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Community Science projects

Evaluation & Learning Capacity Building

Evaluation and Evaluation Capacity Building of Grantee Partners in Mississippi and New Orleans

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) funds place-based initiatives in East Biloxi, Jackson, and Sunflower County, Mississippi (MS), and in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), to improve the well-being of children and their families by supporting, improved  early childhood education and educational systems, employment equity,  and health equity, food systems, and maternal and child health. This placed-based approach to grantmaking aims to be more contextually relevant and culturally responsive, and thus more effective, in meeting the needs of children, families and communities.  It is also important that the work in MS and NOLA aligns with WKKF’s larger organizational strategic plan and goals. Community Science works closely with the place-based team, known as the U.S. Southern Pod (USS Pod) and the WKKF’s Director of Learning and Impact to assess the alignment and progress of funded programs and strategies. Evaluation activities included: 1) identification and summary of grantee outcomes including knowledge products, dollars and partners leveraged, lessons learned, and policy implications; 2) continued development of process and procedures to support data collection and reporting for newly identified key performance indicators for each place; 3) initial mapping of grants to better understand alignment with key performance indicators; 4) provision of technical assistance to support funded programs’ evaluation efforts; 5) a “reflections” document to share the evaluation team’s  insights, lessons learned and recommendations for future evaluation and evaluation capacity building work. (2019)


SNAP Incentive Cluster Evaluation:Helping With Smarter Choices and Healthier Eating

So, what's the best way to get people to buy and eat more fresh food?  The Community Science team, led by Project Director Ricardo Millett, is working to find out by conducting a cluster evaluation of four healthy food incentive programs that provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients with incentives to shop at farmers' markets.  Formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program, SNAP focuses on nutrition as much as benefits.

These food incentive programs - operated by Fair Food Network, Wholesome Wave, Market Umbrella, and Roots of Change - match SNAP recipients' benefits at varying rates which ultimately enables recipients to purchase more fruit and vegetables than they would otherwise be able to afford.

"The cluster evaluation is a critical piece of being able to take a project that we are able to demonstrate is succeeding at the community level, and provide evidence to policy makers," said Oran B. Hesterman, PhD., President and CEO of the Fair Food Network.  "Then we can bring this community practice into play in the public policy arena."

However, culling data from such different programs is a challenge. "Since these programs each have their own unique characteristics and goals," Dr. Hesterman continued, "it creates a complexity that requires a more sophisticated cluster analysis-that's why we turned to Community Science."

The objective of Community Science's cluster evaluation technique is to collect data from the markets, and surveys of market customers and vendors, to assess the extent to which the incentives are:

1. Encouraging SNAP recipients to purchase and consume healthier foods

2. Successfully being implemented at farmers' markets according to market managers and vendors

3. Providing benefits to farmers and the communities in which they operate

Support for the evaluation has been provided by the Kresge Foundation, Aetna Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011 - 2014)

Evaluation Capacity Building of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City

After attending a presentation about evaluation and its use by Community Science at the Grantmakers in Health’s conference on the Art and Science of Health Grantmaking, the foundation engaged Community Science to assist in building its capacity to monitor the short- and long-term impact of their work in the greater Kansas City area. To accomplish this, Community Science facilitated a theory of change/logic modeling process complete with indicators and data collection methods as well as made recommendations for a monitoring system. (2008-2009) In the upcoming year, we will continue to work with the foundation to implement the monitoring system. (2010-2011)

The Evaluation Program Planning Project: Implementing an Organizational Learning System through Monitoring and Evaluation

To assist the Land Trust Alliance in building an evaluation framework to assist in critical decision making and improve the Alliance’s performance, Community Science facilitated an evaluation planning retreat on behalf of the Alliance in 2007. Our approach also will include a staff survey and interviews with 18 key stakeholders by phone. Community Science’s final report for the Alliance summarizes the data collected, identifies any data gaps, and provides recommendations about monitoring the Alliance’s work in the future. (2008-2009)

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, multisite 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 of Capacity-building Support for Making Connections

