How can we cultivate meaningful and sustainable change within our communities? At Strong Roots Consulting, we see change as being guided by two complementary approaches: learning and planning.
In line with our values, our processes are designed to be participatory and empowering, making sure to include and strengthen the voices of those most affected by the work
What is evaluation? The Canadian Evaluation Society has a straightforward definition:
Evaluation is the systematic assessment of the design, implementation or results of an initiative for the purposes of learning or decision-making.
Following this idea, program evaluation covers everything from understanding what worked and what didn’t for a small pilot project, to articulating and demonstrating the outcomes from a multi-year program. Evaluation uses social research methods, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, other forms of engagement, and analysis of program data, to determine if a program is functioning as intended and aid in the launch of new or revised programs in order to achieve the desired results. Evaluations can take many forms, depending on the specific evaluation questions to be answered, the primary purpose of conducting the evaluation, the stakeholders who are interested in the results, and the resources available.
Our evaluation process can be distilled to four key steps:
- Articulating the purpose of the evaluation, including the questions we seek to answer and who will be making use of that information
- Building an understanding of what the program or initiative is intended to accomplish (program theory)
- Determining what kind of data is needed, and then collecting and analyzing it
- Creating a product summarizing this process and providing recommendations that meet stakeholder needs
In additional to traditional formative and summative approaches to evaluation, Strong Roots Consulting supports organizational growth through developmental evaluation (DE), which focuses primarily on how evaluation methods and approaches can support innovative thinking and action. DE is particularly useful when creating a new program model or modifying an existing one for the local context: it can also support a program that is trying to create systems change or otherwise working in complex scenarios where a “one size fits all” model would not be effective.
Through evaluation, we help your organization learn, adapt, and demonstrate how it is creating change in the community.
Strategic planning is all about setting direction, usually within a set timeframe, for an organization. The process includes determining what resources are needed and which efforts to prioritize – sometimes it’s just as important to identify what not to focus on! We also recognize that a plan has to be adaptive: in other words, setting direction is important, but so is building the capacity for the organization to respond as circumstances change over the lifespan of the plan.
Our approach to strategic planning, guided by the Appreciative Inquiry framework, follows four phases:
- Discover – appreciate and value the best of ‘what is’ for the organization including current assets and recent successes
- Dream – envision ‘what might be’
- Design – discuss and identify ‘what should be’
- Deploy – determine the next steps for creating ‘what will be’
We use this framework to structure planning sessions with an organization’s board of directors, senior leadership, and any other key stakeholders (such as staff, volunteers, members, or representatives of partner organizations) who could provide useful insight. Depending on the timeframe and scope, the planning process can also include a preliminary assessment of community needs, assets, opportunities, and challenges, using data gathered through surveys, community engagement events, interviews with key informants, or reviews of organizational documents.
By tying the best of the organization’s past, a clear understanding of its present, and the articulation of a desired future in a way that engages key stakeholders, our intention is to create a comprehensive plan that won’t be stuck gathering dust on a shelf.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a non-profit board of directors? How can board members move beyond reading the financial statements to provide real value to a non-profit organization, while not encroaching on staff roles? Strong Roots Consulting is available to provide customized presentations on board development and governance to non-profit boards and staff, either as part of a strategic planning process or as a stand-alone session.
We are also available to hold workshops and presentations on evaluation topics, including introduction to program evaluation, data collection and analysis methods for use in non-profit settings, and developmental evaluation approaches.