places selected to be part of the Strategic Vision, designed a dashboard to monitor the foundation’s outcomes and results for the Vision, facilitated an on-line social network and exchange forum for the stakeholders, and facilitated the development of a logic model and evaluation plan for the foundation’s s efforts to impact policy at the state level. (2009-2011)

Assessment of Community Organizing and Social Justice Efforts in the District of Columbia

Community Science wrote a comprehensive paper for the Hill-Snowdon Foundation about the history and context for resident-led civic actions in the District of Columbia and the current infrastructure for resident-led community organizing and social justice efforts. The paper included case studies of such current efforts and recommendations for improving the organizing infrastructure in the nation’s capital. Key informant interviews with organizers and social justice practitioners and a literature review were conducted to inform the paper. (2008-2009)

Safe Start Demonstration Project Evaluation

Community Science conducted a national cross-site evaluation of this initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in 11 urban, rural, and tribal communities. We also provided evaluation technical assistance and capacity-building support to local Safe Start communities. The purpose of the initiative was to foster the development of a system of care for children exposed to violence and their families and to reduce the impact of the children’s exposure. Community Science used a rigorous cross-case analysis to determine the initiative’s impact on system changes as well as on child and family outcomes. The evaluation included working in partnership with Safe Start grantees and their local evaluators to develop meaningful evaluation strategies and providing evaluation-related training and technical assistance. Community Science also provided case-study development, cross-case analysis, and assistance in implementing local quasi-experimental designs to determine the impact of research-based interventions on young children and their parents. We also provided best practice guides to assist grantees in better serving children exposed to violence and their families. (2000-2010)

Improving Foundation Learning and Evaluation Practices

In 2008, the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) reviewed its grant portfolios and results achieved to date in order to strengthen its future grant making and operations, including how it funded, planned, and used evaluations. AECF selected Community Science to compile lessons learned by foundation staff from the many evaluations in which they had participated over the years. To accomplish this, we interviewed 19 foundation staff (including the foundation’s evaluation and program staff and senior leadership), the foundation’s evaluation consultants, and evaluation leaders in philanthropy. Community Science’s final report to the foundation included: findings and recommendations to improve the practice and use of evaluation by the foundation; future opportunities, challenges, and trends of evaluation within AECF and in the philanthropy field in general; and the decisions, choices, and lessons learned by the foundation in conducting the evaluation of its the ten-year, multi-site comprehensive community initiative, Making Connections. This report informs the foundation and the field about how the practice and use of evaluation has evolved in philanthropy. (2008)

Evaluation Consultation for the National Urban League

For nearly 100 years, the National Urban League (NUL) has been devoted to empowering African Americans economically and socially through programs, advocacy, and research. In 2008, the NUL hired the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop an evaluation framework for its programs. ETS in turn subcontracted Community Science to develop logic models for each of the NUL’s five program areas (education and youth development, entrepreneurship and business development, health and quality of life, housing and community development, and workforce development) with a focus on results around economic empowerment and community impact. (2008)

Evaluation of Youth Aging out of Foster Care

As part of a subcontract to Campaign Consultation’s work for the Corporation for National & Community Service, Community Science reviewed mentoring and non-mentoring programs available to youth aging out of foster care to determine what worked and didn’t work and why. This review consisted of 1) an examination of both peer-reviewed literature and non-peer reviewed literature (e.g., reports published by professional organizations) relating to youth aging out of foster care programs, and 2) telephone interviews with key informants in four states (California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan) who work with volunteers, mentors, and service providers to provide services for youth aging out of foster care. (2007-2008)

A Study About the Scope, Scale, and Sustainability of Community Change Initiatives

Community Science, with funds from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, conducted a study about issues facing Community Change Initiatives (CCIs) with regard to their ability to attain desired scope, scale, and sustainability. We interviewed leading thinkers and CCI practitioners and reviewed existing publications. The result was a paper that has been widely shared with other foundations interested in the topic. (2005-2007)

Evaluation of Fannie Mae Foundation Alliance Initiative

The Fannie Mae Foundation engaged Community Science in 2006 to review and analyze the performance data for its Alliance initiative, a collaboration of high-performing housing producers, community development finance institutions, and home buyer counseling agencies. The goal of this three-year initiative was to increase the ability of these three types of organizations to produce and preserve affordable housing and to prepare low-income home buyers to achieve and sustain homeownership. To evaluate the initiative, Community Science analyzed data for the first two years of the initiative to determine any performance changes from baseline and interviewed each Alliance member to ascertain the changes that had occurred in their organizations as a result of their participation in the Alliance and to identify the particular barriers and opportunities they faced as they worked to achieve a higher level of output. Community Science prepared a summary report for the staff and senior management of the Fannie Mae Foundation and also presented the results at a convening of the Alliance members. (2006)

Post-Katrina Disaster Response Coordination

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the American Red Cross realized that no single entity had the capacity to comprehensively and effectively respond to the massive human needs and sweeping public demand for service following a natural disaster. They engaged a diverse group of community partners and collaborative representatives in a process to develop a better understanding of their individual and collective roles, responsibilities, and capabilities and to determine better systems for engaging diverse and disenfranchised populations. Community Science was a participating partner in this effort and facilitated the development of an action plan for more effective collaborative disaster response to diverse and disenfranchised populations. Community Science worked with the American Red Cross and other community partners to 1) develop a strategy to engage the chief executive officers of organizations active in responding to aftermath of the two hurricanes, and 2) generate Guiding Principles for Working with Community Partners during Disaster Community Science first became involved in responding to the hurricane disasters of 2005 by setting up a website on community responses to Katrina and Rita. (2005-2006)

