Site Update – Evaluation, Grants, and More Resources!

Strong Roots is continually evolving, so it makes sense that the website would reflect that change too! The section formerly known as Community-Based Research under Activities has been renamed to Research & Evaluation. The rationale for this move is explored in a previous post, but what it comes down to is that I see all of my work (not just research) at Strong Roots as being grounded in the community, and I’m becoming more comfortable with the “evaluator” title, as long as that word is footnoted with an explanation of what evaluation is to me.

On that note, besides getting a new title, the Research & Evaluation section has been expanded to further explain my approach to those activities and also links to resource pages on participatory research methods and a new one on developmental evaluation. If you’re at all wondering how research and evaluation can help your organization, take a look at those pages and drop me a line!

Under resources, the Saskatoon Grants section has also received some TLC to make it easier to navigate. Grants are now listed on separate pages by the type of funder (Collaborative Funding Partnership, Government and Foundations, Non-Profits, and Corporate – the last one includes some new additions to the list). I struggled with how to best sort these funding opportunities; my decision to go by type of funder came from the ease of categorization compared to other schemes such as type of projects funded, which could lead to the same grant being listed multiple times and be subject to change if an organization’s priorities changed. I’ll try this method for now, but may change it in the future if I figure out a better way. Of course, if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments below!

Powerful Stranger

It’s been a while since I blogged about one of the chapters from Getting to Maybe. I think now is the right time to return to that book after getting a refresher on developmental evaluation (which has been described as the “practice” to Getting to Maybe’s “theory”) and because the chapter on the Powerful Stranger might resonate with organizations preparing grant applications right now. 🙂

Any social innovation that begins to show results will inevitably encounter what the authors of Getting to Maybe refer to as Powerful Strangers. Power as defined in the book refers to the control of resources, be they physical (money, space), social (connections, networks), or human (effort, talents): any of these forms can be used to maintain the status quo or to instigate change. Social innovators usually start with a surplus of personal energy and enthusiasm, but at some point they will need to focus on how to unlock resources to further their cause, including money and support from powerful individuals that can open doors previously impenetrable.
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In a Word

As pragmatic as I usually am, I sometimes get hung up on words – see here and here for two examples where I debate over the meaning and connotations of words that I use to describe myself and my work. More recently, before my trip to the American Evaluation Association conference I was grappling with the word “evaluator”:

On that note, you may have noticed that my website does not mention evaluation strongly, nor do I describe myself as an “evaluator”. Like my previous discussion about calling myself a “consultant”, identifying with the field of evaluation carries with it certain connotations and assumptions, especially in a climate where money is tight and funders are increasingly asking recipients to identify program outcomes and demonstrate that their initiative has met certain goals. Ideally, evaluation should provide useful feedback that helps programs grow and evolve in response to changing circumstances, but to non-profit organizations, it can seem more like a standardized test administered by someone who has little (if any) knowledge of the local context and yet has the power to grant life or death to a program.

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Site Updates – Approach and Resources

Although I have dialled back the pace of posting to the blog since returning from last week’s conference, don’t think that the website has stayed static in that time! Building on a post from September, I’ve distilled the essence of the Strong Roots approach to four elements: Connect, Empower, Change, and Share. The last one, which wasn’t discussed in the original blog post, encompasses my belief of sharing resources, namely information, as best embodied through this blog and the Resources section. The Share component of the Approach page also gives a brief explanation of the Creative Commons licence used for site content: in case you were wondering about the icon in the bottom left of each page, here’s your chance to learn more.

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