Making Connections is the flagship initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s strategy to help children succeed based on the belief that the best way to improve outcomes for vulnerable children living in tough neighborhoods is to strengthen their families’ connections to economic opportunity, positive social networks, and effective services and supports. The foundation's Evaluation Unit invited Community Science to evaluate the capacity-building support provided to the ten Making Connections grantees by both the unit and the Technical Assistance Response Center. Using an online survey and interviews with grantee local support teams, Community Science identified areas of effective capacity-building support, as well as areas in which support could be improved. The findings were presented at a grantee meeting along with recommendations for improvement. (2006-2007)

Monitoring and Evaluation Planning

Community Science assisted the Land Trust Alliance in developing a plan for monitoring and evaluating their work with 1600 land trusts throughout the U.S. As part of the first phase of evaluation, Community Science facilitated a senior staff meeting and provided a report of the meeting with recommendations to advance the Alliance’s evaluation and monitoring system. (2007)

Evaluation of Leadership Certification Program

The certification program of Adventist Community Services consists of training to build participants’ 1) management and technical skills, 2) leadership skills, and 3) understanding of biblical concepts. Community Science was engaged to help Adventist Community Services build its capacity around evaluation by walking the organization through the evaluation process and creating a program for effectiveness. (2007)

Measures of Core Capacities Needed for Community Change

Community Science was engaged by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Evaluation Unit to develop a guide for foundation grantees to measure and monitor their core capacities for community change. The guide was distributed to the foundation’s Making Connections grantees. (2005-2007)

Assessment of Centro Familia’s Evaluation Capacity

The primary focus of this evaluation was to assess Centro Familia’s current capacity to monitor and evaluate its training, mentoring, and preschool programs and make recommendations for strengthening this capacity. (2007)

Development of a Theory of Change for Changemakers

Changemakers is an organization that supports and promotes community-based philanthropy. Community Science helped develop the organization’s theory of change and processes to monitor Changemakers desired outcomes. (2005-2006)

Shreveport-Bossier Capacity-building Assistance

Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal (SBCR) is a faith-based community change initiative focused on improving the well-being of low-income residents in the cities of Shreveport and Bossier, Louisiana. Part of the organization’s strategy is to build relationships among low-income and other residents and institutions in the area. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation engaged Community Science to help SBCR implement a monitoring system, prepare for future evaluation, improve its financial and human resource systems, and enhance its fundraising and long-term sustainability. Community Science provided training, consultation, and systems-development assistance. (2004-2006)

A Critique of Evaluation Primers

Community Science worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to select and rate 11 primers for evaluation commonly used by nonprofits and other organizations. The final product was used by the foundation to guide its grantees in their selection of evaluators and evaluation approaches and methods, given their situation and resources. (Read the report) (2003)


Reactions to Performance Measurement Toolkit/VISTA

Community Science was subcontracted through Campaign Consultation to contact individuals involved in the VISTA program to gather comments related to the AmeriCorps*VISTA performance measurement initiative and toolkit. Community Science conducted interviews and focus groups with program supervisors, coordinators, and volunteers and provided a report of findings. (2003)

Self-assessment and Organizational Development Guide for Youth-organizing Groups

The Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing engaged Community Science to develop a written guide for youth-organizing groups that would enable them to strengthen their organizations. The guide was not intended to replace the use of skilled consultants and other resources, but to better prepare these organizations in determining what they needed to do before seeking additional help and to start them on the process of organizational development. The guide was written by Community Science in collaboration with national experts and staff of youth-organizing groups. Community Science investigated past works with similar goals, assessed needs and past successes of 34 youth-organizing groups, and field-tested products with potential users. (2002)

Evaluation Capacity Building of the Community Ministry of Montgomery County

The Community Ministry is involved in providing emergency and other services to needy families in Montgomery County, Maryland. Community Science worked with ministry senior staff to develop a system that would enable them to monitor and evaluate their work. Community Science provided the ministry with a toolkit, weekly coaching sessions to help staff develop their own strategies, and recommendations to help staff learn how to use the results of their evaluation and monitoring projects to improve services. (1998-1999)

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