Qualitative Assessment of AARP Community-based Initiative

AARP has a long-term social impact agenda to ensure that Americans 50 years and older have “independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable for them and society as a whole.” As part of this agenda, AARP established a community-based initiative to help catalyze and support local efforts to create more livable communities and provide affordable housing options that allow residents to age in place. AARP engaged Community Science in the fall of 2005 to conduct a qualitative assessment of the community-based initiative to help the organization learn what worked and did not work and what it takes to establish and nurture successful community-based initiatives for the 50+ population. Community Science reviewed program documents and conducted in-depth telephone interviews with AARP staff (at both the national and state levels) and community partners in each of the five demonstration sites. Based on the evaluation findings, Community Science also developed an assessment tool for use by AARP staff to select additional sites as the program expanded. (2005)

Yes We Can! Management Consultation

Community Science assisted the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and its community partners in the design and implementation of the Yes We Can! initiative, aimed to address the educational and economic development of seven Battle Creek neighborhoods and the rest of the city through a comprehensive resident-driven process. Community Science managed the Yes We Can! office and its activities, while also providing training, technical assistance, and support to the Yes We Can! staff, foundation, and other organizations in the city. Our strategy focused on building relationships and the readiness for economic and educational change and to develop a sense of collective efficacy and hope through community organizing.  For more information on the initiative, please visit , please visit www.wkkf.org/yeswecan. (2004)

Monitoring the Sense of Community Among Queen Anne County's Residents

The Community Partnership for Children in Queen Anne County, Maryland, is a local government organization responsible for the planning, implementation, and monitoring of programs that support youth, families, and communities. Community Science assisted this partnership to develop their capacity to collect, analyze, and use the Sense of Community Index to monitor changes in the county residents’ sense of community across the county. We developed a sampling strategy, checked the psychometric properties of the index, and reported on the residents’ sense of community on the whole and by specific demographic characteristics. Results were geographically mapped to help facilitate the use of this information for the organization’s planning. In addition, Community Science developed a database to automate future data entry, analysis, and reporting of this annual survey. (2002)

Henry A. Wallace Center's Agriculture Policy Project Evaluation

The purpose of the project, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was to engage small farmers in local, regional, and national discussions of agricultural and environmental issues; support local policy development and activities; and develop a set of long-term national policy recommendations. Community Science was engaged by the foundation to assess the Wallace Center’s capacity to achieve these objectives. (2001)

Evaluation of the Community Development Support Collaborative’s (CDSC) Human Capital Development Initiative

The Washington, D.C., Human Capital Development Initiative, administered by the CDSC provided a variety of human capital development programs to local Community Development Corporations (CDCs). Community Science was engaged to evaluate the CDSC’s efforts to increase the pool of people trained to work for local CDCs. Community Science also evaluated the participating CDC’s goal attainment and provided networking opportunities and training to undergraduates, MBA interns, and others. We also conducted reflection and learning sessions to help the collaborative and its grantees learn and plan actions together. (2000-2002)

Evaluation of the Kansas City's Promise Evaluation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation engaged Community Science to evaluate Kansas City’s effort to ensure the success of its future generations by increasing their access to caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, marketable skills and opportunities to give back through community service. For the evaluation, we built systems for volunteer recruitment, placement, and tracking among volunteer centers in five counties; tracked adults’ commitments; monitored youth development outcomes; interviewed civic leaders and youth; and evaluated local strategies. (1999-2000)

Assessment of Citizen participation in the Evaluation of Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities

Through a subcontract to the Center for Community Change, we helped assess the level and nature of citizen participation in the evaluation of six Empowerment Zones and 66 Enterprise Communities’ urban programs through a survey and telephone interviews. (1997)

Evaluation of the Local Initiative Support Corporation’s (LISC) Community Building Initiative

LISC engaged Community Science to evaluate its Community Building Initiative, which involved 30 Community Development Corporations (CDCs) across the country. The CBI was intended to improve the CDCs’ capacity to go beyond “bricks and mortar” and to improve their communities’ social development. Community Science interviewed national and local LISC staff, reviewed progress reports submitted by local LISC offices to the national LISC office, and conducted annual site visits. The final evaluation report shed light on the strengths and limitations of the local LISC officers to engage in social development and community building beyond their more traditional role of housing development. (1997-1998)

Capacity Assessment for Vision Councils Initiative

The United Way of Cincinnati implemented its Vision Councils Initiative as a strategy to engage local organizations in a collaborative, neighborhood-based process to plan and implement more innovative and responsive program strategies. Community Science conducted a capacity assessment and learning process to help United Way staff and volunteer leaders prepare for this initiative.

Collaborative Strategy Training

Community Science provided, to the staff of the Departments of Health for New York State and New York City, technical assistance and training in developing support systems for grantees involved in coalitions and other collaborative efforts. (2000)

Social & Economic Community Development (SECD) Grantmaking Review and Conference

Community Science conducted a grant program analysis and a learning process for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to build the foundation's capacity to support social, economic, and community development initiatives. The conference was funded to build the capacity of foundation grantees to conduct useful evaluations. It brought together 28 grantees interested in social and economic community development and offered them an opportunity to learn about evaluation and how it can be used to strengthen program efforts. (1999)

Community Strategic Planning

Community Science assisted the Women’s Community Revitalization Program with a strategic planning process for approaches to improve the availability of affordable housing, promote the rights of underserved women, and improve the lives of low-income families. (1998)

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